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Summer Hazards: Part II – Insects & Spiders & Snakes, Oh My!

Summer Hazards Part I focused on counteracting the effects of the sun: remaining well hydrated during the time of the year when fluid loss through activities can cause significant problems and minimizing the potential harm that can be caused by direct exposure to the sun. Part II focuses more on keeping your family healthy and safe this summer from the pests that come around summer – the insects, spiders and snakes – and the problems that often come along for the ride.

Insect bites:

Most insect bites are benign unless one is allergic to that particular insect. Unfortunately it is not possible to tell who is allergic prior to the first episode of reaction, however, most reactions are of a minor nature, e.g.: hives, general itchiness and red itchy eyes. These can easily be treated with an antihistamine by mouth such as Benadryl and cold compresses to the skin or the eyes. Of course the more serious reactions (usually due to vespids- bees, wasps and hornets) can be fatal but fortunately, they are rare, and usually do not occur with the first reaction. If you are one of the unfortunate few who are known to have serious reactions you will carry with you medicines that can significantly change the outcome of the reaction, e.g.: epipen or epipen jr. which is a form of epinephrine injected just under the skin for maximum (what can be life-saving) effect.

Other insects known to produce reactions or painful side effects include spiders and small insects such as ants. There are certain species of ants, such as fire ants, that are responsible for a painful bite that usually occurs after someone has stepped on a nest. Cold water or ice on the area along with such antihistamines as Benadryl, will help the stinging sensation. Certain large black ants can also bite but are usually not found in this country.

Only 2 spiders in this country should be avoided:

Black widow, notable for an hourglass orange imprint on the abdomen, is responsible for a very painful bite that can cause muscle spasm notably in the abdomen- usually not deadly but very painful. The other spider of note is the brown recluse spider which although looking very benign to the naked eye yields a very painful and tissue destroying toxin that can cause problems over the next several weeks. Ideally, the best treatment is avoidance as is true of everything discussed prior to this point.

Snake bites

also tend to occur when a human being inadvertently steps on or disturbs the animal. Although most snake bites are non-venomous in this country all bites can be painful and if you plan to spend any prolonged time outdoors (camping etc.) It would be well worth your while to study up on types of snakes and animals indigenous to the area and be prepared for a plan of action if an incident occurs. In general, an imprint consisting of two rows of teeth are usually from a non-venomous snake while 2 prominent puncture wounds are produced by a fanged snake usually producing a toxin of some kind. These bites tend to be very painful from the onset and only get worse with time. Other side effects can be very nasty and at times life-threatening. This person needs medical attention as promptly as possible.

Summer Hazards: Part I – Kids, Watch Out for the Sun

The heat of summer has arrived, and it is a good time to present some safety topics related to living in a warm environment.

Let’s discuss the advantage of remaining well hydrated during the time of the year when fluid loss through activities can cause significant problems. Some experts believe that everyone should drink 1 oz of fluid for every 2 pounds of body weight per day. Admittedly that is a large amount of fluids but our bodies are more than half water and the millions of chemical reactions that are ongoing in our bodies every minute of every day require water, among other elements to keep going. In hot and humid weather, the elements work against us to keep that fluid reserve “topped off”. Exercising during this kind of weather exacerbates the potential for water loss and subsequent poor regulation of body temperature. It is this poor regulation of body temperature that can lead to the various forms of disease after heat exposure, ranging from mild to life-threatening. So, stay very well hydrated during the summer months and stay alert to the problems that can arise with exercise and poor fluid intake.

Everyone likes the appearance of tan skin and unfortunately, the source of that sought-after appearance is the sun. A certain amount of sunlight is a very good thing and in fact, a lack of sunlight over time can lead to such problems as vitamin D deficiency and poor control of calcium metabolism and regulation. The downside of this exposure is that the UVA and UVB rays given off by the sun and absorption of those rays through your skin can damage the skin leading to lack of elasticity and signs of early aging. Far worse than this effect is the tendency to alter the genetic characteristics of skin cells that can lead to cancer of the skin, especially the most severe form, melanoma, which can be fatal.

Fortunately, there are things that can be done to minimize the effects of exposure to the sun.

