Summer brings sunshine and fun, but for parents and children it also can mean injuries, bug bites, allergies, rashes and dehydration.
In an effort to hopefully save you from the aisles of sunscreen choices, lines at urgent care and the countless number of things the Internet will tell you, I had Wendy Zyziewski, a local family nurse practitioner at Evergreen Family Medicine and a mother of two, answer some burning summer safety and health questions from a handful of Douglas County mothers for a special two-part series.
How do I know if my child has seasonal allergies?
Wendy: Common symptoms include stuffy or runny nose with clear drainage, sneezing, itchy eyes and nose, sore throat or a cough that usually is worse at night or first thing in the morning. Also, you will commonly see dark circles under the child’s eyes called “allergic shiners.”
What would you suggest for children under 2 years old with allergies?
Wendy: Most importantly, avoid the allergen, whether it is a food or in the environment. Try normal saline nose drops and bulb suction. Antihistamines are not recommended under the age of 2. You can use Benadryl at times, but the parent will need to contact their PCP for dosage calculation based on weight of the child.
For children 2 and up, would you recommend over-the-counter medication?
Wendy: Stay away from combination allergy medications, like cold and cough, because children can get too much of one or the other drug. You can use some antihistamines like Claritin in children over 2, but always check with your PCP first.
When do you recommend testing?
Wendy: Treat conservatively first. If none of these treatments help, then consider a referral to an allergy and asthma specialist for patch testing or blood testing.
Is there anything safe to take for allergies for a pregnant or breastfeeding mom?
Wendy: Pregnant moms can take allergy medications, but most of these medications are category B which means there is not any good data about their safety in the first trimester. It is best if you can stay away from these medications during the first trimester of pregnancy. Always check with your Ob/Gyn before taking these medications. The best antihistamines for breastfeeding moms are Claritin (loratadine) and Allegra (fexofenadine).
What are some ways to treat and prevent poison oak for infants and up?
Wendy: Soak in cool water and let air dry. One percent hydrocortisone cream and/or calamine lotion may help with the itching. Also, you can give an antihistamine like Benadryl, but contact your PCP for the correct dosage for your child. Keep children’s fingernails trimmed to discourage scratching. If the child has the rash on their face or groin, or it is spreading all over the body, they should be seen by their PCP for treatment. If there is sign of infection (fever, redness and swelling beyond the poison oak lesions), the child should be seen. Also, teach your child what these plants look like – bright green shiny leaves that grow three to a stem and turn red in the fall. “Leaves of three, let them be.”
When someone does come into contact with it, how do you get the oils out of the clothing?
Wendy: Really stripping and washing all your clothes and shoes in warm water with detergent should work. Also, be sure to shower well and scrub under your nails – often the oils will hide there and it is a common way to spread the rash. Wash the area of skin that is directly contacted for about 10 minutes to get the oils off.
Do you have any recommendations on sunscreens for infants up to adults? Specifically, do you have a recommendation for sensitive-skin children, particularly a sunscreen that isn’t filled with tons of harsh chemicals?
Wendy: WaterBabies and BullFrog brands are recommended for more sensitive children over 6 months of age. Also, I would recommend for small infants using the stick application so it doesn’t run in their eyes or mouth. The biggest recommendation for infants would be to cover them up and use a sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 to exposed areas (face and back of hands). All other kiddos should wear a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher at all times.
What are ways to treat a sunburn for infants and up?
Wendy: Put a cold, wet towel on the burn for 10 to 15 minutes several times a day. Cool baths can help, too. Apply products with oatmeal, as well as moisturizing creams with aloe vera. Avoid creams or lotions that contain petroleum or topical anesthetics such as benzocaine or lidocaine. Use calamine lotion to prevent itch and peeling. Ease the pain with Tylenol and leave blisters alone.
Next week, Brittany Arnold will feature information on bug bites, heat exhaustion, water safety and injuries. Brittany is married with a daughter and another child on the way. Read her Wednesdays on Douglas County Moms. Also check out her personal blog here.
Stay away from combination allergy medications, like cold and cough, because children can get too much of one or the other drug.