SUPERVISION, PREVENTION AND PROTECTION ARE KEY WEAPONS AGAINST THE “PERILS OF SUMMER”, ESPECIALLY WITH CHILDREN
Special attention to beaches, swimming pools, outdoors and in the sun
- Paediatricians are keen to stress the importance of child vigilance to prevent drowning.
- Sunstroke, insect bites, fungul infections and food poisoning are among the most common reasons for medical consultations during summer
- When exposed to the sun for long periods of the time, do not forget to protect yourself with hats, light-coloured clothing and drink plenty water.
A fun family holiday can quickly become unpleasant and even turn into a full blown disaster if three basic principles, that are essential throughout the year and become more important during this season, are not followed. Supervision, prevention and protection are three key weapons to help avoid the ‘perils of summer’, of which drowning is top of the list. Dr Isabel Romero who is the Paediatrics coordinator at HM Hospitales states “Drowning is the most feared. It is not common, but sadly, in Spain, there is always a dramatic case every summer. It is vital that we, as pediatricians, make parents aware of the risk that exists when leaving children alone at the beach or the pool, or even in the wading pool”.
Often summer is a synonym for water and fun, but your holiday could be ruined by an unforeseen event such as a sting from a jellyfish. “Try to wash the area with salt water. Never use fresh water or rub the area. Remove any remaining bits of jellyfish with tweezers or hard plastic. The most effective way to soothe the pain is to apply cold for 15 minutes. Soaking the injury with ammonia or urine is not an effective cure. Never touch a dead jellyfish or its remains with your fingers,” warns Dr Romero.
It is important to listen to the recommendations of lifeguards at the beach or the swimming pool. “Yellow flag means you should be cautious about the waves and the presence of jellyfish. Sun-creams have to be applied correctly (about half an hour before exposure to sun and repeatedly applied during the hours of exposure) as they do not only prevent burning, but also perform as protection against jellyfish” reminds Dr. Romero.
Forewarned is forearmed
Supervision, prevention and protection are also key for preventing less serious ‘summer perils’ that can quickly turn your family holiday into a headache. In fact, sunstrokes, insect bites, fungul infections or food poisoning are the most common medical consultations during the summertime. “Other reasons to attend to the ER during summertime, not because of their seriousness, but because they generally require an immediate treatment, include sunburn, stings from wasps and other insects, falls (that lead into open wounds, contusions or fractures), otitis externa, sunstrokes or gastrointestinal complaints…” says Dr. Romero.
Being forewarned allows us to be more vigilant of symptoms, which in most cases can be obvious, but not always. Maybe the hardest to recognise is heat stroke. “The older child will complain of a severe headache, malaise, even vomiting and fever, however the younger ones will be very bad-tempered. When the heat is very strong, although a sun cream is being used, and the child’s skin is already tanned, it is important to avoid a prolonged exposure to the sun, to use hats and light clothes, as well as drinking a sufficient amount of water” remarks Dr. Romero.
Insect bites are very common in the countryside and can be painful for both adults and children. The most logical preventive measure ranges from repellents or barrier measures such as mosquito nets, to light-coloured, long-sleeved clothing to avoid bites. If a bite or sting does occur, Dr Romero gives some clues to help identify the type of insect immediately: `Wasps leave a red welt, bees leave their venom sack, spiders leave an injury with two entry points and ticks leave a black spot”. The most effective way to take action is to wash the area with soap and water, and in case it is a bee bite, the venom sack should be removed with tweezers as soon as possible to prevent the venom from penetrating. Calamine solutions, ammonia sticks or cold can be applied in the area, avoiding direct contact with the skin” suggests Dr. Romero.
Sometimes the sting or bite may not be restricted to one area, but there may be further injuries or reactions that spread over the rest of the body. In this case, it is advisable to double check with the pediatrician, who will decide if other treatments such as antihistamine or specific creams are necessary. “Sometimes stings cause more serious allergic reactions, and whenever there is an exaggerated skin reaction, swelling of the eyelids or lips, intense itching of the hands or breathing difficulties, you should go immediately to the ER or contact 112” says Dr. Isabel Romero.
Summer is also a time for travelling and temporary changes of home meaning that preventive security measures that we have adopted at home to protect children may not be in place in our holiday home. There can often be a tendency to be less vigilent of the security measures to protect children. “We must take extreme precautions and adopt preventive and supervision measures: protection of the stairs, furniture, sockets, access to tools, drugs and cleaning products, use life vests, helmets and protectors…” says Dr. Romero
Heat can also affect the optimal state of some foods and we should pay special attention to avoid food poisoning. “Keeping the cold chain by avoiding consuming refrigerated food that has been exposed for several hours at room temperature or that we are not sure of the procedure of the packaging or the preparation conditions” are some of the proposals made by Dr Romero in this field.
In short, these are a series of simple measures that can help avoid any perils that may arise during the summer and will allow you to enjoy a drama-free summer with the whole family.
HM hospitales is the private hospital group of reference nationwide based on its offer on the excellence of its care combined with research, teaching, constant technological innovation and the publication of results.
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