  • Try to avoid exposure to bright sun between the hours of 10 AM and 3 PM when the sun’s rays are most direct and therefore stronger.
  • Make use of the various sunblocks on the market. These sunblocks are usually designated by an SPF number that attempts to give us, the consumers some way of comparing them
  • Regardless of the SPF number, the sunblock needs to be applied and reapplied every couple of hours in order to give the protection it promises. The higher the number gives you some idea as to how often it needs to be reapplied. The higher the number, theoretically the less often it needs to be applied.
  • Make it a rule of thumb to reapply all sunblock at least every hour or two, and, if your skin gets wet, it may need to be applied more often.

My next post will deal with other summer hazards; insect bites, poison ivy, and miscellaneous others.

What’s the Best Way to Treat Your Child’s Bee Sting?

The best way to treat a bee sting is to avoid bees in the first place, so stay away from hives or other areas that you know shelter bees. Brightly colored clothing, perfumes, sugary foods and sugary beverages also attract bees, so avoid these lures when you’re outside.

If your child is stung, the key is to stay calm. Kids are usually frightened and defensive, so it’s essential for you as the parent to take control before you can help.

If the stinger is visible, remove it to get rid of the source of the pain-inducing venom. Most people instinctively use tweezers or try to squeeze the stinger out, but flicking it off with a credit card works best to avoid squeezing more poison into the wound.

Once the stinger is removed, wash the area with soap and water. Apply an ice pack to help reduce swelling and numb the pain; a topical antihistamine cream can also alleviate any other unpleasant symptoms.

Some children are severely allergic to bee stings, and unfortunately you usually don’t discover this until the first time they’re stung. If your child complains of pain outside the sting region, if she has difficulty breathing, or if you notice a rash covering her body, she may be experiencing anaphylaxis, which can be a life-threatening allergic reaction. Call 911 immediately.

A Little Change & Prep Now, A Year of Safety for Your Family

Time for a changeGreetings to all and I hope everyone is having a great 2023 thus far. It’s hard to believe we are already in March, and with the month of March comes the beginning of spring and a time for change and preparation.

As the saying around the firehouse goes: when the clocks change, its time to change the batteries in all of your detectors in your home, whether they be smoke or gas detectors.

A properly functioning detector is key in the safety of you and your family in early trouble detection from smoke, flames and harmful gases in your home day and night. So please do not put this off, it only takes a few minutes and can make all the difference in the world and while you are at it, maybe you can make a fun family fire drill out of testing your new batteries in your detectors.

The preparation part of what I would like to talk about is the fact the spring is here and that means that summer is rapidly approaching. With summer comes the kids being home, at camp and almost assuredly being around water a lot more than the rest of the year. I cannot stress enough the importance of water safety and preparedness. Enrolling children in swimming lessons or teaching them yourself now is a great way to give them added protection for the summer months ahead. It is an all too common occurrence in the summer that children have near drowning or complete drowning events in pools or lakes and in many of these cases the child was not taught how to swim. Please contact a local instructor or organization in your area and arm your child with the ability to swim and in the mean time get some good fun quality time together.

Thank you and I wish you health and happiness.

Keep Your Whole Family Active And Fit This Winter

Many families are concerned at this time of year about methods to stay fit when the outdoor temperature and winter weather is not as conducive to remaining active as during the summer. This is a very legitimate concern and not only speaks to burning calories but also to calcium metabolism. It is well known that Vitamin D levels can be raised by the exposure to sunlight. As a matter of fact the illness, rickets, due to a decreased level of calcium and vitamin D, occurs more frequently in situations that preclude frequent exposure to sunlight, e.g. living above the Arctic Circle where winters can at times erase all exposure to sunlight.

The first and, I believe the most important issue for families to think about is to pull the plug on televisions and computers. Not only does the Academy of Pediatrics recommend limiting time spent each a day in front of a visual screen (television and computers together) but the computer has become one of the major contributors to childhood overweight issues and obesity, a very significant problem in the United States population.

The second issue is to rethink just how the winter months differ significantly from the summer months. Sure, it’s generally colder and sometimes icy and snowy but there is no reason that outdoor activity cannot take place in the winter also. Dress appropriately and get out on a bicycle with your children ( worth 140 calories an hour for a child of 50 pounds going at a moderate speed), or go for walks at even a relatively slow rate which can help burn off 50 calories an hour in that same 50 lb child. Some outdoor winter activities can burn off a large amount of calories; for example snow shoeing (200Cal/hr), ice skating (75 Cal/hr), and skiing (up to 250 Cal/hr).

