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Bug bite prevention

Bug Bite Prevention & Treatment!

Daily Dose

Plants That Cause Summer Rashes

1:15 to read

Now that summer is upon us and everyone is enjoying being outside I am seeing patients with contact dermatitis (rashes) after coming into contact with poisonous plants.  While allergies are slowing down a bit with the hotter weather, plants like poison ivy, oak and sumac (depending where you live) are full of leaves.  About 50% of people who come into contact with the leaves of these plants will have a reaction.

The adage “leaves of three, let them be” continues to be the best way to prevent getting a rash. That also means wearing long sleeves, and pants...and gloves. But what child goes off to play in the yard, or by the creek dressed like that for summer?  Sunscreen yes, gloves, probably not. 

If you realize you have been exposed to the plant leaves and therefore the urushiol (oil on leaf) , wash all areas of exposed skin as soon as possible with some products that are available like Tecru, Sanfel and Goop Hand Cleaner....if you don’t have those use dish washing soap.  

It may take up to 4 days after exposure to develop the rash and lesions may also appear at different times depending on the location and length of exposure to the urushiol.  The rash is usually really itchy and is often is linear clusters or little vesicles or blisters.  The rash does not spread by scratching or from the fluid inside the blisters, that is a myth. You cannot give anyone else poison ivy if you have washed off the urushiol.  

The best treatments relieve the itching and irritation.  Keeps nails short and hands clean so that scratching will not cause a secondary bacterial infection.  You can use oatmeal baths (Aveeno) or cool compresses (Dommeboro) to help control itching. An over the counter steroid cream is a good place to start to help the inflammation, but it may be a stronger prescription steroid cream will be needed. 

I also try calamine lotion or astringent to soothe the irritation. Sarna is another good lotion for itching....Oral antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) really don’t help with the itching as it is not due to histamines, but may cause a bit of sedation so a child can sleep.

If the rash is getting worse, spreading to the face and around the eyes or begins to look infected it is time for a visit to the pediatrician. For severe cases oral steroids may be necessary.

It sometimes takes 10-14 days for the rash to go away.  Oh, and getting overheated only makes you itch more.

Daily Dose

Too Much Tanning

1.00 to read

With my previous posts on sun safety, I thought that it was a good time to discuss those who don’t heed the warnings about the risks of overexposure to ultraviolet radiation and are addicted to tanning. 

We all saw the pictures of the New Jersey mom who seemed to live in a tanning bed, and the media termed her “tanorexic”. I also take care of plenty of teens who seem to fall into this category as well. They are easy to spot as they are tan throughout the year, even on areas they “shouldn’t be”. 

There is actually data to show that tanning changes brain activity.  Researchers at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center did a study with participants who used tanning beds.  They found that brain activity and blood flow in tanners is similar to that seen in people addicted to drugs and alcohol.  The rewarding effects in the brain may be due to an opiod release that occurs during tanning.  If frequent tanners missed tanning sessions they experienced withdrawal like symptoms and related that they were compelled to continue the tanning behavior. 

While UVA and UVB radiation both play a role in the development of skin cancer, artificial ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is used most commonly in tanning beds and sun lamps. Compared with solar radiation, artificial UVR contains 10 to 15 times the amount of radiation.  This is concerning as there are more than 1 million Americans (many of whom are teens) who use artificial tanning methods each day, putting them at even more risk for the development of skin cancer. 

If estimates are correct and more than 25% of lifetime sun exposure occurs within the first 18 years of life, avoiding artificial tanning would seem to be prudent. There are melanoma studies showing that artificial UV light exposure increases the risk of developing melanoma by 74% so why would you allow your teen to tan?  In many states bills have been passed to regulate  tanning access to minors.  But even with these laws in effect, some parents continue to “sign” to allow their children to tan, I know this from my own patients.  

So, while tanning may make you feel “good” for the short term, like many other things in life it is not good for the long term. Just another topic for discussion with your teen. 

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Swim Lessons Can Reduce Risk of Drowning

1:15 to read

Now that hot weather is with all of us, the issue of childhood drowning is an ever-present concern. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that after the age of five years, all children be taught to swim. The AAP does not recommend for or against swimming lessons as a measure to prevent drowning in children younger than five years. Between 2000 and 2005, 6,900 children died from non-boating accidental drowning. The rate of drowning was almost four times higher for children one to two years of age, and twice as high for those younger than five.

An article in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine looked at the association between swimming lessons and risk of drowning specifically in the one to four year old age groups. Previous concerns had been raised about the potential for swimming lessons to increase the risk for drowning in younger children. This study provided good news that kids aged one to four who have taken formal swimming lessons have an 88% less risk of drowning. Researchers found that only three percent of the children who had drowned had taken swimming lessons. So with this news, it might be prudent to start swimming lessons at a younger age than previously thought.

