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Summer’s Dangers
Source: Manila Bulletin
Date: 2011-05-01
MANILA, Philippines -- I was minding the coals under a 2-kilo Maliputo in a Talisay resort on the shores of Taal Lake when I heard my child’s scream drowned by the snarl of what sounded like a very big dog. My heart stopped beating as I raced to the gnarled kamias tree beside which a Great Dane had pinned down a frightened 7-year-old Hiroki, whose upper left arm was slashed and bleeding profusely.

My kid had become a statistic: one of thousands bitten by a stranger’s dog while on vacation.

My brain started processing information at super speed. Where is the nearest hospital? How much cash do I have? What is Hiroki’s blood type? What is my blood type? Where is our car? Where’s my first aid kit?

Fortunately it was a small wound, the dog had had rabies shots, the hospital was only 10 minutes away, and Hiroki did not need blood transfusions. Still, that incident stays in my mind to this day, 30 years later, as a lesson in preparedness.

Many summers spent camping all over the country with five very active kids gave me very sweet memories, as well as valuable lessons that have served me, and my family, quite well.

Whether the family stays home or spends the summer on vacation, safety should always be a concern, as summer brings about conditions that lead to accidents, illnesses and other unexpected dangers. With the temperature in Metro Manila and the rest of the country’s lowland areas hitting 36 to 37 degrees, summer is definitely inescapable. And it is the summer sun that causes the most damage.

SUNBURN – It is important to apply sunscreen regularly when outdoors, even on cloudy days. Because children are outside a lot, they get an average of three times more sun exposure than adults. Overexposure to the sun as a child can lead to skin cancer later in life. Children who are taking certain types of drugs are at greater risk of sunburn, since the sun combined with the drugs can bring on photosensitive or phototoxic effects.

Women should check the small print on the skin creams they are using; many of them warn against exposure to the sun.

Heat stroke -- Keep well-hydrated, take frequent breaks when outside, and watch for symptoms such as thirst, cramps, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and fever.

Children should drink every 20 minutes while playing outside – whether they are thirsty or not. For children under five, the rule is to drink half a glass of liquid every 20 minutes. Older children should drink a full glass every 20 minutes.

Dehydration - In hot weather, it’s harder to stay hydrated. Many of us have a refillable water bottle attached to our person (or stroller) at all times, but kids are less likely to remember to drink fluids – especially when they’re having fun playing outside – so they need your help.

Children are also more prone to dehydration than adults. It can happen if they take in less fluid than they lose through, for example, sweating on a hot summer day.

Pregnancy increases risk -- Pregnant women need extra liquids to produce additional blood to nourish their growing baby. Staying hydrated also helps prevent urinary tract infections, constipation, and hemorrhoids, all common during pregnancy.

Becoming overheated is particularly dangerous for pregnant women. In the first trimester, excessive heat can cause birth defects, specifically neural tube defects such as spina bifida. This is why pregnant women are discouraged from using hot tubs and saunas.

When an expectant mom overheats and becomes dehydrated, the uterine muscle tends to contract, which may lead to preterm labor. It is recommended that they consume drinking water and sports drinks designed to help replace electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride.

Water accidents – Summer is when everyone heads for the water, which is why drowning accidents increase during the season. They should always wear a life vest when on a lake or river. Children should be supervised around the swimming pool or the sea, even if they know how to swim. Children are drawn to water and need constant supervision when around places with even a small amount of water. Remember, children can drown in as little as an inch of water in a five-gallon bucket as well as in a swimming pool.

All- terrain vehicles (ATV) – There are many resorts that now rent out all kinds of recreational vehicles, such as motorcycles, bicycles and ATVs, with no limitations or conditions as to the age of the renters. While children can get hurt doing almost anything from jumping rope to riding a bike, it’s the ATV injuries that are most likely to be serious and life-threatening. If you choose to let your child ride on an ATV, make sure he/she wears a helmet and insist on the “No Passengers” rule. This applies to adults as well.

Playground injuries – Inspect playground equipment before allowing children to use them. Metal slides and swings, for example, can give serious burns at midday in the summer. Watch out for sharp corners and protruding nails and bolts that could cause deep cuts. Ensure that swings are safely secured.

Insect bites – Some insect bites could cause fatal poisoning. Watch out for insect nests and swarms. Include insect bite lotions in your traveling first aid kit.

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