Summer Maladies in Children
School going children of all age groups eagerly wait for their summer break. It is that time of the year where they can indulge in activities that they cannot in regular school days and spend time the way they want to. Playing with friends at all hours of the day, having lots of cold desserts and ice cream, going out on picnics with family are on their bucket list every summer. However, with all the fun and frolic come a lot of health risks.
Some of the common ailments that children are susceptible in summers are:
- Heat related illnesses : Over exposure to heat may cause heat related illnesses such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, fainting, heat cramps and worst of them all sunstroke. Not drinking enough water and excessive sweating makes the child more prone to these health effects. If the child develops symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, confused behavior, headache and vomiting, shift her/him in a cooler area in a shade and seek medical help immediately. To prevent such incidents, it is advised to make children consume plenty of fluids including water, lemon juice, coconut water etc. Avoid aerated cold drinks. Wearing caps and sunglasses can be a good way to lessen direct sun exposure. Do not allow children to play in the midday sun.
- Skin problems: Exposure to excessive heat may cause skin problems such as prickly heat, boils and fungal infections. In such a case, parents must seek medical advice to avoid the problem from getting worse.
- Allergy: The children may be exposed to more allergens in summer causing skin allergy, sore eyes, hay fever, etc. A doctor must be consulted to treat these ailments.
- Water & Food Borne Diseases: Water borne diseases like typhoid, jaundice, dysentery, diarrhea and many more can be observed in children if they consume contaminated food generally from unhygienic places. Parents should avoid giving children street food. It is better to consume home cooked food. Children should carry water bottles to avoid consumption of contaminated water from outside.
- Sunburn: With summer comes the danger of sunburn, which can be serious. Sunburn is caused by overexposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun that damages the skin cells. The risk of damage depends on things like the time of day, the amount of time spent in the sun and if children use sun protection or not. Prevention includes avoiding direct exposure to sunlight, use of wide brim hats, sunglasses and sun screen lotion. The lotion must be used at least 15-20 minutes before the likely sunlight exposure.
- Swimmer’s Ear: Swimmer’s ear is an infection that occurs when water is retained inside the ear after swimming, which creates a moist environment for bacterial growth. If a child complains of itching and pain in the ear, she/he may have swimmer’s ear. Consult a doctor for a timely treatment.
Basic health issues when ignored, can lead to major ailments which takes long to heal. A few tips to prevent summer illnesses in children and make them have a safe summer, are:
- Encourage children to increase intake of water. Ensure that the water is properly purified and free from germs. Natural fluids such as lemon juice, coconut water, fresh buttermilk etc. may also be given in addition to water. Avoid aerated cold drinks and packed fruit juices
- Ensure that the child does not play for a long time in the sun especially at midday
- Avoid giving pre-cut fruits and food items from roadside vendors to children. It is advisable to stick to fresh fruits and home cooked food
- The child should not miss her/his meal and parents should ensure that the child eats a wholesome and nutritious meal
- Make children wear light weight, light coloured and loose-fitting cotton clothes
- Wearing a wide brim cap and sunglasses is advisable
- Parents must make sure that children take regular bath. The skin should be kept dry free from accumulation of sweat
Parents must give children proper instructions in order to stay safe in summers, especially when they are outdoors. Summers are meant for children to have fun and in order to not hamper their play-time, they should be well informed and given necessary precautions.
Dr. Santosh Datar, is a Medical Director and consultant doctor at Ziqitza Healthcare limited. He is trained in Occupational Health, Hospital Administration and Medico legal issues. He comes with an experience of 31 years and has a flair for designing systems and procedures and making continual improvements in the organizations he works for. Dr. Datar has an M.B.B.S degree along with a Diploma in Anesthesiology and Industrial Medicine. In the past he has worked with companies like Larsen & Toubro Limited, The Hindustan Insecticides Ltd, Johnson & Johnson among other reputed companies. He is also a part of national safety council as an auditor and trainer and a member of Life Supporters Institute of Health Sciences, Mumbai. He has also been the former president Indian Association of Occupational Health, Mumbai Branch and is a recipient of Best Resource Person award from Indian Association of Occupational Health.