“ Ah summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it” !!- Russell Baker
Winters have long gone now and summers are here again, and for kids it means time for lots of outdoor activities and picnics. And while this time is healthy and holds lots of fun, it’s important for both parents and kids to brush up on the safety tips during this season (more so for parents).
In majority of India we predominantly have a tropical climate (intensely hot and humid) and just by being a vigilant parent and following these safety tips, almost 90% of illnesses can be prevented.
Beat the heat and the sun:
Summer is an ideal time for heat related illnesses like Sunburns/heat exhaustion/heat stroke (last one being rare and most serious but can happen in intensely hot conditions).
This happens when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. Infants and children up to 4 years of age are at greatest risk. The risk increases manifold if they participate in strenuous physical activities.
Sunburns are not only unpleasant and painful, they are also damaging to skin health. It takes as little as 15 minutes for the sun’s UV rays to burn unprotected skin.
Symptoms include redness, pain, blisters, fever and swollen skin.
Top tips to prevent it:
- Limit sun exposure during peak hours of 11 AM to 4 PM (have indoor sports).
- Schedule outdoor activities for morning and evening hours.
- If sun exposure can’t be avoided, minimize it by making sure that your child dresses in loose, light colored cotton clothing that covers as much skin as possible along with caps with a brim and sunglasses (if feasible). Carry an umbrella during peak hours.
- Stay in the shade whenever possible and use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or greater, 15 mins before going out, even on cloudy days, and reapply it every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. For more detailed information, read my blog about sunscreen use in kids. Sunscreens in children: to use or not ?
- Never leave children in parked/locked cars even if windows are open.
- It may be advisable to stay indoors and seek out air conditioning during extreme heat waves.
- Give your kids a cool bath or shower, or put wet, cold washcloths on their burn.
- Apply a soothing moisturizing cream (e.g containing aloe vera) to relieve discomfort, but avoid products that contain benzocaine, lidocaine or petroleum.
- In the case of blisters, cover them with dry bandages to prevent infection.
- See your doctor if pain and redness persist. Don’t self medicate.
- For heat exhaustion, give your child cool liquids to drink and plenty of rest.
- Make sure your child is always in a well-ventilated and cool area.
- If problem persists, seek medical care.
Save the Skin and eyes:
Due to high humidity and sweating, incidence of fungal infections and prickly heat increases significantly during summers. Fungal infections are commonly seen in areas which do not get enough air like the underarms, groin, between the toes/fingers and body folds or creases. They might lead to itching and redness of the area along with sometimes peeling. Prickly heat is due to blocking of sweat glands. This appears as tiny raised spots more so on trunk and back and is excessively itchy and thereby causes discomfort to the child.
Top tips to prevent it:
- Maintain good hygiene and wear clean, dry clothes at all times especially after swimming.
- At the end of day, take cool shower and dry off immediately.
- Dress the child in soft light weight cotton clothes and avoid synthetic clothes especially undergarments.
- Keep kids in a cool environment and adequately hydrated.
- Cool showers/cold compresses help in case of prickly heat, followed by drying immediately and applying prickly heat powder.
- Grandma’s advice of applying fuller’s earth/multani mitti is wonderful or you can go for aloe vera/calamine based lotions.
- For fungal infections, try airing the spot and consult your doctor for the same.
Due to high heat and rise of allergens in the environment during this time, some kids develop a condition known as pink eye characterized by redness, discharge and excessive itching in eyes. Use sunglasses and avoid going out in excessive heat. Wash eyes frequently with cool water and apply cold compresses. Wash hands frequently. Eye drops can be put but on medical advice.
Dehydration occurs due to staying out or playing in sun but it can happen even in shade. Kids are more susceptible to dehydration because their central nervous system is not yet fully developed.
Sweat loss is much more common in kids into active sports. Sweating helps cool them down, but if you don’t replace the fluids they’ve lost, they may get sick. And being kids they don’t even realize that they are getting dehydrated.
Did you know that if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already mildly dehydrated? Relying on thirst as a reminder to take a drink leaves you at risk for dehydration.
Did you know that kids drink only half the amount of water they need (they just forget while playing), and majority of parents don’t know how to prevent their kids from getting dehydrated
So to be sure your kids are OK, look for these other signs, instead, which can indicate that a child is dehydrated:
Early signs include: dry mouth/lips (thirst), dizziness, decreased sweating, dark yellow urine, cramps.
