Dear Dr. Lanny:I love getting the kids outside more during warmer weather, but it also seems summer is full of hazards: swimming pools; stinging insects; playground accidents; sunburn; unleashed dogs; etc. What is the most common threat, or injury, you see during summer?
A: Another summer is upon us. Flu has flown. Green nasal discharge has become a distant memory, and even the kid with nearly constant ear infections gets a clean bill of health. All is seemingly well with the world. Don’t you just know that what follows is going to be full of blood, guts and gore?
In that spirit, this month’s column is brought to you by the word “prevention.” Unlike the largely inevitable illnesses of winter, many of the summer problems are easily preventable. What follows is in no particular order, but represents a number of summertime blues you can minimize.
Sunburn: Protect yourself and your children with sunscreen. Wear long sleeves and pants when just sitting around, and wear a hat with a brim. Remember that sunscreens may be waterproof, but they are not towel- or wrestling-proof.
Mosquitoes and fellow travelers: They’re all annoyances--and they carry diseases, too. Each year we seem to get a new mosquito-borne disease to worry about. Unfortunately, global warming will only make matters worse as tropical diseases march northward. Prevention comes in two forms: personal and communal.
Personal prevention means appropriate clothing including long sleeves and pants, particularly around dusk, and use of insect repellents as needed. Always follow the directions, and use products recommended for children. Communal prevention means cleaning up any standing water to deny mosquitoes a place to breed: cover garbage cans; change water in birdbaths frequently; and clear moist leaves out of rain gutters.
Ticks: Where deer and pets and humans come together, ticks will be found. My office is opposite Nottingham High School, right in the city of Syracuse, and it is not unusual in the morning to see a half-dozen deer grazing on our hillside. If the kids are out playing in the woods or even on the lawn, do a tick check everyday. Ticks attached to the skin for less than 24 hours are unlikely to cause disease.
Pesticides: I’ve written about this in the past and only ask that, if you’re not ready to give them up, at least go to spot-treating weeds rather than whole lawn application. Also look into organic or manual ways to get the lawn you love.
Swimmer’s ear: If your children get to swim frequently, consider a mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. Mix equal parts, and use a few drops in each ear twice daily during swimming days.
Bicycles, skates, skateboards, scooters and any wheeled contraptions: Helmets should not be a negotiable item. Wear one or don’t do the activity. Wrist and knee protection is wise as well.
Remember that a parent must also wear a helmet. Take a trip to Onondaga Lake Park, and see the number of little kids with helmets but helmetless parents. When the kids get older it will be pretty hypocritical, and difficult, to make them wear a helmet.
Swimming pools: Not a year goes by without the tragic and preventable death of a young child. Pools must be totally fenced. Remember that sliding doors between the house and the pool may be left open or easily opened by a bright little 4-year-old. Responsible supervision is a must. Teach children to swim; maybe one day they will save a friend’s life.
Right about now don’t you find yourself wishing it was winter already? Despite appearances, the Grinch is not really my best friend. It is true, though, that I worry about everything, and if life is going well, I worry that something bad is bound to happen. On the other hand, I see in my work, and read in the papers, about tragedies that are all the worse because they could have been prevented.
Get out of the house and enjoy the spring and summer. Explore the beauty of our community. Just use a little caution and common sense.
Dr. Alan Freshman, a father of two grown boys, practices at Syracuse Pediatrics in Syracuse. Consult your own physician before making decisions about your child’s health care.