Prevention & Recovery

35 of summer's most common emergencies

By: Ylva Van Buuren

Author: Canadian Living

Prevention & Recovery

35 of summer's most common emergencies

By: Ylva Van Buuren
1. Your child falls from the second floor window of a cottage – he seems fine but is very dizzy. 
Action: Take him to a hospital emergency department to get checked out, advises Dr. Lynne Warda, a pediatrician in Winnipeg and chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society's Injury Prevention Committee. 
Don't: Strap him into his car seat if you think there's any chance he has injured his back, neck or spine. In this case, call 911 for appropriate transportation. 

2. You're on a long trek and develop huge blisters on both feet. 
Action: Cover the blisters with gauze dressings or padded bandages, says Les Johnson, the national director of training for St. John Ambulance in Ottawa. This will relieve the pressure and allow you to keep walking
Don't: Try to break the blisters: you could increase the risk of infection. 

3. You wake up with red itchy spots on your skin, and suspect bed bugs. 
Action: Health Canada recommends laundering affected bedding and clothing on high heat. Take apart the bed and vacuum to box springs and frames. If necessary, use a scrub brush to remove bed bugs and eggs from the seams. Clean under the bed and other furniture, along baseboards and in creases or crevices. 
Don't: Worry too much; bed bugs don't pose any major health risk. 

4. You take a rest from a country stroll with your pooch, and realize that you're sitting in poison ivy. 
Action: Return to where you're staying, remove and bag clothing for laundering and wash skin with soap and cool water, says Donna Kearney, a nurse practitioner in Rosseau, Ont. 
Don't: Put hands in your mouth or eyes, or touch any other bare skin your dog a bath, too.

5. Your toddler drinks creek water she found near a friend's cabin. 
Action: Wait and see what happens, advises Warda. If she develops bloody diarrhea, or diarrhea that lasts longer than seven days, see a doctor. Also see a doctor if she has severe abdominal pain.  
Don't: Induce vomiting – there's no point, says Warda, because you don't know if there's even going to be a health problem. 

6. You get an ear infection after swimming in unfamiliar waters. 
Action: Flush ears with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol four times a day, says Kearney. Use a squeezable water bottle or eye dropper, or pour in the solution slowly. 
Don't: Use cotton swabs to try to clear out ears or put your head under water until symptoms are cleared up. 

7. Your teenager lands on his back showing off his flip on an old trampoline at the cottage. 
Action: If he has numbness or tingling, difficulty walking or can't walk at all, call 911. If he can walk to the car, drive him to the emergency. 
Don't: Use a trampoline in the first place (the Canadian Paediatric Society says this is a high risk activity and that trampolines should not be used at home). 

Page 1 of 58. Your child has a nosebleed during your cross-Canada road trip. 
Action: With your thumb and index finger, firmly apply pressure to the soft part of her nose for 10 minutes (she won't be able to breathe through her nostrils). Tip her head forward if necessary, so she isn't swallowing blood. If bleeding doesn't stop, repeat for another 10 minutes. If it still doesn't stop, go to a hospital, says Warda. 
Don't: Stuff anything up the nose, such as tissue, and don't pull away scabs that have formed or bleeding will start again. 

9. Your son cuts his foot on a broken beer bottle at the beach. 
Action: Remove glass and debris from the wound, says Kearney, then soak his foot for five to 10 minutes in clean water or salt water (one teaspoon of salt to one cup of water). Cover with a bandage and seek medical attention. If his tetanus vaccination is not up to date, make sure he gets one right away. 
 Wash the foot with lake water or go on vacation without checking tetanus status. 

10. A poisonous snake bites your dad on the lower leg while the two of you are hiking. 
Action: Remove constricting rings, watches or tight clothing and get medical care to come as quickly as possible. Keep him still to prevent the venom from circulating and spreading in his body. Crowtz also recommends that you call ahead to the hospital so staff there can arrange for the antivenin. 
 Try to suck out poison – this exposes you to the poison and increases the risk of infection.

11. Your sister becomes dehydrated after being at the beach all day. 
Action: Get her out of the sun and give her lots of water or a sports drink, says B.J. Chute, the director of public education for the Paramedic Association of Canada in Vancouver. A cool shower would be helpful, too. 
Don't: Give her alcohol or coffee – they'll dehydrate her further. 

