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Caution! Beware of Snowmobiles with Kids. As Risky as ATV’s

Having the opportunity to write for this amazing website has given me the opportunity to bring awareness to a wide range of topics which mostly come from experiences I have had responding to calls here in south Florida at my fire department. What I would like to speak out today is something I have NO experience with, Snowmobiles. I want to cover this because while planning a family ski trip I kept seeing snowmobiling as a thing to do and wanted to know more and how I can relate to them. What I found is that snow mobiles are ATV’s on snow. I wanted to compare the two. I looked at size, weight, speed, passenger room, and of course injuries, and here is what I found.

  • Both are gas powered.
  • Both have “dry weights” that can be 300lbs or higher!
  • Both can reach speeds well over 50 mph with some snowmobiles going well beyond that.
  • Both come in single or multi-passenger models.
  • Both have varying laws about operating age depending on the state you are in.
  • Both have caused fatal injuries to all age groups with snowmobiles having drowning added to its list.
  • Both list striking stationary objects such as trees as a major factor in accidents.
  • Both have leading causes of non-fatal injuries listed as head, neck, and face injuries.
  • Both list leading causes of head trauma due to a lack of proper helmet protection.
  • Both list excessive speed as a contributing factor in many accidents.
  • Both are susceptible to hidden dangers in the mud or snow respectively.

Having looked at all these factors, I found that snow mobiles are no different SAFETY wise than ATV’s. Yes driving on snow offers some obvious differences but the safety aspects are the SAME.

SNOWMOBILE vs. ATV: SAFETY FEATURES

  • Both are not recommended to be driven by anyone under 16 years of age.
  • Both should always be ridden with a proper helmet and any extra safety restraints when available.
  • Both should be ridden with reflective gear that can be seen at night.
  • Both should be driven cautiously and preferably by experienced drivers.
  • Both weigh a lot and require strength to drive properly.
  • Both should be driven away from bystanders and other traffic as to avoid collisions.
  • Both should be given the respect they deserve as powerful machines.

Having said all this and hopefully made you aware of how safety is similar in many recreational machines, I do not wish to discourage you from going out and riding these machines, I just want you to do it safely.

Good luck and stay warm.

Teachers, Counselors, Coaches: How To Keep Your Kids Hydrated

Welcome to Fire Academy! It is now 7am and the PT or Physical Training is about to begin. The instructor for the class has many things on his/her mind but none more important than two things we preach most, Safety and Hydration. Before any work is done it is the job of the instructor to make sure that the class has hydrated and is prepared for what is about to take place. The importance of being safe no matter what you do can never be understated, hydration has a role in your safety as well.

While you may not be a Fire Academy Instructor, if you are caring for kids this summer you have the same job and should be thinking in the same way. How can I keep these children safe and have we hydrated for what we are about to do, what we are doing, and what we have done?

Teachers, it does not matter if you are at a large school or a small daycare. You have had these children placed in your care and it is your job to incorporate regular hydration into your schedule. Hydration should be done before going out to play or recess, the children should have access to water while playing by a water fountain or bottle of some kind, and the children should be given an opportunity to hydrate when outside time is through. This will ensure that the kids are properly hydrated at all times and ready for whatever activity you have planned next.

Parents, if you are in charge of mommy or daddy daycare then you too have the job of making sure your kids are properly hydrated. It will be easy to let the kids play and drink whatever they can grab out of the fridge but having a supply of water on hand rather than super sugary drinks will pay dividends for your family by not only keeping them hydrated, but also not loading them up with a ton of sugar as well. Parents please remember that kid’s bodies burn at a much higher rate than ours so even if the kids are not as active as they should be and they are lounging around the house, they still need to have plenty of water.

Counselors, if you are in charge of children then you need to be the one looking after the hydration of the group. I know that camps during the summer plan constant activities and go many places, so not only do you have the responsibility of watching the kids in multiple situations, but you also need to be monitoring their hydration as well. Make sure everyone has water on or near them during activities. You know the kids have some sort of juice in the lunch they brought with them, so please do your part to make sure they are getting plenty of water before, during, and after activities.

Coaches, You, out of all the other categories, are the closest to Fire department instructor. Your job is to make safety and hydration a priority. Have you thought about the safety involved in what your team is about to do? And has your team hydrated properly so that they can not only perform, but avoid risking dehydration? It is your added responsibility to monitor the hydration status of your team. Some sports may have helmets and uniforms that make it difficult to see faces and other signs of dehydration, so the job of hydration becomes that much more important. Before, during, after, and even on the days off as well.

