Summer Fun And Summer Ailments (Part 2)
As summer progresses and summer fun intensifies there are a few other ailments to be aware of to ensure an awesome summer, and to prevent serious and debilitating consequences.
1. Swimming Accidents
Swimming is such a fun activity especially when the weather is really hot and you can go cool off in a pool or lake or at the beach. It is also one of the best exercises your teens can get, if they actually swim actively and not just have fun in the pool.
But as with other summer activities, swimming can be associated with serious and often times dangerous consequences. This may sound very basic but if your teen can’t swim, then he should be taught to recognize his limitations and perhaps satay in the shallow end of the pool, and let others know that he can’t swim. They should not jump into lakes or other water bodies where the environment is less controlled. A few years ago, a good friend’s nephew died when he went swimming with his friends. He never told anyone that he could not swim and by the time they realized that he was seriously in trouble it was too late to save him.
Other teens overestimate how good they are and jump off cliffs or rocks into unknown water bodies. The danger here is there could be rocks below the water surface and your teen could potentially develop a head or spinal injury. Other teens overindulge in alcohol and drugs, and then proceed to swim. This is high risk behavior since these substances can significantly impair their reflexes and potentially cause drowning.
If it is recognized that a teen is drowning he should be rescued by the most experienced swimmer or a trained pool or safety guard. Bystanders should call 911 for help. Once the person is out of the pool CPR should be started, if needed, till help arrives.
Teens should be taught to swim and behave responsibly when at the pool or lake or at the beach, to prevent drowning or near drowning incidents. They should also recognize the good they can do by giving help if a crises occurs, by doing something as simple as calling 911. They should not be so scared of being blamed for an accident that they flee the scene, rather than rendering help.
2. Food Associated Ailments
During summer, families enjoy picnicking out in the parks and camping grounds. As you prepare your meals, you should be careful to prevent diarrhea and vomiting or gastroenteritis. There are simple steps to prevent gastroenteritis like not eating undercooked meat or seafood. So even as you power up the grill to cook the scrumptious hamburgers and hotdogs, make sure that everything is thoroughly cooked. Also avoid your raw meat or seafood from touching other foods and wash all surfaces on which you prepared your raw food.
Teach teens to wash fruits and vegetables before eating them. This is especially important for teens who travel. One of my teachers in residency always said, “When you travel, a simple rule of thumb is if you can’t cook it or wash it, don’t eat it.” Don’t spoil your vacation. Be vigilant in preventing gastroenteritis
Another very obvious basic but often forgotten tip is hand-washing. I cannot overemphasize the importance of hand-washing. Next time you eat at your favorite restaurant and you use the bathroom, pay attention to how many people go to the bathroom, finish doing their business, stand in front of the mirror and fix their hair and walk out of the bathroom without washing their hands. Moms change diapers and don’t wash their hands before serving food to the rest of the family.
Effective and proper handwashing is the single most important way to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria that cause gastroenteritis.
If you do develop diarrhea, then hydration is key. Drink lots of electrolyte containing liquids like pedialyte or oral rehydration solution. Teens may not like the taste of pedialyte and they can get away with drinking sports drinks, but for younger children, pedialyte is best. Avoid juices or other purely sugar containing liquids like soda that tend to make diarrhea worse. If there is vomiting then give small frequent sips of liquids. Do encourage teens to try a little food like crackers, a banana, toast, soup, rice or apple sauce. Probiotics have also been shown to help with diarrhea.
If your child or teen is unable to keep down any liquids or is getting dehydrated, or having bloody stools with severe abdominal pain then it’s time to call on your friendly pediatrician or nurse practitioner for help.
3. Poison Ivy Rash
With summer fun also comes exposure to the Poison Ivy plant. This is a common plant that characteristically has three leaflets per leaf, and many people are allergic to the plant oil, called Urushiol.
When a person with this allergy comes in contact with the plant, a rash can develop from a few hours to about 4 days after exposure. It starts with severe itching, and stinging and eventually a blistering, red rash develops. If your teen realizes they’ve been exposed, they should remove all their clothing carefully and wash the area with mild soap and water. Wash all clothing, bedding, etc to get rid of the plant oil. Poison Ivy is not infectious but can continue to spread if other people come in contact with the plant oil on your clothes, hands etc., so washing all surfaces and clothing is important to prevent further exposure.
Once the actual rash develops, bathing with an oatmeal bath and applying Calamine Lotion is helpful. Antihistamine creams are not effective and can actually be harmful. Applying cool compresses to the rash is also soothing. Antihistamines can take the urge off the itching. Avoid scratching, since scratching can lead to superinfection.
For severe cases, your teen should definitely be seen by their pediatrician.
- If the rash involves the face or genitalia,
- If the rash covers an extensive area,
- If there is facial swelling or breathing difficulty from inhaling fumes from burning poison ivy leaves,
- If the rash develops pus and is infected.
Even as the summer progresses, have fun, but proceed with caution. Discuss swimming safety and the importance of calling 911 if swimming accidents occur. Discuss food safety and prevention of gastroenteritis and the importance of handwashing. And as the saying goes, “Leaves of three, leave them be.” Avoid contact with the poison Ivy plant since more than 50 % of people are allergic to it’s plant oil, Urushiol and exposure can lead to an irritating rash.
As always, these tips are meant as a guide and do not serve as treatment for your child. Do contact your pediatrician for help as appropriate.