Itches and ouches

By Drum Digital
19 April 2014

More skin on show in summer means more skin irritation. It also opens the door for a host of nasties that could get under your skin. Here is advice from an expert.

More skin on show in summer means more skin irritation. It also opens the door for a host of nasties that could get under your skin. Professor Maurice Kibel, Emeritus Professor in Child Health at the University of Cape Town and Red Cross Children’s Hospital, gives a summer skin survival guide.

Insect bites

Bites are a nuisance but serious only if they become infected from scratching. Some children develop a sensitivity to bites, a condition known as papular urticaria. This is common in the warmer months. Repeated bites from fleas or sometimes bedbugs result in hypersensitivity and severe itching at the site of both fresh and old bites. Secondary infection, particularly by bacteria, is frequent.

Treatment

A blitz on fleas in your home is essential. Spray mattresses and cracks in the floor with a good insecticide. However, outdoor sand fleas are often to blame. Apply calamine lotion, or bicarbonate of soda mixed with a little water, to relieve the itching. If it becomes unbearable, use crotamiton cream (Eurax).

Bee stings

A sting is painful and the site stays red and swollen for about two days.

Treatment

If the sting is still visible in the skin it should be carefully scraped out with the blunt edge of a knife or a credit card. Don’t use tweezers – they could squeeze out the last bit of venom. You can apply a cool, wet cloth or ice cube to help relieve the pain and swelling but don’t rub as this will spread the venom. Antihistamine cream or calamine lotion may help.

Red alert

Some people are allergic to stings and can develop hives (also known as an urticarial rash) or even severe shock, with swelling of the face and mouth, difficulty with breathing and drowsiness. If any of these symptoms appear after a sting, get the child to a doctor immediately.

Adrenaline preparations, either by injection or inhaled, can ease the problem instantly. In future, the child should wear a bracelet indicating an allergy to bees and a kit containing adrenaline in asyringe should always be on hand.

Tick bytes

A tick bite usually leaves only a small red spot and, occasionally, a swollen gland near the site. But ticks spread several diseases – including tick-bite fever and even Crimean-Congo fever.

Treatment

Carefully remove the tick so the head doesn’t stay behind. Putting Vaseline or oil on beforehand will make it easier to remove. Apply Betadine to the site. Remove a tick carefully so the head doesn’t stay behind. If your child develops a fever after being bitten by a tick, see a doctor to make sure it isn’t tick-bite fever.

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