Tammy Hargett, FNP-C, Deaconess Clinic Mt. Pleasant Family Practitioner
If you have kids, you’re likely dealing with some safety worries associated with summer activities.
Tips to help your family have a safe and fun summer.
Protecting from Insect Bites
Insect bites are almost unavoidable if you plan to be outside. There are, however, a few recommendations that will help prevent your family from getting annoying bug bites.
For infants, protect them by avoiding areas where mosquitos and ticks are common. They won’t necessarily be out in the woods with you, but mosquitos and ticks are in your yard. Avoid exposing young children to areas with thicker mosquito swarms (near standing water). A drape-over mosquito net to cover strollers, car seats, etc. is a great option. In little babies, avoid insect repellants. Children up to two years of age should not use DEET-containing products. Other options, such as Avon’s Skin So Soft line, or a natural repellant such as Burt’s Bees, are safer.
For older children, follow these same guidelines. You can begin using DEET product on pre-school age children. Wearing long pants (tucked into socks), long sleeves and a hat is recommended for hiking or other activities in the woods. Light colored clothing makes it easier to see the ticks. Avoid the combination bug repellant/sunscreen products as this leads to a higher incidence of allergic reactions. It’s better to apply sunscreen and then apply bug repellant.
Treating Insect Bites
For tick removal:
Remove with tweezers, slowly, grabbing as close to the skin as possible. Don’t squeeze the body, as it could force fluids and other infectious materials through the tick’s mouth and into the skin. Be sure to remove ALL the mouthparts of the tick.
Never use a match to try to burn ticks, as it can make them burrow further. You could also burn yourself.
To dispose of the tick, you can either place it on a solid surface (such as your sidewalk) and burn it with a match, or simply put it in a sealed bag and throw in the trash. You can also flush them down the toilet.
Remember to check family members and yourself frequently and every time you come indoors, because the sooner you find a tick and remove it, the less likely you are to have contracted a disease such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease or other tick-borne illnesses.
How do you know when to call your doctor after a tick bite?
First aid for most common tick bites includes washing the area with soap and water (after tick removal), and applying a small amount of Neosporin or other ointment. If the bite itches, you can apply hydrocortisone 1% or Caladryl. However, if redness or swelling is present around the bite, your child develops an unexplainable fever or headache, or generally doesn’t feel good within a few days to a couple of weeks after a bite, it’s a good idea to go ahead and call your doctor. A rash following a tick bite definitely warrants being seen.
To treat mosquito bites, you can use oral antihistamines (for ages 4 and older), or skin treatments such as Caladryl, cool compresses, or hydrocortisone 1%. For smaller children, the cool wet compresses will bring the most comfort.
For stinging insect bites, if the stinger is still remaining, remove it carefully with tweezers. Don’t squeeze it! Apply ice to the sting immediately. Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the sting. It both soothes and draws out a little bit of the venom. Watch your child for local symptoms which would include redness, swelling and itching. Also watch for allergic reactions such as hives, difficulty breathing, or swollen tongue or lips, as these are signs of a serious allergic reaction. Seek immediate medical attention if these reactions occur.
Food poisoning is not often associated with summer safety, but with picnics, BBQs, and potlucks, this topic should not be overlooked.
First and foremost, always remember to wash your hands frequently before, during and after preparing food, as well as before eating.
In summer months, do not leave food items out. Food shouldn’t be out for more than 30 minutes before being put back in the refrigerator. (Food spoils more quickly at higher temperatures.)
Protect your food from flies landing on it. Keep it covered, whether with a lid, or those mesh covers you can set over bowls.
Certain foods are more likely to cause food poisoning than others. Raw poultry, if not handled properly to-and-from the grill, can cause a lot of problems. Don’t reuse plates, utensils, cutting boards, etc. without washing. (Example: don’t chop fresh vegetables on a cutting board where you just cut up raw meat.)
Make sure to cook all meats thoroughly. Chicken and ground meat (such as burgers) should be cooked to 160 degrees and never have any pink in them at all. Pork should be heated to 145 degrees in the center. A meat thermometer can be very helpful.
Recognizing and Treating Food Poisoning
How do you recognize and treat food poisoning? Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; painful cramping and fever. Blood in the stool is a very serious symptom and requires immediate medical attention. Mild food poisoning will usually run its course without the need for medical attention. To ease symptoms, drink clear fluids, rest and allow the symptoms to improve. This is one occasion where you don’t want to stop mild diarrhea, as it’s getting the offending bacteria toxin out. Just prevent dehydration. However, when severe vomiting and diarrhea occur, you can become dehydrated easily—especially children. At that point, seek medical attention for management of symptoms and hydration
The burns we get as children create the longest-term damage to the skin and set us up for higher risk of future skin cancer, especially melanoma. UVA and UVB rays also are linked to future risk of melanoma.
Infants 6 months and younger should be kept out of direct sun completely except for very short intervals. No sunscreen on these tiny babies! Use the shade on strollers, sit in the shade, and use hats with wide brims, as well as protective clothing.
Children six months through toddler age can be in the sun for a bit longer, but should use SPF 30 sunscreen to protect their delicate skin. Again, remember to use wide-brim hats, protective clothing (even lightweight, white or light colored long sleeve shirts) and use the shade as much as possible.
For school age and older kids, they should continue to use SPF 30 sunscreen and reapply every 45 minutes. Water and sweat proof sunscreen is ideal, but you should still reapply. In all ages—toddlers through adults—apply sunscreen about 20 minutes before sun exposure so it can begin working. Not applying early enough or reapplying often enough are the biggest mistakes made when it comes to sunscreen.
If you’re going to be outdoors a LOT, you could consider purchasing clothing that is actually rated for SPF protection.
Rub-on verses Spray sun screen
Rub-on lotions tend to end up with more consistent coverage than the spray. You have to be careful to get the spray evenly distributed. You may try putting the heavier lotion on first and then using sprays for reapplication. Why is this important? If you have a strong family history of melanoma, or your child is extremely fair (red-head or blonde), or your family has lots of nevi (moles), you should be especially concerned with protecting your skin from then sun.
Treating a Sunburn
If the burn is a mild (pink) sunburn, use cool compresses and a thin film of lotion to re-moisturize and soothe, such as Aveeno, Lubriderm, etc. If you refrigerate lotions first, they feel even better. Avoid lotions or gels with xylocaine (numbing agent) for young children as they’ve been linked to allergic reactions. For more serious sunburns, such as with blisters, apply cool compresses and ice immediately, and seek medical attention. Special treatments are used for burns this severe.
Follow these safety tips for a happy and healthy summer!
Posted: July 11, 2014 by