Parents, Teachers, and Counselors can get creative with younger children and have them color their own water bottles or something along those lines to make it fun while making sure they are drinking enough water.

The goal of hydration is to avoid Heat Related Emergencies.

There are varying levels of Heat Related Emergencies and signs that can let you know if a Heat Emergency is near or already happening.

When looking for heat related emergencies be on the lookout for the following:

  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Skin is red in color but dry to the touch
  • Loss of consciousness / Fainting
  • Headaches
  • Altered mental status ( not acting how they normally do )
  • Low Energy / Weakness

While these are all signs of dehydration, please be aware that these are the signs seen most during activities such as playtime or sports.

All of these require bringing the child out of the sun, into a cool place, and re-hydrating the child slowly. If the child faints, has any other medical issue, or has an altered mental status please take them to a cool place, hydrate them slowly and call 911. There are many causes for altered mental status and severe dehydration is one of them so having an emergency unit there will only help the situation.

  • To slowly re-hydrate a child let them drink slowly, a little bit at a time. Having them drink too much, too fast may cause them to vomit.
  • To slowly cool a child down you can place a cool wet towel over the back of their neck and/or ice-packs in the under arm area, as well as between the thighs. I know we have all seen the NFL players jump into huge garbage cans of ice, Please do not attempt this with any children as this is a last resort option and one that should be done only by trained professionals under medical supervision.

As, always I will tell you that when in doubt call 911. These are children and while they may not be your children, you have a responsibility to them to keep them safe and act in their best interest. Mom and Dad will thank you later.

Good luck, Have a great summer and be safe!

Summertime Bugs, Bites and Burns: A Pediatrician’s Perpective

Treating a bee stingThe beginning of summer signals a time of spending more active hours outdoors. The weather is warming up, the days are longer and children are getting out of school and probably staying up longer than they did during the school year. It is a time to let loose and enjoy the sunshine and freedom that comes with the season.

Certain issues should be addressed and some summer safety tips followed in order to keep everyone as healthy as possible. While exposure to sunlight is important to the innate production of vitamin D and hence calcium metabolism, there are dangers that our dermatology friends have been warning about for quite some time: too much sun can be as dangerous as too little. The highest rates of Melanoma (serious form of skin cancer) occur where there is an increased and constant exposure to sunshine, such as the southwestern part of this country. Why is this? It has been determined that both UVA and UVB light frequencies can at times alter the structure of DNA, that is the microscopic building blocks for forming all types of life forms. This is most prominent in the largest organ in our bodies, our skin. This can lead to the formations of all types of skin growths- melanoma being the most serious as it can shorten one’s life.

So avoiding sunlight would be the best way of avoiding this problem, but this is virtually impossible. Therefore try to avoid the maximum sunlight times of the day and spend more time outdoors before 10 AM and after 3PM, and cover up as much as is practical. At all times children should have a good sunblock on their skin- one that will block both UVA and UVB frequencies, and if continued exposure to sunlight is taking place or if one enters the water, this sunblock should be re-applied; the higher the SPF the less often it need be applied.

One blistering sunburn in a child can raise the chances of developing melanoma as an adult manifold. Once a sunburn is present there is practically nothing you can do except to keep your child comfortable with cool compresses and Tylenol if he/she is very uncomfortable.

Not only are bugs a nuisance but some may carry diseases. Just as an example, the recent concentration on the Zika virus highlights the need to be alert to insects (mosquitoes), as the Zika virus was not even recognized 5 years ago. There are known illnesses that can be transmitted through the bites of insects, but as a rule these are not very common- it still makes sense to wear appropriate clothing and use insect repellent at appropriate times. These repellents should contain DEET in concentrations up to 30% for children and should not be used under the age of 6 months.

In general the ubiquitous honey bee usually will not be interested in stinging humans unless they are threatened- inadvertently sat on, or a child is actively trying to catch them. Even the large black and yellow bees seen buzzing around certain plants and flowers are not particularly aggressive.

This is not necessarily true of other stinging insects in the same family (hymenoptera). Hornets and wasps can be aggressive depending on the situation, and the fairly new “Africanized bee” population has grown in size- they tend to swarm and have been responsible for deaths in the past. So better off to avoid these creatures altogether. Of course if there is a known bee allergy present in your child certainly more stringent avoidance procedures should be undertaken as this can be a life threatening situation.

So summertime is a wonderful time for families and especially children; be sure to keep your child safe from the indigenous dangers that summer presents.

Other summer topics to be discussed in the near future include water hazards, plant contact (poison ivy, etc), heat exposure, dog and cat bites not to mention animal safety in general.

