How to Protect Your Kids from Common Summer Illnesses

Summertime – school is out and kids are playing hard. Camp is around the corner and sports teams are forming. Summer always seems so, well, healthy. Fall and winter appear to be the disease bearing seasons. However, summer has its own set of illnesses that your child may contract. Understanding what causes these illnesses and how to keep your child safe will help keep you out of the emergency room. After all, summer is for playing – not for being sick!

Poisonous Plants

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac are plants that can cause a skin rash when touched, due to the oil urushiolin the plant. The rash shows up as red and itchy and may have blisters. The rash is not contagious but should be treated immediately.

Wash the area with water. Provide a non-prescription antihistamine and apply calamine lotion to the area. Stronger cases need to be seen by a doctor. The best way to prevent exposure to these poisonous plants is by educating your child. Then, if you know they will be in an area known for these plants, have them wear long sleeved shirts, long pants and socks, and tell them not to touch! Healing can take up to six weeks, depending on your child’s sensitivity.

Show your child the pictures below. A good saying is – “Leaves of three, let them be.”

Sunburn /Dehydration/Heat Exhaustion/Heat Stroke

This word cannot be said enough – sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen – apply and repeat every 1.5 hours. Every sunburn your child gets puts them at greater risk for skin cancer. Slather at least a 30 SPF all over your child’s body, even under their bathing suit. Don’t forget the ears and the scalp. All children love to play outside, especially in a pool or at the beach, but you should limit the amount of time they spend in the sun.

If your child gets sunburn, apply cold compresses on it and a soothing aloe gel. If blisters erupt, they should see a doctor for proper treatment. Do not pop the blisters, as infection can occur.

Excess sun exposure can also cause dehydration, especially with high temperatures, humidity and insufficient fluids. Early dehydration signs are dry lips and tongue, lethargy, and feeling hot. Do not wait until your child feels these symptoms, as they are then already dehydrated. Explain dehydration to your children, and help keep them on a schedule of cool fluids, such as water and sport drinks – before play, every hour, and after play. A rule of thumb is to drink 5 ounces at each thirst break for a child up to 90 pounds, and 9 ounces each break over that weight.

Dehydration can lead to heat illnesses such as cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Cramps are uncomfortable and attack the limbs and tummy. Heat exhaustion and stroke are extremely serious. Take your child to an emergency room immediately if they experience nausea/vomiting, headaches, dizziness, and even unconsciousness.

If your child develops a heat illness, get them out of the sun fast and into a cool place. Provide plenty of fluids and remove any extra clothing or sports equipment. Apply cool wet cloths on their skin and if cramping occurs, slowly stretch their muscles. If they don’t improve or if they have heat stroke, get them medical attention immediately.

Swimmers’ Ear

Children who swim often can develop Swimmers’ Ear. This is a painful outer ear infection that is seen frequently during summer and is caused by frequent exposure to moisture and an infection. Prevention is easy – dry the ears thoroughly after water exposure, but do not use cotton swabs or insert anything into the ear. You can also tip the ear downwards and pull the earlobe in various directions to help the water drain. If infection does occur, see your doctor.

While all of these illnesses sound scary, you can avoid them or treat them quickly. If you ever have any questions, ask your doctor.

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