But swimming lessons alone will not prevent drowning and even in this study, many of the older children who drowned were noted to have been proficient swimmers. It is still important to have other drowning prevention strategies in place including pool fencing (some parents with pools feel like their child will not be able to unlock a door and head to the pool and do not have a fence in place, and I totally disagree with that argument), constant and age appropriate adult supervision and training in CPR. Children are amazing at finding ways to unlock doors, and windows that lead outside and no parent can know where their child is for every minute of the day. If you have a pool and a child is missing always check the pool first, as a child can quietly slip into the water and lose consciousness in as little as two minutes and drown in five minutes.

That's your daily dose, we'll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Hot Car Deaths

1:30 to read

Did you know that heat stroke is the second leading cause of non-traffic fatalities among children, with the first being backover deaths.  As the summer temperatures are rising these tragic accidents become all too frequent.  

My home state of Texas leads the country in child vehicular heat stroke deaths, followed by Florida and California.  But children who are trapped in vehicles have died in milder climates as well. The temperatures outside may be as low as 60 degrees, but the inside of a car heats up quickly, with 80% of the increase in temperature happening in the first 10 minutes. The reason for this is due to physics.....the sun’s short-wave radiation is absorbed by dark dashboards and seats...the heated objects including child seats then emit long wave radiation which heats a vehicle’s interior air.  All of this leads to tragedy.

A child’s thermoregulatory system is not the same as an adult’s, and their body temperatures will warm 3 -5 times faster.  When a child’s body temperature rises to about 107 degrees or greater, their internal organs begin to shut down.This scenario can then lead to death. If you see a child who has been left in a hot car call 911...every minute matters.

The greatest percentage of these tragic deaths are totally unintentional.  These parents are not “bad parents” or “child abusers”, they are loving, good parents who simply forgot that their child was in the car. On average there have been around 37 deaths per year due to vehicular heat stroke and in most cases this is not due to reckless behavior but simply to forgetfulness.  Parents and caregivers both admit to “just forgetting” a child was in the car.  It truly can happen to anyone.

So, how can you remember that your precious, quiet, sleeping child is in back seat. Make it a routine to always look in the back seat before you lock and leave the car.  Try putting your purse, briefcase, or cell phone in the back seat as a reminder to look for your child. Lastly, if your child is in childcare, have a plan that the childcare provider will call you if you have not notified them that your child will not be coming to school,  and they don’t show up.

Daily Dose

Summer Series: A Lesson in Pool Safety

1.15 to read

Every year, over 900 children (14 years and younger) drown in swimming pool mishaps. Unfortunately, most of these drownings are totally preventable. Swimming pool season is in full swing so it is a good time to reiterate pool safety. Studies have shown that nine out of the 10 children over the age of 1 who died were “supervised”.  The best way to prevent any drowning is by having fencing surrounding all pools. That means four feet high on all four sides. It is amazing how even a young toddler can unlock a door, or climb on a chair and undo a latch or climb out of an open window into a yard with direct access to a pool. Children are clever, quick and quiet when they want to be. Drownings are silent, and many times the last place a parent looks for their missing child is at the bottom of the pool, long after it is too late. So, after fencing a pool with a locking gate, you also need to have the appropriate equipment at the pool while your children are swimming. The first thing that should always be nearby is a telephone. There should also be an appropriate rescue floatation ring available. Anyone supervising a child should be a “designated supervisor” so that they are totally aware that they are in charge and should be within arm’s reach of the “non swimmer” child at all times. Optimally, the supervising adult is also CPR trained (a good summer activity for all...so go take CPR class). Lastly, “The Virginia Graeme Baker Law” which is federal legislation passed in 2007, requires all pools to be retrofitted with new drains to avoid suction entrapment and drowning. Despite this act, it seems that not all pools, both public and private, have complied. It might be wise to inquire if your pool is updated, and new drains have been installed. At the same time it is a good idea to teach children to stay away from drains in general. Swimming is one of the highlights of summer for all ages, and safety is paramount!

Daily Dose

Water Safety

1:15 to read

I was reminded of the importance of pool safety after watching the news and hearing that 3 children were found in a nearby apartment pool, under water and unresponsive.  

There are about 3,500 fatal unintentional drownings per year, which is about 10 deaths per day.  Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1-14 years.  For every child who dies from drowning, there are 4 non-fatal drowning victims who suffer severe and life changing injuries.

Drowning is preventable!!  Although many people think of drowning victims screaming and yelling, drowning is actually quick and silent.  It only takes seconds (the time to grab a towel, or answer the phone) and a child may become submerged. Most drownings also occur in family pools.  Because I have always had a fear of drowning we did not build a pool until our boys were all older than 10 years and were excellent swimmers ( was I a bit over zealous with swim lessons and swim team, maybe...)?  Children as young as 2-3 years can safely begin swim lessons and begin the process of mastering how to tread water, floating and basic swim strokes. 

Another rule for safe swimming is “never swim alone!”.  Teach your children the importance of the buddy system when they are swimming, even in a backyard pool. Adults need to be designated “water watchers” and know that they are responsible for watching the children in the pool and will never leave them unattended. The “water watcher” should regularly scan the bottom of the pool, and will need to have a phone at the pool for emergency use only.  Adult water watchers have only 1 job...to watch the pool, no poolside chatting or distractions. It is a big job!

