Our summer health guide

For a happier summer with your baby, toddler and child, find out how to deal with all the common health hazards that can strike in the hot weather.

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Heat rash

This is a red, spotty rash, typically around the collar, nappy area, armpits or anywhere that’s damp with perspiration. Also known as prickly heat, it’s a sign your baby’s overheating. You need to get him indoors, strip him off, dab him with a cool cloth and let the air dry his skin.

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Keep your child cool and give him lots to drink. Don’t apply ointment, as this may seal in moisture and make things worse.

If he has a temperature over 39 degrees C, give him paracetamol or ibuprofen suspension. If his temperature doesn’t drop soon, if the rash doesn’t go after three days or if there are accompanying symptoms that concern you, see your GP.

Sunburn

Babies and toddlers have thin skin that burns very easily. Even if you slather on sunscreen and try to keep your baby in the shade, he can still burn.

Paediatric dermatologist Dr Mary Spraker says:

Do:

  • Keep babies under 12 months in the shade as far as possible and when they are in the sun cover them with sunscreen that is at least SPF15 and a hat.
  • Seek medical advice if a child under 4 years has sunburn.
  • Give him lots of water or diluted juice to drink, even if he doesn’t complain of thirst.
  • Apply a cold compress to the affected area. If you haven’t got an ice pack, damp cold flannel or a bag of frozen peas will do.
  • Smooth aloe vera extract (available from most health food shops) or calamine lotion directly on to the burned area.
  • Put your child in a tepid bath (around 25 degrees C). Bathe or cool the burned area in this water for 30-60 minutes.
  • Give him Calpol or ibuprofen suspension (if he’s over three months) to help relieve the pain.

Don’t:

  • Apply medicated cream unless your doctor says it’s okay to do so.
  • Put grease or butter on the skin – it just seals in the heat and makes the burn worse.
  • Put your child in the shower – it can sting and exacerbate the pain.
  • Let your child get cold.

Get urgent help if:

  • The sunburn blisters.
  • The sunburnt skin is widespread or is severely painful.
  • Your child’s eyes hurt when looking at lights.
  • He develops a fever of 38oC/101oF or higher.
  • He faints or seems very sick or lethargic.

If you’re unsure how urgently your child needs help, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or go to the nearest pharmacist.

Stings and bites

Hot weather inevitably means lots of bugs. Here’s how to keep them away.

  • Get an insect net. Check out the range at www.travellingwithchildren.co.uk
  • Avoid using inspect repellents on young children that contain the chemical DEET. Natural repellents, such as Mosiguard (£5.59), are just as effective and can be used on babies from three months.
  • Hang some pretty glass wasp traps, from www.cotswoldco.com, around your garden.

3 steps to soothe stings and bites

  1. Try to remove the sting. Scrape off a bee or wasp sting using your nail or tweezers. Don’t squeeze it, as this releases more poison.
  2. Apply a cold compress. This will help relieve the pain and swelling.
  3. Apply cream. An antihistamine cream will soothe and reduce swelling. Try Boots Bite and Sting Relief Antihistamine Cream (£3.29), or Bite & Sting Relief, which contains Pyrethrum (£3.99). Available through www.boots.com

Get urgent help if:

  • The swelling gets worse.
  • The sting is in his mouth or throat.
  • There are lots of stings.
  • Your child has a serious allergic reaction (symptoms include difficulty breathing, nausea, dizziness, chest pains, flushed or blotchy skin).

Keep bee-friendly plants, such as lavender, away from children’s play areas. For a list of plants to avoid, log on to www.rhs.org.uk (Royal Horticultural Society)

Heat stroke and dehydration

This can strike quite suddenly when a child seems to have been playing energetically and happily. The warning signs are:

  • Very warm skin, but no perspiration.
  • Nausea.
  • Feeling faint.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Abdominal cramps.

Note that thirst is not necessarily a sign and young children often don’t notice they’re dehydrated. Nevertheless, get him to drink water. Then put him in a tepid bath (not cold enough to make him shiver). If he has a very high temperature, has fainted or been sick, call for medical advice immediately.

Hay fever

Fortunately, hay fever is rare in children under 5 years, so check with your GP if you suspect your baby or toddler does have it. If he does – or if you do and are pregnant or breastfeeding so can’t take antihistamines – try these five easy steps:

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  1. Wear sunglasses to help stop the pollen blowing into the eyes.
  2. Keep the windows closed in your child’s (or your) bedroom.
  3. Eat plenty of oranges or take a supplement – vitamin C acts as a natural antihistamine.
  4. Use Care Allergy Defence (£7.14), a natural remedy. When inhaled, it creates a thin film of mucus that provides a barrier against pollen. It’s safe if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and children can use it under supervision. Available from selected Boots, Sainsbury’s, Morrion’s and independent pharmacies nationwide. Find out more at www.allergydefence.co.uk.
  5. Use a pollen barrier. HayMax (£6.95) is an organic one made from beeswax and essential oil. It’s safe for mums-to-be, breastfeeding mums and young children. Order from www.haymax.biz

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