With the mercury soaring to record highs and no respite in sight for the next few months parents and children should be aware of dangers of exposure to extreme heat and measures to prevent serious injury.
People suffer from heat related injuries when the body`s temperature control system malfunctions. Normally the body loses heat by sweating but when the humidity is high like in Kerala sweat does not evaporate and the heat is not lost.
The population which is most vulnerable to this injury include:
- Infants and children under 5 years
- Elderly people over the age of 65 years
- Overweight and obese individuals
- People who are sick and on certain medications
It is the most serious of the heat injuries wherein the temperature can rise to over 104 to 106 degree Fahrenheit and body loses its ability to sweat. The person can become unconscious. The person can feel dizzy and have nausea, severe headache and confusion in the early stages.
Treatment: Make arrangement to get to a hospital immediately. Move the person to a shady area and sponge him with wet towels and fan him. Continue these measures till the temperature is about 101 to 102 degrees. If the person is drowsy do not force him to drink water.
This is a milder form of heat injury which can happen when a person is exposed to high temperatures for many days and is not taking adequate amount of fluids. It can manifest as heavy sweating, headache, nausea and muscle cramps. If not treated aggressively it can progress to heat stroke.
Treatment: Rest is very important. Staying indoors for a few days with a fan or air conditioning and drinking plenty of fluids and fresh juices will help. Take cool baths and wear light cotton clothes.
Fluid intake for summer
You should remember to drink water even if you are not thirsty. The best fluids are water, fresh lime juice, tender coconut water and diluted buttermilk or sambharam. Eating fruits like watermelons, oranges and vegetables like cucumbers also help.
It is important to avoid carbonated drinks like soda in children.
Disease Focus: Pertussis (Whooping cough)
Pertussis (whooping cough) is a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis.This disease continues to prevail throughout the world in spite of the availability of a vaccine to prevent it.
Symptoms: Pertussis can cause serious illness in children and adults. The initial stage of this disease mimics the common cold, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing, mild cough or fever. After 1–2 weeks, severe coughing begins. Children with the disease cough violently and rapidly, over and over, until the air is gone from their lungs and they're forced to inhale with a loud "whooping" sound. In some untreated cases the cough can last for 2-3 months and it used to be called the 100 day cough disease. Pertussis is worse for very young children; more than half of infants less than 1 year of age who get the disease must be hospitalized. About 1 in 10 children with Pertussis get pneumonia (lung infection), and about 1 in 50 will have convulsions.
How does it spread? Coughing and sneezing can spread the bacteria to people in close contact with the sick person. Children and infants can contract the disease from older siblings and parents who may not know that they have the disease.
How to prevent Pertussis? Vaccination is the best way to prevent Pertussis. Infants are given 3 primary doses of DPT or DTaP before 6 months and a booster at 18 months and another one at 5 years. The immunity from the primary vaccination starts wearing off after 10 years and so adolescents need a booster at 11 and 16 years.
It is best to give the teenager Tdap instead of TT .Tdap is available in India and is marketed as Boostrix (GSK) and Adacel (Sanofi)
Nutrition and Growth: Effect of Trace elements
The trace elements of importance in children are Iron, Zinc, Copper, Fluoride, Iodine, Molybdenum, Manganese, Chromium and Selenium.
Zinc is very important for normal immune function, intestinal function and skin integrity. The normal requirement is 3-5 mg/day for children and 8-10 mg for teenagers.
Legumes, whole grains and meat are good sources.
Routine zinc supplementation is not needed in healthy children. In children suffering from diarrhea, zinc supplementation helps in recovery.
Copper is an important part of many enzymes needed in synthesis and repair of the connective tissues of the body.
Deficiency can occur in preterm infants and in children with prolonged diarrhea and malabsorbtion. It can present as anemia, hair and skin abnormalities and increased infections.
Good sources of copper are meat, legumes, nuts and cheese.
Excess copper intake can damage the liver and cause cirrhosis.
The other trace elements like manganese, molybdenum, selenium, chromium are found in meat, grains, nuts and seafood.
Cobalt which works with vitamin B12 is best obtained from green leafy vegetables.
Iodine which is an important component of thyroid hormones is obtained from iodized salt, seafood and saltwater fish. Excess iodine can cause thyroid problems called toxic goiter.
Poison Prevention and Treatment Tips
Each year in the US, approximately 2.4 million people – more than half under age 6 – swallow or have contact with a poisonous substance. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some important tips to prevent and to treat exposures to poison.
To poison proof your home:
Most poisonings occur when parents or caregivers are home but not paying attention. The most dangerous potential poisons are medicines, cleaning products, pesticides, furniture polish, petrol and Kerosene. Be especially vigilant when there is a change in routine. Holidays, visits to and from grandparents’ homes, and other special events may bring greater risk of poisoning if the usual safeguards are defeated or not in place.
- Store medicine, cleaners, paints/varnishes and pesticides in their original packaging in locked cabinets or containers, out of sight and reach of children.
- Install a safety latch – that locks when you close the door – on child-accessible cabinets containing harmful products.
- Purchase and keep all medicines in containers with safety caps. Discard unused medication.
- Never refer to medicine as “candy” or another appealing name.
- Check the label each time you give a child medicine to ensure proper dosage.
- Never place poisonous products in food or drink containers.
- Keep coal, wood or kerosene stoves in safe working order.
- Maintain working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
If your child is unconscious, not breathing, or having convulsions or seizures due to poison contact or ingestion, immediately rush the child to the nearest hospital.
Different types and methods of poisoning require different, immediate treatment:
- Swallowed poison – Remove the item from the child, and have the child spit out any remaining substance. Do not make your child vomit.
- Skin poison - Remove the child’s clothes and rinse the skin with lukewarm water for at least 15 minutes.
- Eye poison - Flush the child’s eye by holding the eyelid open and pouring a steady stream of room temperature water into the inner corner.
- Poisonous fumes – Take the child outside or into fresh air immediately. If the child has stopped breathing, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and do not stop until the child breathes on his or her own, or until someone can take over.
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