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Archive for May, 2010

Over the years of my emergency and urgent-care career, I’ve dealt with many injuries and illnesses seen commonly during the summer. I’d like to share some of my thoughts on making this a safe season for everyone.

**Sunscreen: Almost everyone who spends time out in the sun must wear sunscreen to block the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays on our sensitive skin. Use a sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF rating of at least 30. Apply it liberally and often — at least every two hours. Parents, protect your children’s precious skin.


**Insects: Beware of the many summer bugs lurking out there. For mosquito protection, use a repellent that contains DEET, which, when used as directed, is safe for adults and children older than 2 months.

Regarding stinging insects such as yellowjackets, wasps and honeybees, avoid them if they are nearby. If you are stung by a honey bee, which is the only stinging insect that leaves a stinger behind in the skin, remove it as quickly as possible, by any means possible. It is now deemed OK to pull it out with your fingers and not waste time finding something with which to scrape it off. Immediately apply ice to the sting.

When out in a wooded or grassy area, always check your entire body for ticks when you get home. If you find one, remove it as soon as possible by getting a pair of tweezers, grabbing the tick close to the skin and pulling it straight out.

**Poison oak: The best protection is to recognize it and avoid it. If you touch poison oak with your skin, clothing (including shoes and shoe laces) or garden tools, wash them immediately with soap and water. Poison oak oil must be washed off the skin within a few minutes to avoid the dreaded rash. Remember, all parts of the poison oak plant contain the nasty oil, including the leaves, branches and roots.

**Heat: Heat exhaustion is evidenced by extreme sweating, fatigue and cramps. Heat stroke (a life-threatening condition) is characterized by lack of sweating; red, hot skin; and a very high body temperature. Both conditions can usually be prevented by drinking plenty of liquids and avoiding direct sun as much as possible, especially between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

**Water safety: About 4,000 Americans drown every year — and men are four times more likely to drown than women. Alcohol is frequently involved. Make sure children are supervised in the water every single minute. Watch out for rapid currents, riptides and rocks, and always be aware of your surroundings.

Boat injuries claim another 700 lives a year. Drive your boat sensibly, have enough life preservers on board, and do not drink alcohol and drive.

**Bicycling: Wear a helmet! No matter how obvious this bit of advice is, I still see people riding without a helmet, and I cringe when I see children without this life-saving protection. Head injuries are often very serious, if not deadly, and are inexcusable for lack of a helmet. Be aware of your surroundings, and be in control of your bike at all times. Don’t take foolish chances.

**Eating: Summer picnics can be a common source of food poisoning, manifested by vomiting or diarrhea. Food left out too long is the usual culprit. Handling uncooked chicken or eating undercooked chicken is also a common source of illness.

**Driving: We all drive more during the summer. The cheapest form of life insurance while you are in a car is the good old seat belt. Wear it! Also, make sure children are in proper, age-appropriate car seats. Hand-held cell phone use while driving your car is a significant cause of accidents and is now illegal.

Have a very enjoyable — and very safe — summer.

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True food allergies affect about 2 percent of adults and about 6 percent of children. These reactions are triggered by the immune system, causing symptoms that can be mild to life-threatening. This is not to be confused with food intolerance, such as lactose intolerance, which is more bothersome than it is serious.

An estimated 3 million children in the United States have food allergies, with as many as 200 deaths reported yearly. The impact of these disorders is felt in day care, school and camp settings — areas that are all integral to a child’s life.

The most common allergies in childhood are to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soy. Peanut allergy is of particular concern, because of the frequency of true life-threatening reactions.

Because the incidence of food allergies seems to be on the rise, it is increasingly important that everyone, including families, friends, neighbors, schools and restaurants, strive to understand the significance of food allergies.

Risk factors for food allergies include family history and age, with allergies being most common in children. A child with one allergic parent has a 50 percent chance of having a food allergy, which rises to a 75 percent chance if both parents have food allergies.

Some experts say food allergies can be prevented in the first place, especially for at-risk children, through the following means:

*Breast feeding, if possible, for at least the first 6 months of life.

*Not offering solid food until age 6 months or older.

*Avoiding cow’s milk, wheat, eggs, peanuts and fish until after the first year of life.

Most food allergies improve with age, with the exceptions of allergies to nuts and shellfish, which can continue into late adulthood.

Obviously, the best way to prevent a serious allergic reaction to a particular food is to avoid it. For many reasons, this is not always possible, especially because prepared food often has unknown ingredients in it.

Symptoms of a food allergy may occur within minutes to hours after eating. The most common, less-serious symptoms of a true food allergy that requires urgent treatment are as follows:

*Tingling in the mouth

*Itching or hives

*Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat

*Wheezing

*Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting

The following are symptoms of a more severe, life-threatening reaction that needs immediate emergency treatment:

*Extreme difficulty breathing or swallowing

*Dizziness, light-headedness or fainting

If you or someone with you has serious difficulty with any of the above symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately and have an emergency or paramedic provider offer prompt life-saving treatment, which involves a shot of epinephrine (adrenaline) and transportation to an emergency room.

Quite commonly, a doctor has prescribed to the allergic individual an EpiPen, with which the allergic person can immediately self-inject a dose of epinephrine and thereby save his or her own life.

For the family of an allergic child, sending the child to day care, school or even a friend’s birthday party can be risky. They must trust that others will be able and willing to help the child avoid contact with the problematic food. Notifying all the proper authorities and caregivers in your child’s life of their allergies is imperative in helping to keep them risk free.

It is important that the general population, and particularly those who care for children, be aware of and protective of the food allergic child.

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