6 Summer Illnesses Parents Must Know: How to Spot & Treat Them

You may not think of summer as a major season for sickness, but there are a number of illnesses that occur only in the warm months — and most often in kids. These viruses and bacteria live and breed where kids like to hang out: in lakes, pools and wooded areas.

The main culprits are enteroviruses (which are transmitted through the digestive tract) and viruses carried by deer ticks, says Dr. Jeremias Murillo, an expert in pediatric infectious disease at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel.

There are no vaccines for these viruses, so parents need to be vigilant and prudent, advises Murillo. Steer clear of dirty-looking lakes and overcrowded pools, which can be contaminated with infected feces and sewage. Avoid wooded areas where tick-carrying animals live. And if you’re going hiking, wear white clothing with long sleeves and pants, and check frequently for ticks.

Here’s how to spot and treat the six most common summer ailments:

Summer Sickness No. 1: Enteroviruses

Enteroviruses include Coxsackie viruses; ECHO virus; and hand, foot and mouth disease.

  • Source: Water contaminated by human feces, such as lakes and under-chlorinated pools.
  • Signs: Upper-respiratory infection; diarrhea and vomiting; pinkeye; skin rashes; and blisters in the mouth and on the hands and feet. Can lead to viral meningitis. Symptoms develop three to seven days after infection.
  • Treatment: None. Clears up after a few days.

Summer Sickness No. 2: Lyme Disease

  • Source: Bacteria spread by infected ticks.
  • Symptoms: A single bull’s-eye rash, body-wide itching, fever, chills, muscle pain, stiff neck and headache. Symptoms come and go. If not treated, Lyme disease can spread to the brain, heart, and joints.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 3: Babesiosis

  • Source: Parasites spread by infected deer ticks.
  • Symptoms: Shaking, chills, very high fever, loss of appetite, and a type of anemia that can lead to jaundice and dark urine. Often misdiagnosed as malaria.
  • Treatment: Antimalarial medications and antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 4: Ehrlichiosis

  • Source: Bacteria spread by infected ticks.
  • Symptoms: Fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, diarrhea, flat red rash, and tiny areas of bleeding on the skin. Can also cause anemia and blunt the immune system, leading to other infections. Symptoms develop seven to nine days after the bite.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 5: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

  • Source: Bacteria spread by wood.
  • Symptoms: Prominent, generalized rash that starts in hands and feet and spreads to the rest of the body. Also, chills, fever, severe headache, muscle pain, mental confusion. Can affect organs if not treated immediately. Symptoms develop two to 14 days after the bite.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics.

Summer Sickness No. 6: E-coli

  • Source: Bacteria found in sewage-contaminated lakes and other water
  • Symptoms: Sudden, severe and bloody diarrhea. Also, fever, gas, loss of appetite, and stomach cramping. Symptoms develop 24 to 72 hours after infection.
  • Treatment: None. Sickness disappears in a few days.

Most cases of these illnesses are fairly mild, but some can lead to serious complications — and very rarely, death. Being aware of the causes and signs can help you protect your kids — and ensure your summer fun.

Answers to the Top 4 Dental Questions Asked by New Parents

Parents often have many questions in regards to taking care of their children’s teeth. When should our first visit to the dentist be? When should I start brushing their teeth? Do I use toothpaste? What about fluoride? Having the right answers to these questions can help your child have a healthy, cavity free mouth.

  1. help brushing teethTime to start brushing: In the beginning you should start cleaning your infant’s gums with a washcloth and continue as teeth come in. As more teeth come in you may change to a size appropriate soft toothbrush.
  2. What about toothpaste? It is not recommended that fluoride toothpaste be used until child is able to spit the toothpaste from his/her mouth. Begin encouraging your child to spit out the toothpaste as soon as you begin brushing your child’s teeth. For younger children there are non fluoride toothpastes that you may choose to use until they are able to release the toothpaste from their mouth.
  3. Don’t they need fluoride? If your child drinks bottled water without fluoride or is on well water a fluoride supplement is indicated. Fluoride is key to keeping teeth healthy. You might also discuss sealants with your child’s dentist. Sealants can be placed on baby teeth as well as permanent teeth. A sealant is a great measure that provides a barrier from cavity causing bacteria.
  4. Time for a visit to the dentist: There are many different recommendations as to child’s first dental visit age. The Academy of Pediatric Dentistry states once the first tooth comes in and no later that first birthday. In contrast, unless your child has risk factors such as sleeping with a sippy cup, family members with high cavity rate, teeth staining, thumb sucking, etc. the first visit can be around 3 years old.

Remember, in order to show your children the importance of regular brushing and flossing it is important that we as parents set a great example by practicing good dental habits ourselves.

Athlete’s Foot – A 12-Year Old Boy’s Cautionary Tale

Children's bare feet resting on grassWhen our son Elliott turned 12, he was by nature independent-minded, stubborn and argumentative (but cute!). Add to his natural tendencies the typical behavior of tweendom, and it was not surprising we ended up in the situation that led me to write this post.

This is a cautionary tale about boys, stubbornness, personal hygiene, failed parental nagging….and athlete’s foot.

Elliott had for months paid no attention to taking his shoes off when he got home from school or came in after playing. Since he’s often home a couple of hours before we return from work – and our first thought in the door is usually not “Dude, have you taken off your shoes yet??” – we frequently discovered his shoes still on at bed time.

