Prevention & Recovery

8 great summer health and safety tips

By: Jocelyn Laurence

© Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©

Prevention & Recovery

8 great summer health and safety tips

By: Jocelyn Laurence
Summer is in full swing, which means it's time for camping trips, backyard barbecues and more family fun.

But a painful sunburn, scraped knee or other small health crisis can bring a good time to a screeching halt. Here's how to get back to enjoying summer.   
1. Your backyard lounger time is rudely interrupted by a hovering insect treating you like a snack. Your arm is now itching like crazy.
What to do
Apply an ice cube or a cool compress. Then slather on a soothing remedy such as calamine lotion, vinegar or a paste of baking soda and water. Peppermint oil (or, in a pinch, peppermint toothpaste) also works well.

Dr. Carolyn DeMarco, a physician in Winlaw, B.C., who specializes in alternative health solutions, recommends using pure lavender oil to soothe the bite. If you react severely to bites, keep antihistamines or anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen) on hand. 
How this helps
Reducing inflammation reduces itching. Antihistamines stop your body from producing histamine – the compound that fights off foreign substances in your body. Though histamine is usually a good thing, in the case of a bug bite, the blood it sends to the affected area makes the bite itchier.
Seek medical attention if...
You feel dizzy or nauseated; that could indicate a severe allergic reaction. 
2. Your husband isn't the only one enjoying his book. When he tries to shoo the unwanted wasp away, he is promptly stung.
What to do
A wasp injects venom into the body. Wasp stings benefit from a cold compress or ice pack, but your husband should also lie down and lower the part of his body that was stung. Antihistamines can be helpful if the sting continues to hurt.
How this helps
Cooling the site of the bite helps stop the poison from spreading, as does lying down and keeping the stung area lower than the rest of the body. Simple gravity makes it harder for the poison to move into other parts of the body. 
Seek medical attention if...
He's been stung in the mouth or nose and he thinks the swelling may be blocking his airways. Take him to the emergency room immediately if he can't breathe properly, has a tightness in his throat or chest, is dizzy, breaks out in hives, faints, or is nauseous or vomiting. These symptoms could indicate an allergic reaction

Page 1 of 5 -- Find out how you can treat sunburns and waterlogged ears on page 2
 3. A day spent sunbathing has left your teenage daughter in pain and looking bright red.
What to do
Apply cool cloths or have your daughter take frequent cool (not cold) showers or baths. Dr. Rae Lake, a Toronto-based physician, says alcohol-free moisturizing lotions are also helpful. "They're all pretty much the same, so go for the cheapest. If you can get something with aloe, that's even better." If your daughter is in pain, you can give her acetaminophen or ibuprofen. And remember that sunburns can cause dehydration, so she should drink lots of water.
How this helps
Lowering the body's temperature eases the heat of a sunburn. Peeling skin is inevitable, but lotions help relieve the itching and speed up the recovery. 
Seek medical attention if...
She's covered in blisters, she has a high fever or severe pain, or her burn hasn't calmed down after a few days.
4. A swim in the local pool has left your body feeling energized – and your ears full of water.
What to do
Tip your head or use the corner of a towel or facecloth to wick out the water lodged in your ears, says Lake, who practises at Wellpoint Health Centre in Toronto. Don't use cotton swabs: They'll only force the water deeper into your ears and irritate the canal, he says. You can also try quickly poking a finger in and out of your ear or tilting your head while putting your palm over the affected ear and pushing in and out. If your ear is still waterlogged, a few drops of a solution made with one part five per cent white vinegar and one part 95 per cent isopropyl alcohol could do the trick.
How this helps
Simple gravity encourages the water to drain. Putting a finger in your 
ear or using your palm creates a temporary vacuum that, when broken, allows the water to drain. The acid in the vinegar breaks down ear wax that may be trapping water in the ear canal, while the alcohol dries quickly, taking the water with it.
Seek medical attention if...
The water sits in your ear for more than three days. The skin in your ear will eventually break down because of the moisture, and that can lead to infection (called swimmer's ear).

