Solutions for summer accidents and ailments.
Ah, summer — longer, warmer days, sunshine and outdoor fun! We typically don’t think about bug bites and stings, sprains, heat exhaustion, sunburn and heatstroke when we think about the joys of the season. However, they are some of the most common summer ailments and injuries for children. As with all childhood injuries, prevention is key. But if you are faced with an ailment or injury, the following tips will help you manage on your own, and let you know when you should seek care from your health care provider.
Bites & Stings
Most insect bites and stings cause mild reactions such as itching, swelling and possibly pain for a couple of days, will heal on their own and don’t require a visit to your provider. After a bee or wasp sting, remove the stinger by scraping it away with the edge of a credit card or your fingernail. Do not pinch the skin to get the stinger out. Clean with soap and water, and apply ice or cool compresses for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
Contact your provider immediately if your child has swelling on the face or tongue, trouble breathing or signs of infection such as swelling and pain for more than three days.
Sprains are soft tissue injuries to ligaments. Ligaments are like rubber bands that hold two bones together at a joint and sometimes can be stretched and torn during activity, causing immediate pain and swelling.
The treatment for a sprain is easiest to remember as R.I.C.E.:
Rest: Rest a sprained joint by not using it or by applying a sling or using crutches for first 24 to 48 hours after injury.
Ice: Apply ice to a sprain for 20 minutes every hour using a thin cloth as a barrier to the skin. Frozen bags of corn and peas work great, too!
Compression: Apply an elastic bandage to the area lightly to help lessen swelling.
Elevation: Lift the swollen area above the heart if possible to help with swelling. Propping on pillows usually does the trick!
Continue R.I.C.E. for 24 to 48 hours, and follow up with your heath care provider if the swelling and pain are not getting better.
Contact your provider immediately if:
* You or your child hears a “popping” sound at the time of the injury.
* Your child refuses to walk on or use the joint.
* Your child complains of numbness or tingling in the area.
* There is an obvious deformity.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are very serious. To prevent heat exhaustion, monitor the heat and humidity outside, and limit your child’s time outdoors and the level of activity when the temperature is 90 degrees or above. Make sure your child stays hydrated with plenty of fluids. Children should have a water bottle at all times and should be drinking even if they don’t feel thirsty. Heat exhaustion occurs when a child is exposed to high temperatures and becomes dehydrated. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are: confusion, sweating, dizziness, headache, extreme thirst, nausea, muscle cramps and weakness. When any of these symptoms occur, a child should be taken out of the sun immediately and brought to a cool place, either in air conditioning or in the shade. Remove extra clothing and sports pads. Children should drink cold water or a sports drink with salt and sugar and be cooled with fans or cool towels.
While they recover from heat exhaustion, you should monitor them closely for symptoms of heatstroke. Heatstroke can occur quickly once your child is experiencing heat exhaustion, and it is an emergency! If you notice that your child is getting more confused or stops responding to you, complains of a severe headache, is no longer sweating and has red, hot, dry skin, call 911 immediately and soak your child with cool water constantly until help arrives. Do not offer anything to drink unless your child is awake and acting normally.
Red, warm, painful skin is the hallmark sign of sunburn. Although you may notice that your child’s skin looks pink, you may not see the full sunburn until 6 to 12 hours after exposure. You can treat pink or reddened skin that is warm and painful with cool compresses. If your child looks or acts sick, complains of a headache or has fever, chills or blisters, you should contact your provider. Prevention of sunburn in children is very important to lower their chance of developing cancer later in life. It is recommended that babies under the age of six months never be placed in direct sunlight. They should be fully covered in light clothing with a wide-brimmed hat to protect the face and head. Older infants and children should have sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 applied to all exposed areas, including lips, at least 30 minutes before going out. Frequent reapplication of sunscreen is just as important as the SPF factor. Consider reapplying sunscreen every one to two hours depending on your child’s level of activity, swimming and sweating.
Remember: You and your family can have a fun and safe summer by following the above tips. Enjoy!
Pamela Mapstone, DNP, CPNP, RN, is a PNP in Rochester, NY. She teaches pediatric nursing at the Wegmans School of Nursing at St. John Fisher College and practices in the community.