12. Your 10-year-old gets motion sickness on a long car trip. 
Action: Suggest he focus on a nonmoving object in the distance, such as a tree or mountain, or distract him with a word game. Put him in the front seat, or take a pit stop. If all else fails, try antinausea medication such as Gravol (25 to 50 milligrams for children six to 12), advises Colleen Brady, a pharmacist in Vancouver. Wait 30 minutes to let the medication take effect. 
Don't: Let your son overeat if he's susceptible to motion sickness, and definitely don't give him greasy snacks during the trip. 

13. You develop a bad case of urticaria (hives) while simply sitting on the front porch. 
Action: To help relieve the itch, Kearney recommends soaking in an oatmeal bath (one to two cups of oatmeal added to warm water) or a baking soda bath (one tablespoon baking soda added to warm water). Talk to a pharmacist about an antihistamine or allergy medication
Don't: Scratch.   

Page 2 of 5 14. Your daughter fractures her arm while on a mountain bike trek. 
Action: Splint the limb using materials on hand. Or, slip her arm inside her shirt next to her body and then button the shirt to help hold the arm still and walk back to your parked vehicle. Go to the nearest hospital. 
Don't: Ride a bike while you have an injured arm. 

15. Your son has a leech on his leg. 
Action: With one hand, pull the skin surrounding the leech tight and flat, advises Crowtz. With the other hand, use a fingernail to gently but firmly catch the edge of the leech and scrape it off. Stop the bleeding with direct pressure and cover with a bandage. 
Don't: Pull the leech off quickly, burn it with a flame or use salt. These methods are not as effective and could be harmful, resulting in toxins being left behind by the leech, says Crowtz. 

16. Your kids stayed in the water too long and are so cold, you think they may be hypothermic. 
Action: Get them out of the water, remove wet bathing suits and dress them in warm layers of dry clothing. Get them moving (jumping jacks on the spot, for example) and give them a warm drink or something sugary like a chocolate bar. Both strategies help boost metabolism. Once they've warmed up, give your kids something more substantial to eat (such as crackers and peanut butter) and be sure they drink water. Keep them warm. 
Don't: Allow kids to stay in the water too long.  

17. You tried to keep out of the sun but still got a bad sunburn
Action: Apply cool-water-soaked cloths for about 20 minutes. Take an over-the-counter painkiller such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA). (Caution: Children under 18 years of age should not take ASA because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome.) Keep yourself well hydrated and apply aloe to the burn. 
Don't: Use topical anesthetic sprays or antihistamines; they could cause a skin reaction. 

18. You get stung by a bee while gardening. 
Action: If you have a history of severe allergic reactions, use your EpiPen or other autoinjector and call 911 or get to a hospital quickly. If not, try removing the venom-filled stinger (it looks like a black dot) by gently scraping the area with the edge of a credit card. Clean the area with soap and water and apply ice or a cold pack to reduce swelling. An antihistamine, such as Benadryl, or a paste made with baking soda and water may help. 
Don't: Use tweezers to remove the stinger; that may squeeze more poison into your body. 

19. The man at the next campsite is struck by lightning. 
Action: Make sure he's breathing and check for burns and other injuries. Start CPR if it's required and you're qualified. Call 911 and, if necessary and safe, move the man to a safer location. Even if he seems fine, it's important that he see a doctor. 
Don't: Avoid touching the man;  there's no longer any risk of an electrical charge. 

Page 3 of 520. Your child has diarrhea
Action: Besides water, try oral hydration liquids containing sugar and salts (such as Gastrolyte or Pedialyte) available at the drugstore. If the diarrhea persists, take her to a doctor. 
Don't: Let her get dehydrated; be sure she drinks a lot of liquids. 

21. Your son's friend has an asthma attack while at your place, and he doesn't have his puffer. 
Action: Remain calm. Make sure he's sitting up. Have someone get his "reliever" medication (a bronchodilator puffer) if it is nearby. If he has increased difficulty breathing or speaking, call 911. 
Don't: Panic. Reassure and calm him, since fear and anxiety will only worsen his condition. 

22. Your hubby develops a bad summer cough at the cottage. 
Action: Make him a cup of tea or warm water with honey and lemon. Raise his head with extra pillows. Remove or avoid possible irritants. See a doctor if the cough persists or he experiences shortness of breath. 
Don't: Let him smoke or go near smoky campfires. 