It doesn’t help that he has genetically sweaty/smelly feet (particularly noticeable as he nears puberty) – and is often out shooting hoops with friends or tearing through the neighborhood in search of spies – which all just adds to the wet, warm biome in his shoes. But we’d given him ample reasons and months (years?) of coaching about the need to let both his feet and his shoes breathe, and yet he still didn’t listen.

Sometimes you just have to let them fall, fail, learn for themselves. So when Elliott came to me last week to show me the scaly scabby area on the bottom of his foot – which I’ve since discovered is the “moccasin” variety of athlete’s foot – I made sure to connect the dots between his behaviors and this undesired outcome. The next day I came home to find his sneakers propped up in front of the lit fireplace, drying out! And now he is putting anti-fungal cream on the bottom of each foot (yes, it’s on both) two times a day – and was excused from gym class (which he loves).

So, if you have a tween boy who isn’t responding to your gentle prodding – or well deserved nagging – about personal hygiene, feel free to use this cautionary tale.

And for added impact, here are some things about athlete’s foot I wish I had known earlier:

  • Athlete’s foot does not just come with a rash…it itches, stings and burns!
  • This fungal infection can spread to other parts of the body – including the hands and groin area
  • It can be difficult to get rid of, especially if it spreads to the toenails
  • Infection of the toenails can result in thickened, cracked nails – or they can fall out
  • More severe infections may require prescription ointments and anti-fungal pills
  • After you have had athlete’s foot once, you are more likely to get it again

Water Workouts: Fun for Kids, Great (& Easy) Exercise for Parents

I am not one of those moms. Not the one who has an endless repertoire of educational and enjoyable crafts activities. Not the one who is genuinely excited about the endless games of trains or Candyland. Not the one who invites 10 5-year-olds over to make designer cupcakes from scratch, with matching hand-cut doilies, after the personalized pedicures. And I never really enjoyed watching many children’s TV shows or movies, with the exception of Lazy Town when my kids were little.

Let's go swimming for the first timeSadly my motivation for watching Lazy Town was not very pure. A truly wonderful show which encouraged an active lifestyle, exercise, friendship and kindness, I admit that I let my kids watch every afternoon when they were young because the star was a hunk and in those early days of sleep deprivation, baggy and stained clothing, my rear and stomach wobbling and sliding south and what felt like zero physical appeal it was like watching mom porn. Fit! Active! Positively Perky!

And then I found the answer. The pool. Not swimming laps, because I’d manage maybe 10 minutes of that before I was recalled to active mom duty, but in the best possible way that also played to my mom-strengths – teaching my kids to be safe while we all had active fun in the water. I got my mojo back (and my figure), which made me a much better mom who happily did some crafts and games and always made time for our beloved story time when my kids were happy and worn out from being in the water and we’d snuggle together.

Not that long ago, I wrote about how parents are the first lifeguard on duty for your child, which means you need to be in the water with less confident swimmers and arms-length from non-swimmers. I promised my tried-and-true fun for kids, great easy workout for mom or dad, so here it goes! Repetition is key, as many times as your child is enjoying the exercise and every time you go in the pool. Think of how many times you say ‘look both ways before you cross the street’ as your inspiration. The goal is to teach your child to not panic, to be able to possibly save themselves if they do find themselves in water unexpectedly, or at least give you a couple more minutes to find your missing explorer, and to give them a positive and enjoyable introduction to water.

Humpty Dumpty’s for upper body. Sit your young child on the side of the pool (mine started when they were 4 months old). Recite the nursery rhyme and when Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall, lift your child and ‘fall’ off the wall, gently forward with their head always above water, then say the same words every time ‘turn around and hold on’ and place their clenched little fists against the wall. As your child gets older they will learn to turn and hold the wall on their own, they will be willing to have their head go under water as they ‘fall’, and eventually you can spot them while they fall, turn, and climb out themselves.

Monkey Hands for a full body workout. Hold on to the wall with your hands and have your child do the same. You are vertical and your feet will be against the wall helping to move you. Use ‘monkey hands’ to scoot around the pool to the ladder or steps. Start with a short distance, expand to the entire side or around the entire pool as you and your child build strength and endurance. You are teaching them to get to a place where they can climb out safely and building their confidence and muscles.

Helicopters for core and arms. Hold your child under their arms and twirl them around in the water with their feet in the water and their head and shoulders held well clear of the water. Children love the feel of the water rushing against their legs, and it’s better than a thousand crunches for you.

Coral Reef Dives for legs. When your child is old enough to dive under, stand with your legs wide and have them dive between your legs without touching. You can start with lifting one leg and then the other to give them more space. For my son, the budding marine biologist, he knew that coral is sharp and if he rubbed the coral and was cut it would attract sharks, which increased his determination, but that might be too much information for many children, so use your judgement. Fun, not fear is the goal.

Finally, anything you do in the water, whether it’s walking at the edge of the surf, walk in the water holding a baby, catching your child as they practice big jumps – it’s going to the gym times two because of the resistance of the water. No matter how you move in the water, it’s going to make you stronger, healthier and in much better shape. But you probably already knew that if you watched Katie Ledecky or Caeleb Dressel, or maybe you were a secret Lazy Town viewer like me.