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Summer first aid

Summer first aid

Here's how to treat typical summer injuries including bites, sunburn and jellyfish stings...

Carmen Barreiro

Friday, 18 August 2023, 17:10

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Summer is a time of enjoyment, of not watching the clock, spending endless days on the beach, inflatables in the pool, barbecues, days out in the mountains, lots of local festivals... in short, a time of excesses. But it is also the season for jellyfish stings, the occasional fall, food poisoning, bumps, sunburn... Here is a series of tips to weather these summer mishaps in the best possible way

Stings and bites: If a jellyfish stings you, forget about bathing it in tap water

Bites and stings are the order of the day in summer. We are more or less used to those of mosquitoes, flies or even horseflies (wash with soap and water and do not scratch), but with others we do not really know what to do or we have heard so much conflicting advice that we're left wondering what to do. This is the case with jellyfish stings.

"Firstly, never use tap water because you will encourage the jellyfish that remain on the skin to release more stinging venom. Wash the area with seawater and, if you see any tentacles, try to remove them. Best to do it with tweezers, but if you don't have any to hand, you can use plastic (a credit card, for example). A second piece of advice: never rub or scratch the sting, with towels or with your hands, because that will worsen it. Disinfect the stings with a Betadine-type antiseptic. If it hurts or itches, you can take antihistamines orally or an anti-inflammatory," said Dr Lucía Galán, known on social networks as 'Lucía, my pediatrician.'

Another very annoying bite is that from a tick. The tick should be removed, preferably with tweezers, always by pulling upwards. It is important to remove them as soon as possible and to remove them completely, because leaving the head inside is risky. If that is the case, it would be necessary to go to a health centre.

"If a tick bites you, an antibiotic treatment is always applied because the risk of contagion is very high," stated Dr Alejandra Menassa.

Burns: Apply cold moisturising cream mixed with corticosteroids

In summer we might burn the parts of the body typically exposed to the sun (face, shoulders, chest...), but burns can occur on any other part of the body (earlobes, scalp, lips...).

"The skin becomes hot, red, inflamed and may even blister. Sometimes other symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea or fatigue also occur," said dermatologist Ana Molina. The specialist added that, in order to know how to treat a burn, the first thing is to identify the degree of the burn to see if we can handle it at home or if we need to see a doctor.

"In general, we should go to an outpatient clinic if we see very large red patches of skin, blisters, high fever, headache, shivering, or signs of infection.

The ones we can treat at home are first degree burns. That is, those located on a specific area of the skin with no blistering nor showing additional symptoms.

For this, we usually recommend applying cold moisturising cream, which we can mix with a topical corticosteroid [steroid] or antibiotic to aid healing, and also taking ibuprofen. A burn usually takes 7-10 days to heal and it is important not to pick at any flaking skin or use any exfoliating products.

You should drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration," advised the dermatologist.

Bumps, falls and cuts: If bleeding from the nose, always keep the head down

With falls and blows, especially to the head, the key is in knowing if there has been a loss of consciousness before or after the fall.

"If the person is dizzy, seeing double, vomiting or has a severe headache, then they should be seen by a doctor," was the advice from the Red Cross Health team. As for any bump or blow to the body, the best thing to do is to apply ice to the affected area. But remember that "ice cannot be placed directly on the skin. Better to wrap it in a cloth first".

Cuts are one of the more shocking accidents and they should be treated like any other injury, "unless we think the wound needs stitching." Experts advise against applying wound closure strips, especially when the wound is on the face "because they can leave a very ugly mark. That said, it is advisable to take some strips with you when hiking in the mountains because that is a place where it can take a long time to receive medical attention".

Nosebleeds are also very common in summer and they are often treated the wrong way. The general recommendation of first aid experts is to "tilt your head forward" and squeeze the nasal passages together.

"You shouldn't use a home-made nasal plug or tilt the injured person's head back. The bleeding should come under control within 10 minutes."

Food poisoning: Salmonella is common during the holidays

The symptoms of this gastrointestinal disease (diarrhoea, sometimes with pathological products in stools such as blood or mucous, fever, nausea, shivering, headache and abdominal pain...) usually last a few days and most of those affected recover without having to resort to antibiotics, which is the usual treatment for this type of food poisoning.

"If the symptoms are very intense or prolonged, you should see a doctor, especially when dealing with the elderly, babies, pregnant women or immunocompromised patients, because in these cases the risk of dehydration and complications is multiplied," warned the specialists.

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