I know this is going to shock everyone, but sometimes I get grumpy. Really grumpy. And one day, when I was especially grumpy about Lola running outside in her fancy new shoes and getting them all scuffed, the very first time she wore them, I found a story online that set me straight. It was about a little boy in a wheelchair, whose clothes were always perfect and shoes were never scuffed, because he couldn’t run and play. It broke my heart, and since then, I have tried hard to be more patient with the little things. It doesn’t always work, but these days, scuffed shoes are the least of my worries. There are so many other potential summertime hazards. Being a kid means playing hard, and that can lead to all sorts of (hopefully) minor ailments, like scrapes and bruises, bug bites and sun burns, as well as slightly more serious ones, like dehydration and food poisoning.
“Encouraging children to play outdoors is a great way to have them be more active,” says Dr. Hes, a renowned pediatrician and Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics. “However, outdoor play often results in minor cuts and scrapes and other ailments that are easily treated at home. By preparing for the stronger sun and heat before the child goes off to play and in keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet, parents can keep minor summer problems from turning into a trip to the doctor.”
Here, a guide to summer first aid for kids, with a little help from the pros (and, as always, a few products).
I have spent most of my life chronically dehydrated, and I’ve finally decided to do something about it, because it shows up in my skin faster these days. The danger with kids, though, is that dehydration can be hard to spot, and it happens much more quickly for them. Dr. Hes recommends keeping fluids handy and reminding children to drink regularly during playtime. (And, I’ll add, reminders are especially necessary when kids are swimming and often don’t feel hot or thirsty). How do you know if our child is dehydrated? According to Dr. Hes, it’s time to call a doctor if blood is in the stool, the child vomits for more than 24 hours, has a fever over 103 F, cries without tears, or does not urinate for six hours. If a child is lethargic or has severe abdominal pain, they should be taken to the emergency room.
Personal trainer, exercise physiologist, and certified nutritionist Franci Cohen also offers some great tips on avoiding dehydration. According to Franci Cohen, most people believe that if you drink when you’re thirsty, you avoid dehydration, but nothing could be farther from the truth. “The fact is that by the time one feels thirst, he or she may already be significantly dehydrated. A better barometer is the color of your urine. The darker the urine, the more dehydrated the body is. The body is at risk for some serious medical conditions if the water loss content is not replaced.”
And for those of us, like me, who struggle to drink enough water every day, Cohen offers these hydrating alternatives:
Celery – this crunchy snack is full of water, rich in fiber and has potassium, which helps the body retain the water.
Cucumbers – this green veggie is the number one of all fruits and vegetables when it comes to water content. It also has vitamin K.
Skim Milk – that’s right; it does the body more than good – it hydrates it! Its natural balance of sodium, carbohydrates and protein helps the body retain fluid.
Coconut water – rich in potassium, it imparts natural sweetness eliminating the need for added sugars.
Watermelon Water–a recent industry fave that boasts electrolyte enhanced watermelon water, with a refreshing fresh lemon twist. Watermelon is known to be high on salt, calcium, and magnesium which is a definite plus both pre and post exercise.
Eating alfresco is fun in summer, but it poses a few risks as well when undercooked meat, mayo and other foods are left out for a long time. Anyone who has every had food poisoning knows the awful symptoms, which usually appear within a few hours: vomiting, diarrhea, or both. Dr. Hes advises that parents treat their child’s food poisoning at home, as long as there aren’t signs of dehydration. When treating at home, children need to be kept comfortable and rested. They should drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest, and keep away from solid foods and dairy products – which could exacerbate the symptoms.
As vigilant as I am about applying sunscreen to my girls, there have been times when the Florida sun has taken its toll, like the Memorial Day at the beach when Eva spent hours playing in the sand, and ended up with pink shoulders. “Children’s first line of defense against sunburn is always plenty of sunscreen,” says Dr. Hes. “Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapplied throughout the day to be fully effective. However, sunscreen should not be applied to babies under six months old. Instead, parents can use physical barriers, such as clothing and shade to protect their child’s skin.” Dr. Hes recommends treating a burn with plain aloe. Allow severe burns to fully heal before the child goes out to play again, and see the doctor for a fever above 101 F. Umbreen Sheikh of Wink Brow Bar also suggests the following sunburn fixes:
- Cold Water: Dip a cloth into water, or water with ice cubes, and lay it over the burn. Repeat every few minutes as the cloth warms.
- Moisten a cloth with witch hazel for long lasting anti-inflammatory relief.
Cuts, bumps and scrapes happen, and usually they are nothing to be concerned about, especially if you’re prepared. Dr. Hes recommends keeping the following on hand: sterile gauze, adhesive bandages, disinfecting ointment, and tweezers. Use water to clean a wound, and if there is a splinter or debris, remove it with the tweezers. Gauze may be used to apply pressure to a wound to slow bleeding, and antibiotic ointment should be used before applying a bandage to kill germs.
Bees, Ticks and Other Pests
Unless your child has an allergy, stings are usually nothing more than an itchy nuisance, but there are a few things you should know. Bees usually leave behind a stinger. Dr. Hes advises removing it as quickly as possible with a scraping motion; avoid pinching, which could disrupt the venom sac that is left at the end of the stinger. Parents should wash the area and apply an ice pack to help with both pain and swelling. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen may also be given for pain. Dr. Hes emphasizes that parents should be on alert for wheezing and swelling, which are signs of an allergic reaction that require a hospital visit. Children who get stung in the mouth will also need additional medical treatment because of the threat to the child’s airways.
Ticks are another summertime pest, and with Lyme disease on the rise, prevention becomes even more important. The pros at InsectShield offer these tips for dealing with ticks:
- Remove ticks safely: Disinfect with alcohol, then use pointy tweezers to grab the tick “head” and pull it straight out. Disinfect again.
- Encourage Daily Tick Checks: Pick a regular time, either right after an outdoor activity, or as before a bath or bedtime, to do a full body check. Removing ticks quickly can prevent disease, as it taeks more than 24-36 hours for ticks to transmit disease.
- Stay Away from Tick Habitats: Ticks love shady, wooded and weedy areas, so avoid these when possible by walking on maintained trails.
- Wear Protective Clothing: Insect Shield Tick Repellent Apparel offers long lasting protection for the whole family.
Finally, if plain old mosquitos are bugging your kids, fight the annoying itchiness with this DIY remedy from Anne-Marie Faiola, founder of Handmade Beauty Box.
DIY Bug Bite Cooling Tonic: Combine 4 oz. aloe vera liquid, 4 oz. witch hazel and 1 oz. lavender essential oil. Mix well.
From insect repellant clothing to helpful hydration tips, I hope this roundup of expert advice for dealing with the most pesky summer ailments helps you keep your kids healthy and safe this summer!