Anyone with a pool or who is a caregiver of children who are swimming needs to become CPR certified.  CPR skills can save lives and prevent brain damage.   

Lastly, if you have a pool you need layers of protection - which  means a barrier around your pool. I have heard many a family tell me that their child “could never get out the door to the pool, it has several locks and an alarm”.  Despite the best of intentions, no parent can watch their child 24 hours/day.  Toddlers have been known to push a stool over to unlock a door, or a door is inadvertently left unlocked or ajar. Remember, it only takes seconds for a child to become submerged. 

By the way, I am following my own advice and a pool fence is going up to protect our granddaughter...the bigger the better.

Daily Dose

Eeek...Ticks!

1:30 to read

It is the time of year many families are spending time outdoors including camping and hiking. I often get phone calls from worried parents about finding a tick on their children and concerns about what to do.  Ticks are most active in the warmer months (April - Sept), while we are also enjoying vacations.  Many parents are concerned about tick borne illnesses,  as well as just being “grossed” out with the idea of finding a tick on their child. 

The number one thing to remember is to try to prevent a tick bite, which means using insecticide before you plan on hiking etc. It is important to use a product that contains enough DEET, so if you are going to an area with an increased incidence of ticks ( especially that carry disease)  use a product that contains 20-30% DEET, which will provide several hours of protection.  Make sure to avoid your child’s hands, eyes and mouth.   You can also spray your clothes with a permethrin product prior to exposure.  Interestingly, the clothes that have been sprayed with a 0.5% permethrin product remain protective through several washings.  

Now that you have protection before you go out you want to bathe or shower after you return from an outdoor activity, and the sooner the better.  This is the best time to check your child for ticks. Check their head and hair as well as in the ears, belly button, groin, between their legs and under their arms. 

If you find a tick use fine tipped tweezers to grasp the head of the tick as close to the skin as possible. Resist the urge to “yank” the tick, but rather apply slow steady upward pressure to release the tick from the skin. Once the tick is removed wash the area with alcohol or soap and water.  It is a myth that you can remove the tick by painting it with fingernail polish.  

While not all ticks transmit disease, in certain areas of the country the black-legged deer tick may cause Lyme disease.   In most cases a tick must be attached for 36-48 hours before the bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi) is transmitted. So, back to the bath and look for ticks after you are home for the day. 

Once the tick is removed and the area is cleaned you are generally good to go. You do not need to “save” the tick to show to the doctor. But, if you live in an area known for Lyme disease ( the Northeastern U.S. in particular), watch for a red bull’s eye rash that spreads over several days. This typically occurs within a week after the tick bite. A small red bump left after the tick bite is not the same thing and will resolve in a day or two, rather than “grow”. Lyme disease also causes fever, chills, headache, joint pains and swollen lymph nodes. 

Lyme disease is best treated early with a course of antibiotics….so if concerned seek treatment in the early stages of infection.

Daily Dose

Burns From Hot Surfaces!

1;30 to read

With the ongoing heat wave across many parts of the country which has hit Texas exceptionally hard, I have a new warning for parents (and kids).  My community has seen seen extremely high temperatures between 100-106 for the last two weeks. These temps have made everyone miserable and there have been many warnings about heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and ways to stay hydrated on the news.

Who knew that you needed to worry about burns other than sunburn? It seems that outdoor furniture, metal pool drain covers, and playground equipment have heated up with these unrelenting temperatures!  

So…what is this alluding to?  A patient just called me yesterday totally “freaking out” that her toddler had gone out to play in the backyard with his 3 year old brother. It was morning and not yet terribly hot, so she thought “best time to get out of the house and get some fresh air”.  The boys were climbing on their outdoor fire pit (as children often do) and he stepped on the edge, and immediately started to scream and cry. His mother, who also happens to be a pediatric nurse, initially thought something had stung him? When she picked him up he continued to cry as if in pain, but she could not see anything at all….until she looked at his feet. He had stood on the metal on the edge and immediately burned his feet, to the point of blistering on contact!  And, as you probably know, toddlers feet are typically flat (arches come later) so his “baby feet” had full contact with the metal and he sustained second degree burns to both feet.

When she got him to the ER they immediately started to treat his burns and pain (as burns are incredibly painful).   She said she did not know who was crying more…she or her child. Once things settled down she asked the ER doctor at Children’s Medical Center if this had ever happened before!  Unfortunately, the answer was yes.  They had seen several other serious burns to children who had come into contact with metal on playgrounds and around metal pool drain covers.

This precious little boy will ultimately be fine…..after many days of oral pain medication and routine bandage changes (some of which will actually be done as an outpatient at a burn unit). He will also never remember this.

So… this is a new warning for parents: watch out for the possibility of burns secondary to outdoor metal objects.  This photo is quite telling and painful to look at!  His mother called me today and sent a few new pictures with him smiling!

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