Page 2 of 5 -- Find out what you should do if kids get sand in their eyes or a case of diarrhea on page 2
5. While staking out your real estate at the beach, the wind picks up and sweeps sand into your eye.
What to do
Keep blinking to produce tears that naturally clean your eye. If you think something is still lurking, it might be under your upper eyelid. Wash your hands, then lift the lid and flush gently with cool water from a bottle, a water fountain or, if you're at home, a sink. 
How this helps
Rubbing your eye is an automatic reaction, but you could be pushing a microscopic rock over your eye's tender tissues. Your eyes produce tears when they're irritated by foreign objects, and these tears act as a natural flusher.
Seek medical attention if...
You're unable to flush out your eye with water or the sand won't go away.

6. A case of diarrhea has left your son spending more time sprinting to the washroom than playing Frisbee with the family in the park.
What to do
To help your son with his diarrhea, focus on replacing his lost fluids and salts. That means lots of water and diluted juice, along with saltines and pretzels. Lake recommends introducing the tried-and-true BRAT diet – bananas, rice, applesauce and toast – after a day or so. Once your son is on the road to recovery, he can eat what the rest of the family is eating, but keep fried and sweet dishes to a minimum until you're sure his digestion is trouble-free.
How this helps
The high sugar content in undiluted juice tends to aggravate diarrhea, while fried and fatty foods sit in the stomach. The idea is to let nature (ahem) run its course. 
Seek medical attention if...
His diarrhea is severe, or he's vomiting, won't drink enough liquids, is listless or is running a fever.   

Page 3 of 5 -- Learn how to care of blisters and scrapes on page 4
 7. Your son insisted on wearing his new, supercool sneakers – sans socks – on the family hike. He and his blisters had to limp home. 
What to do
Clean the blisters with soap and water, and expose them to air. Don't pop them and don't pull off the top layer of dead skin, because that could open the door to infection.

If a blister does pop or your son has to wear shoes, apply an antibacterial ointment and cover the blister with an adhesive bandage.

DeMarco says pure lavender oil doesn't just take the sting out of bug bites; it also heals blisters. "Lavender oil is the Swiss Army knife of essential oils," she says. "If you don't know what to use, go for lavender oil."
How this helps
Air helps blisters dry out. The deflated top skin protects the blister as it heals and acts as a cellular bridge that allows new cells to heal the site. 
Seek medical attention if...
The blister refuses to heal within 10 days, is painful or is accompanied by redness, red streaks or pus.
8. An afternoon doing tricks at the skateboard park left your daughter the envy of the neighbourhood kids. It also left a lovely scrape on her elbow. 
What to do
Gently clean the scrape with warm water to remove any debris, and apply a topical antibiotic. DeMarco recommends lavender oil as well. She also suggests using 400 IU of vitamin E once the scrape is healing and dry. Simply break open a capsule and drip the contents onto your daughter's scrape. If possible, don't cover the wound.
How this helps
Scrapes need to be kept clean to avoid infection, but covering them increases unwanted moisture when they need to dry out.
Seek medical attention if...
The scrape becomes more painful, swells, turns red or has a nasty discharge. Also see a doctor if your daughter is running a fever.

Page 4 of 5 -- For information about provincial 24-hour health lines and to uncover summer health myths, see page 5
Provincial 24-hour health lines
Alberta: 1-866-408-5465
British Columbia: 1-800-661-4337
Manitoba: 1-800-782-2437 or 204-940-2200
Newfoundland and Labrador: 1-888-709-2929
New Brunswick: 1-877-784-1010
Northwest Territories: 1-888-255-1010
Nova Scotia: 1-800-566-2437
Nunavut: 867-975-5700
Ontario: 1-866-797-0000
Prince Edward Island: 902-368-4947
Quebec: 811
Saskatchewan: 1-877-800-0002
Yukon: 811
Telling Tales
Old wives aren't always right. Here are five common myths.
Myth: Wait an hour after you eat to go swimming.
Fact: This is not necessary. 
Myth: Put butter on a burn.
Fact: Butter holds in the heat and can cause infection.
Myth: Stand on one leg while shaking the other to get rid of water in your ear.
Fact: Don't try this unless you want to look like a clown. 
Myth: Put raw steak on a black eye
Fact: Your eye could become contaminated by bacteria in the meat. Use an ice pack instead.
Myth: Clean a scrape with iodine, hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. 
Fact: All of these can actually cause tissue damage and impede skin's healing.
This story was originally titled "Quick Fixes for Summer Mishaps" in the August 2012 issue.
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Prevention & Recovery

8 great summer health and safety tips