Friday, June 17, 2011

School's out for summer

at 10:58 PM
Yes, school's now out for another long summer and it's at this time of year, when children are spending more leisure time outdoors and with friends, when they are likely to suffer from those common illnesses/afflictions. However, if you take some preventative action, then you may be able to avoid some of these and if the inevitable happens, then here's how to treat them:

Sunburn

Sunburn is the most obvious. Everyone needs moderate exposure to the sun every day since it's the source of Vitamin D, however, excessive exposure can lead to sunburn, skin damage and the possibility of developing skin cancer in later years. They say that most damage is done to a person's skin in their first 18 years of life, therefore, if your child is going to be out in the sun for more than 20 minutes (10 minutes if they are very fair-skinned), then make sure they wear protection: that they wear a hat (preferably wide-brimmed), a cotton T-shirt to cover the back and shoulders, and apply a sunscreen of SP30 or above.

Sunstroke

This is caused when someone is exposed to extreme heat, so make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids during the summer months and not exposed to excessive amounts of heat for long periods. If they have too many layers of clothes on and/or are running around in the heat all day then this can also cause sunstroke. Symptoms include: hot, dry, flushed skin, which then goes pale or purple; shallow or rapid breathing; high pulse and high body temperature; headaches; and dilated pupils. If you suspect your child has sunstroke, then get them into a shaded area immediately to cool down and give them plenty of water. You should also consult a doctor.

Allergies

There are many types of allergy seen in small children (and adults too). The most common include: grass, molds, pollen, certain chemicals, dust, insects, poison ivy, animal hair and certain foods or food additives. Symptoms may include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, difficulty breathing, cough, skin rash and diarrhea. Treatment depends on what the allergen is and how bad their reaction to it. Keep them away from the source and the symptoms should disappear. If you can't (e.g. in the case of grass or pollen allergy) then you can give them some over-the-counter antihistamine.

Should your child be unfortunate enough to have a severe allergic reaction and go into anaphylactic shock i.e. wheezing, problems breathing, tongue swelling, etc, then either call 9-1-1 or drive them to the nearest medical center/hospital immediately. A tip here: if you have some antihistamine handy, give them that before leaving for the emergency room. I gave my son half of an adult's antihistamine when he went into anaphylactic shock and when I got to the hospital, the doctor told me I probably saved his life.

If your child has any serious allergies and is going to be spending the day at a friend or relative's home or in day care, then make sure whoever is responsible for him/her is aware of the allergy and that you leave medication with them.

Eating Outdoors

Bacteria thrive in a warm and moist environment. Therefore food poisoning and diseases due to food infection is more common during summer days when your family are out enjoying picnics and barbecues.

Cold food should be kept in a cooler with the lid down. Limit the number of times you open it, so that it keeps cool longer. Also, pack your cooler in such a way that you are keeping raw and cooked foods separate and there is no cross-contamination e.g. between cooked meat and fresh fruit.

Hot food should be grilled thoroughly so that it is cooked throughout. It should then be kept hot until eaten - keep it at the side of the grill or wrap it in foil in an insulated container until it's ready to be eaten.

The same applies for both hot and cold food - it should be thrown out after being exposed to the air for two hours (one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees).

Avoid buying any food from outside vendors and instead carry around fruit and other healthy snacks in case they feel hungry (and of course plenty of water and fruit juices to keep them hydrated).

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are not only extremely annoying, but will leave you with itchy, red bumps and there is also the possibility that they may be carrying the West Nile virus. If your child is going to be taking part in outdoor activities in the early evening, keep their skin covered as much as is practical and then make sure that you use mosquito repellent on any part of their body that is not covered.

If your child does get bitten, you can apply calamine lotion or a bicarbonate of soda paste to the affected area to relieve itching and swelling. There are also some excellent over-the-counter remedies available for mosquito bites.

Deer Ticks

If your children are going to be playing in a wooded area or long grass, then make sure that they are clothed as much as possible, with their shirts tucked into their shorts, etc. Again, spray repellent on any exposed area of skin.

Examine your child closely and if they have been unfortunate enough to pick up a deer tick, then you should remove it carefully with tweezers, ensuring that you get the whole tick. Then wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.

Deer ticks carry Lyme Disease and can make you very sick; therefore, if your child develops any of the following symptoms, then you should take them to a doctor immediately: pain and swelling; red streaks leading from the area; swollen glands; fever and chills.

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