I just got back from vacation. It was great….sandy beaches, beautiful ocean, and oh yes, the bug bites. I started thinking about things that make kids itch and what you can do about it.
Protect against sunburn by applying sunscreen on children (over 6 months) with an SPF of at least 15 that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Reapply every 2 hours or more often if swimming or sweating. Despite our best parenting efforts, kids can get sunburned. A mild sunburn (without blisters) can be managed at home. Cool compresses and application of aloe soothes discomfort. Encourage plenty of fluids. See your healthcare provider if your child acts ill, starts vomiting, or has blisters.
This is dry, sensitive skin, which is better known as eczema. This can flare in the summer as the sun dries the skin further. Kids can get thickened, discolored skin which itches. The key is to moisturize. I recommend dye-free, fragrance-free soaps, lotions, and detergents. A moisturizer can be applied 4 times a day and works better if covered with an emollient (like Vaseline).
Several plants in the Tidewater area will cause a rash. Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and Virginia creeper are common. These plants have an oily surface, which acts as a skin irritant, causing a rash and intense itching. If you are exposed, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water to remove any residual oil, which can spread the rash. Launder clothing, and be mindful to wipe off shoes and laces. Oral children’s Benadryl will decrease itching but may cause drowsiness. Applying calamine lotion helps to dry the rash. Alternatively, over-the-counter hydrocortisone can be used in pea-sized amounts on limited areas (avoiding the face) twice daily for a week. If the rash spreads, doesn’t improve, or is on the face or privates, see your healthcare provider.
Scabies are caused by the microscopic itch mite. It is passed from person to person by skin-to-skin contact. A rash forms, which itches severely after about 2 weeks. The bumps occur in lines as the insect travels beneath the skin. In children, the rash may be between the fingers, under the arms, or at the beltline. The itching is often more intense at bedtime. If you are concerned that your child may have scabies, see your healthcare professional. This is treated with a prescription medication. Prevent scabies by avoiding the sharing of clothing, towels, or sleeping surfaces.
Insect bites are annoying and itchy, but rarely dangerous. Keep the area clean and dry. Over-the-counter hydrocortisone can be used in pea-sized amounts on limited areas (avoiding the face) twice daily for up to a week to help with the itch. Some children will have swelling with bites. If you child has a fever, significant swelling, or pain with a bug bite, see your healthcare provider. If your child has a bee allergy, keep your epinephrine auto-injector available. Prevent bites by coming in at dusk or using a 10-30 percent DEET insect repellant (on children over 2 months). Wash the repellant off before bedtime. Wash hands before eating. Empty standing water in your yard. Wearing long sleeves and long pants helps prevent bites as well.
Anyone in the ocean may come in contact with a jellyfish. Jellyfish stings can be painful and may be dangerous. They have tentacles with tiny stingers containing venom. Although rarely lethal, it’s not a fun experience. You may see long red streaks on your child. He or she will have itching, swelling, and pain. First, use a credit card to scrape off any remaining stingers. (Don’t rub with a towel or use fresh water on these.) Make a paste using salt water (from the ocean) and baking soda and pat it onto the affected area. (Take note all parents: pack baking soda in the beach bag!)
If this isn’t working and the pain persists, seek immediate medical care. Applying white wine vinegar may help to deactivate the stingers; however, sometimes this may worsen the pain. Next apply an ice pack to decrease swelling and pain. A cool can of soda works nicely. Seek medical care for any sting that seems severe. Severe reactions need immediate medical care, so dial 911.
Avoid the itch this summer and have a safe, healthy, happy summer!
Dr. Melanie J. Wilhelm DNP CPNP is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Pediatric Specialists in Norfolk. Her first book, Raising Today’s Baby, is available on Amazon or at www.RaisingTodaysChild.com. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on facebook and twitter @DrMelanie4kids.