Summer play poses tiny threat to kids

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer creates the opportunity for children to play outside, but with the fun also come risks and dangers. Mosquito and tick bites, outdoor chemicals and unattended drinks can cause problems for children and parents.

With the recent flooding, standing water is common around Putnam County. These puddles can create nesting grounds for mosquitoes. Mosquito bites can spread West Nile virus, which causes flu-like symptoms and has no known cure, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

To avoid mosquito bites, get rid of containers with standing water in them including flowerpots and outdoor pet dishes. Also, wear long sleeves and long pants whenever walking in weed-filled or wooded areas and properly use insect repellent.

Insect repellent can be applied to the skin and clothes, but not the face. Repellent used on older children should contain no more than 10 percent DEET and children under three years should use oil of eucalyptus products. Everyone should wash insect repellent off with soap and water when returning inside.

According to the Acute Medical Clinic in Greencastle, mosquito bites should be cleaned with soap and water and covered with a Band-aid for young children to prevent scratching.

Although ticks are usually harmless, a tick bite can sometimes cause Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Parents should check themselves and children for ticks when returning inside from outdoor activities.

If a tick is found on the skin, it should be removed with tweezers and pulled straight out. The FDA recommends putting the tick in a plastic bag, sealing it up and throwing it away. Early removal of a tick is important because a tick generally has to be on the skin for 36 hours to transmit Lyme disease.

The Acute Medical Clinic stresses making sure to grab the tick by the head when removing it, so that no parts are left attached. If the tick is embedded in the skin, parents should take their children to a doctor for removal.

Symptoms of Lyme disease are headaches, fatigue and a skin rash that looks like a bull's eye. People who suspect they might have Lyme disease should contact their doctor because if left untreated, infection can spread to the joints, heart and nervous system, according to the FDA.

Gardening, grilling and other outdoor chemicals need to be stored safely out of the reach of children and in childproof containers. If ingested, charcoal lighter fluid, gasoline and kerosene can get into the lungs and cause pneumonia within a few hours. If anyone ingests these chemicals, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 right away.

Chemicals used for gardening can even causes health problems when breathed in or splashed on the skin. Wash skin with soap and water and rinse with running water for 15 to 20 minutes. If someone has breathed in chemicals, call the Poison Control Center.

Not only can chemicals harm children if ingested, so can other beverages. Adults should not leave alcoholic beverages unattended because alcohol can be deadly for children.

Even if a two-year old takes one swig of the alcoholic punch at a family picnic, because of his or her immature liver, the child could become drowsy. Children can also develop low blood sugar, leading to seizures, coma and death, so Poison Control should be called immediately if a child ingests alcohol.

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