Asthma in the Cold – Tips for You and Your Child

Cold weather is a major trigger for asthma symptoms. Here are five tips for keeping asthma at bay as the winter temperatures plummet.

Asthma isn't temporaryCold weather can have a serious impact on the 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK. According to Asthma UK, three quarters of people with asthma say that cold air is a trigger for their symptoms and 90% reckon that having a cold or flu makes their asthma considerably worse.

Cher Piddock, a nurse for Asthma UK, says: “Hospital admissions for asthma traditionally peak during periods of particularly cold weather. This can be due to breathing cold air into the lungs, which can in turn trigger asthma, as well as picking up colds and flu.

“People whose asthma is well-controlled are more likely to be able to withstand the risks of winter months. You can help keep your asthma under control by making sure you have a regular asthma review with your doctor or asthma nurse and that you have a personal asthma action plan.”

Five Tips for Preventing Cold Weather Asthma Symptoms

Asthma UK has this advice on how to control your asthma symptoms during the cold weather:

  1. Keep taking your regular preventer medicines as prescribed by your doctor. (*”long-acting bronchodilators”)
  2. If you know that cold air triggers your asthma, take one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler (*”rescue” or “short-acting” inhaler) before going outside.
  3. Keep your blue reliever inhaler with you at all times.
  4. Wrap up well and wear a scarf over your nose and mouth – this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in.
  5. Take extra care when exercising in cold weather. Warm up for 10-15 minutes and take one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler before you start.

Asthma Attacks in Winter

With the onset of very cold weather, it’s a good idea to make sure you and your friends and family know what to do if you have an asthma attack.

The key signs are:

  • Coughing more than usual
  • Getting short of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Feeling a tightness in your chest
  • Having difficulty speaking in full sentences

Read more about what to do in an asthma attack.

You can find more information on this website about managing asthma. If you have queries about any aspect of asthma, you can also call the Asthma UK free telephone helpline staffed by asthma nurse specialists, on 0800 121 6244.

*Asthma resources in the US:

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

How Can I Keep My Baby Safe During Hot Weather?

Mom and baby in poolBabies and young children can become ill during very hot weather. Their health can be seriously affected by:

Try these summer safety tips for keeping your child happy and healthy in the heat.

Sun Safety

Keep your baby cool and protect them from the sun.

  • Babies less than six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight. Their skin contains too little melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes their colour and provides some protection from the sun.
  • Older infants should also be kept out of the sun as much as possible, particularly in the summer and between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest. If you go out when it’s hot, attach a parasol or sunshade to your baby’s pushchair to keep them out of direct sunlight.
  • Apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to your baby’s skin. Make sure the product also protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Many brands produce sunscreen specifically for babies and young children as these products are less likely to contain additives that might irritate the skin. Apply the suncream regularly, particularly if your child is in and out of the sea or paddling pool.
  • Make sure your child wears a sunhat with a wide brim or a long flap at the back, to protect their head and neck from the sun.

Avoid Dehydration

Like adults, babies and young children need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.

  • If you’re breastfeeding your baby, you don’t need to give them water as well as breast milk. However, they may want to breastfeed more than usual.
  • If you’re bottle feeding, as well as their usual milk feeds, you can give your baby cooled boiled water throughout the day. If your baby wakes at night, they’ll probably want milk. If they’ve had their usual milk feeds, try cooled boiled water as well.

You can be creative when trying to keep your child hydrated. If they’re over six months old and they get bored with water, try giving them a combination of very diluted fruit juice, ice cubes and homemade fruit juice lollies throughout the day. For older children, plenty of fruit and salad will also help keep their fluid levels up.

Keeping Cool

Follow the tips below to help keep your children cool and safe during hot weather.

  • Playing in a paddling pool is a good way of keeping babies and children cool. Keep the pool in the shade during very hot weather and supervise the children carefully at all times.
  • Run them a cool bath before bedtime.
  • Keep your child’s bedroom cool during the day by closing blinds or curtains. You can also use a fan to circulate the air in the room.
  • Keep nightwear and bedclothes to a minimum. If your baby kicks or pushes off the covers during the night, consider putting them in just a nappy with a single well-secured sheet that won’t work loose and cover their face or get entangled during the night.
  • A nursery thermometer will help you monitor the temperature of your baby’s room. Your baby will sleep most comfortably when their room is between 16C (61F) and 20C (68F).

Further information:




Summer Hazards Part II – They Bite and They Sting

Summer Hazards Part I – Watch Out for the Sun 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 the pests that come around in the summer months – 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 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 hour glass 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.

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