One indoor activity might include walking around a museum during which the interest factor will make the loss of those 50 Cal/hr go by fast. Other indoor activities include martial arts (230Cal/hr), jumping rope (230Cal/hr)- of course it would be difficult to jump rope for an hour, swimming at your local “Y” (160 Cal/hr), shooting baskets ( 100 Cal/hr), and bowling (up to 80 Cal/hr). These activities can be cumulative, allowing you to break such activities up into smaller time increments.

If you must stay indoors at home for a day or two and if you can afford it, invest in interactive computer or television games such as Wii sports- I’ve tried it and you can really work up a sweat. Keep in mind such minimal activity as sitting quietly and reading, or even sitting in front of the television (hopefully not the case) and staying awake can burn off about 25 Cal/hr!!

Stay fit, stay active and enjoy the winter.

Carbon Monoxide is a Silent Killer…How to Keep Your Family Safe

As the winter months rapidly approach and the cold starts to set in, It is inevitable that people will start to break out the heaters. It is around this time of year that you will start to see an increase in the number of Carbon Monoxide stories in the news and especially in the hospitals. It’s the Carbon Monoxide I would like to talk about today.

What is Carbon Monoxide and how can I tell where it is?

Carbon Monoxide or CO, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is created from unburned Fuel Sources such as gas, oil or coal. So any appliance that uses fuel can create carbon monoxide. Heaters, Furnaces, Dryers, Cars, Fire Places, Chimneys, Generators, Barbecues, etc.. all have the ability to create carbon monoxide. Please make sure that any fuel burning item in your home has been properly installed and sealed, and that all manufacturer instructions for doing so have been followed.

Items that use electricity do not burn a fuel and do not emit carbon monoxide. While these items may pose a significant risk of fire when used improperly or left unattended, they do not burn fuel and do not pose a risk of Carbon Monoxide.

Common Locations of Carbon Monoxide:

  • Automobile Garage – Cars warming up or left running in a garage will cause a build-up of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Laundry Room – Laundry machines that run on natural gas or propane can emit propane.
  • Basement – Furnaces and Heaters located in a basement or enclosed area can cause a build-up of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Kitchen – Gas Appliances like ovens can emit Carbon Monoxide.
  • Bedroom – Fuel burning heaters such as gas lamps and heaters can emit Carbon Monoxide.

What are the Signs of CO Poisoning?

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty Breathing.

How Can I Detect CO In My Home?

While CO is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas it can be detected with Carbon Monoxide monitors that can be bought at many stores. Things to know about CO detectors before you purchase:

  • CO detectors come in many sizes.
  • CO detectors are NOT all the same. Some detect non-lethal low levels of CO while others only detect potentially lethal high levels of CO. Please read the package on the detector you purchase.
  • Some can be hardwired to your house alarm system and some use batteries AA or 9volt batteries.

Where In My Home Should I Place CO Detectors?

  • CO detectors should be placed in areas of the house you spend the most time in. The living room, Family Room areas are great places to put them and they should also be placed outside the bedroom areas to alert occupants Before it reaches the bedrooms.
  • CO detectors should not be placed next to or near items that emit a lot of heat as it may cause the device to malfunction. As always, please read and follow the instructions on whichever device you purchase.

What should I do if my CO detector is activated OR someone in my home begins to have the symptoms of CO poisoning?

  • If the detector is activated you should immediately open doors and windows and go outside.
  • Once outside, assess to see if anyone is having symptoms of CO poisoning.
  • If anyone is having symptoms CALL 911 AND Follow the instructions they give you.
  • If the alarm continues to sound call 911 and let the fire department clear the home.

For more information on Carbon monoxide you can contact the following:

  • Your local Fire Department
  • Underwriter Laboratories – 1-847-272-8800
  • Utility Companies in your area. The Gas company for example.

As always, I urge everyone to err on the side of caution and CALL 911 if any concern exists about CO in your home. Please be safe and use your items carefully. Here in South Florida during hurricane Irma there were fatalities due to CO because people ran generators and motors inside of their homes while they slept and succumb to CO poisoning. Always run motors and any fuel burning device in an opened, ventilated area!

Be Safe and stay warm.

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