23. You and your family are sprayed by a skunk in the woods. 
Action: Flush your eyes with clean water if necessary. Get home and bathe in tomato juice, lemon juice or a mixture of 1/4 cup of baking soda, one litre white vinegar and one teaspoon dish detergent. 
Don't: Worry; skunk spray may be obnoxious, but it can't harm you.  

24. A neighbour is barbecuing inside his cottage, exposing his guests to carbon monoxide. 
Action: Turn off the barbecue, open the windows and get everyone outside, says Johnson. If dizziness and other symptoms don't go away, or if there was loss of consciousness, see a doctor. 
Don't: Start a barbecue in an enclosed space. 

25. You and a friend encounter a grizzly bear on a trail. 
Action: Remain calm, says Crowtz, keep your gaze down and stay together as you slowly back away from the bear. Always leave the bear an escape route. If hiking in bear country, be sure to carry bear spray. 
Don't: Run away or climb a tree. Staying calm and quiet and not startling the bear can help avoid an attack. 

26. Your hiking companion is cut by wild rosebush thorns. 
Action: Remove the thorn with tweezers. Stop any bleeding with direct pressure and apply an antibiotic cream such as Polysporin. 
Don't: Forget to carry a small first-aid kit when hiking. 

27. Your whole family develops 
food poisoning – likely from the egg salad – while on a picnic. 
Action: Keep well hydrated. Warning signs such as fever, blood in stool and prolonged vomiting indicate that medical attention is needed. However, symptoms typically resolve by themselves. 
Don't: Forget the rule of thumb for packing picnic foods: Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. 

28. Dad burns his hand trying to put out the campfire. 
Action: Dunk his hand in cool water or gently pour water over the burned area, says Chute. Cover the burn with a clean, damp towel or T-shirt. If there are any breaks in the skin, or if the burn is severe, go to the nearest hospital. 
Don't: Use salve, butter or anything other than water, as covering the burn can trap the heat and make things worse.

Page 4 of 529. Gas gets into your eyes while refueling the motor boat at the lake. 
Action: Immediately flush eyes with the freshest water available – from your water bottle or, if need be, the lake. Return to land, says Kearney, and see a doctor as soon as possible. 
Don't: Rub eyes or use eye drops. 

30. Your toddler is choking on a piece of hot dog. 
Action: "If the child can still get some air, encourage him to cough," says Johnson. If not, use the Heimlich manoeuvre: From behind, wrap your arms around him, with one hand covering a fist placed in his mid-abdomen. Pull firmly inward and upward. Repeat until blockage is cleared. For illustrated instructions from St. John's Ambulance, visit and click on Publications and Resources. 
Don't: Slap him on the back; it can worsen the blockage. 

31. You're sitting in the hammock at the cottage and suddenly, you're covered in mosquito bites
Action: Use anti-itch products (such as After Bite or calamine lotion). Try one of the many home remedies, one of which is to rub liquid laundry detergent on the bite to help reduce irritation (it can't hurt!). 
Don't: Use topical anesthetics; they may cause a reaction. 
32. Your son is hit in the head with a baseball at a game at the lake. 
Action: If he's knocked out or exhibits dizziness, abnormal behaviour and/or is vomiting, go to the nearest hospital or medical clinic. Whether you go to the hospital or not, use ice to reduce pain and swelling of the bruise or "goose egg" (a large, swollen bruise). 
Don't: Play down the seriousness of this kind of accident; there could be serious damage. 

33. An unleashed dog bites you at the campground. 
Action: Make sure the owner secures the dog. Then, says Chute, flush the wound with water and wrap it in something clean such as a T-shirt. Puncture wounds must be seen by a doctor, who will help determine if there is a rabies concern. 
Don't: Assume all dogs are friendly; always approach with caution. 

34. Your dried fruit supply goes overboard and sinks at the beginning of your three-week canoe trip. 
Action: Review what's left of your food – if necessary, delay the rest of the trip by a day to restock supplies. 
Don't: Go for extended trips without proper nutritional supplies or a contingency plan. 

35. Your child eats a wild mushroom, and you're not sure if it's poisonous. 
Action: Pick one that looks similar and call the local poison control centre. You'll receive instructions from there. 
Don't: Induce vomiting, says Warda; it may make things worse.

Page 5 of 5

Read more:

How to keep your kids safe online
30 fun things to do with your kids this summer
How to talk to your teen about safety

This story was originally titled "35 of Summer's Most Common Emergencies" in the June 2008 issue.
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Prevention & Recovery

35 of summer's most common emergencies