Severe dehydration (late signs): irritability, lethargy, decreased urine.
A rough sign of adequate hydration would be a child passing a good amount of light yellow urine.
Top tips to prevent it:
- Remind them to drink often throughout the day.
- Send them out with a water bottle and stress the importance of drinking all of it while they are out playing. It is recommended drinking about every 20 minutes ( approx half a glass in kids younger than 5; older ones need a full glass).
- Kids in active sports even need more as they lose much more sweat too, so replacing it with a sports drink/coconut water is a good option instead of plain water. Avoid sodas, juice, energy drinks and glucose based drinks and other fruit drinks (as they lead to more dehydration).
Treat it: If your kids show symptoms of dehydration, bring them into a cool environment immediately and have them drink cool liquids.
More outdoor time means more chances to eat outside leading to children having ample opportunity to get sick. Food-borne illnesses are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites and other toxins. They look a lot like the flu, and typically includes nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can range from mild gastrointestinal discomfort to bloody stools. Incidence rises sharply during summer months.
No one wants to be an overbearing parent, but it’s better that kids avoid eating something dangerous than dealing with food poisoning.
Top tips to prevent it:
- Maintain proper hygiene. Ask them to wash hands frequently.
- Be sure food items that contain dairy products aren’t kept at room temperature for more than an hour or two (one hour max if it’s 40 C outside). Keep hot food hot and cold foods cold
- Remember these are not the only culprits; raw fruits and vegetables can cause problems if not properly washed and stored.
- Avoid drinking juices and eating cut fruits from roadside vendors (the ever refreshing sugarcane juice, popsicles and baraf ke gole which everyone loves to their heart, are the biggest culprit).
- If you have any question in your mind about the freshness or safety of eating a food product, throw it out. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
If you are travelling with food,
- Have enough coolers with ice to store perishable foods.
- Pack foods right from the refrigerator into the coolers.
- Don’t put the cooler in the car trunk; Carry it inside an air-conditioned car. At picnics, keep the cooler in the shade and keep the lid closed. Replenish the ice if it melts.
- Use a separate cooler for drinks so the one containing the food won’t constantly be opened and closed.
Splash in the pool: Water Safety
With rising temperatures, the most favorite and sureshot method to cool off, is a jump in the pool. Whether it’s the beach or pool; don’t underestimate the potential danger in water. It’s not only children who can’t swim who are at risk. If kids play dangerous games together in or around water, the situation can become critical very quickly, even for a seasoned swimmer. Drowning is one of the leading cause of accidents among children, including infants and toddlers, but parents can make swimming safer for kids with the right safety equipment, instruction and supervision.
Top tips to prevent it:
- Make sure there is always a lifeguard or adult present.
- It’s also advisable to keep your child in a manageable level of water for their abilities and teach them the same.
- Parents should never — even for a moment – leave children alone near open bodies of water,
- Wear a properly fitted life jacket every time you and your loved ones are on the water for any recreational boat ride. Avoid the usage of swimming aids like floaters, as they offer a fake sense of security.
Apart from drowning, minor recreational water illnesses can also occur which includes upset stomach due to ingestion of pool water, skin diseases and swimmer’s ear.
- Teach your child not to drink pool water. Even if they get some in their mouths, ask them to throw it out.
- Take a proper bath after coming from pool to wash off the excess chlorine and dry off completely.
- Try to keep ears covered with cap during swimming if possible.
Keep mosquitos from bugging you this summer
Summer is a great time to get outdoors, but it is also a great time for the mosquitoes to bite your kids.
Top tips to prevent bites:
- Use an effective insect repellent as per their age, while playing outdoors. For details about which insect repellent is best for your child, read my blog. Choosing the right mosquito repellent for your kid
- Don’t use scented soaps, lotions or hair products since they attract insects.
- Keep children away from garbage cans that attract bugs.
- Bring children inside at dusk when the mosquitoes come out.
- If children are playing in long grass or outside at dusk, dress them in long-sleeved shirts and long pants and socks.
Summer is a time for fun and enjoyment and the icing on the cake is if your kid stays healthy during this season.
Dr Garima| themoppetsclinic 🙂
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