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    Surviving Summer

    Teenagers and Idle Time

    Teenagers seem to fall into to broad categories: the overly-involved, athletic types, and the sedentary, couch potato types. As a family, we survived five teenagers at the same time. Fortunately, most of our teenagers were involved in athletics. For about three months every summer, we had to find ways to keep our kids busy and out of trouble. Sports camps and daily swimming kept them involved and basically too tired to get into trouble.

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    Welcome to Summer. Where is the Emergency Room?

    tow boys with arm fractures
    While people, especially children, sustain injuries year round, it seems that the summer months bring out most of the bumps, lumps, breaks, and cuts. Perhaps after been cooped up for a long, cold or rainy winter, everyone is anxious to get busy with recreational endeavors. I have dedicated the last of my blog series on surviving summer to injuries. On a typical day in my office, I will see one or two lacerations that need to be sutured, at least one broken arm/hand, an assortment of scrapes, sprains, and back injuries. Yesterday, I saw a teen girl after being kicked in the chest during a soccer game; a bicycle wreck with an impressive "road rash"; and a trampoline ankle injury. Since football practice has started for the kids, I will soon be seeing a few concussions. The last of yesterday's injuries was a broken toe on a football player in training. One of the weights in the weight room landed on his big toe. He thought he would need a "toe cast" and was pleased that such things do not exist. We taped it up. Four weeks from now, he can start running again.

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    Home Remedies: Adventures with Poison Oak (and Ivy)

    poison oak
    As a part of this blog series on summer maladies, one must mention poison oak (or poison ivy or sumac depending on the area of the country that you live). Although you can get poison oak dermatitis any time of year, it is more prevalent in the spring and summer months. When I asked a patient yesterday about things at home, she candidly told me that her husband had a bad case of poison oak. She isolated him to the garage for the last two days, were he was sleeping on an army cot, watching a black/white television, and eating off of paper plates. Why? Because she thought, like many people believe, that poison oak is highly contagious. I had to inform her that it was not. The expression on her faced changed and she challenged me. "The poison oak plant is contagious, but the rash on a person is not. That clear oozing, characteristic of the rash, is not the 'poison'. Your husband is not contagious." I proved my point by showing her a medical text and an article about poison oak (Rhus) dermatitis to further disprove this very common misconception. "He is going to kill me", she said. "What do I tell him?" "Tell him that he can come back in the house again, and hope that he doesn't do any independent research."

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    Home Remedies to Survive Summer

    hooray for summer!
    We all have different feelings about summer. For school-aged kids, it could be a few months of no homework, playing outside, swimming, and going on a family vacation. For parents, it could be the planning of those summer activities, vacations, dealing with idle time/child care, and staying sane until September.  For medical providers, summer means insect bites, sunburn, injuries, swimmer's ear, and food-borne illnesses.

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    Home Remedies for TREATING Insect Bites/Stings

    yellow jacket
    When it comes to offering home remedies, many people immediately become pharmacists or doctors. So far, I have blogged about treating sunburn and preventing insect bites (like mosquitoes). But what happens if the bugs bite you anyway? Obviously, there are plentiful home remedies for treatment as well. My Appalachian youth was rich in home remedies, handed down from my grandmother (and probably from her grandmother). Many home treatments apparently got lost in oral translation. We rarely wore shoes in the summer. Since our lawn areas were filled with clover, it was inevitable that you would get a honey bee sting. In rained in Pennsylvania a few times a week which created puddles and moist areas favored by mosquitoes. Spiders (not an insect, incidentally) and wasps moved into the cabins that we made in the woods. Needless to say, we got bit and stung...often.

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    Home Remedies for Insect Bite Prevention

    I have always considered myself to be a mosquito magnet. I have to carefully plan my outside activities and yard work to limit being bitten to death by voracious mosquitoes. This means that I have to wear long sleeves, use an effective insect repellent, and do most of my work before 4 PM when the mosquitoes seem to worsen. If anyone was going to get a mosquito-borne illness, such as West Nile virus or even malaria (even though I do not live in a malaria area), I would be the one. Malaria alone -- transmitted by mosquitoes -- kills over a million people annually across the globe. I often feel that if I were in a 40,000 seat arena, I would be the only one swatting mosquitoes away, but I know I am not unique on this planet. Many people feel that they are unusually molested by these pesky insects.

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    Home Remedies for Sunburn

    The Good, Bad, and the Ridiculous I was at a medical conference several years ago when a noted dermatologist posted a question to the audience:

    “What is the best treatment for sunburn in a teenager?”
    Immediately, the audience shouted out a cacophony of medical treatments from topical steroid creams to a smattering of pain medications, such as codeine or hydrocodone (Vicodin).
    “No! A sunburned teenager should not be treated with any pain medication”, she said.
    Why? So they will learn a lesson. Sunburns are nearly 100% preventable. The temporary pain will be reminder so they will wear a hat, shirt, and use sunscreen next time.

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