Insect bites and stings
Symptoms: Inflammation and localised pain.
Treatment: If the sting is still in the skin, remove it by scraping it out − don’t use tweezers as this can burst the venom sac. Wash the area with soap and water, and apply something cold, like ice, to the area. Avoid scratching to prevent secondary infection. Paracetamol or ibuprofen will assist with the pain, while topical or oral antihistamines will also offer relief.
Natural approach: Colloidal silver gel soothes itchy bites, and Ledum is a remedy for external and internal use on puncture wounds caused by insect bites. Prevention is better than cure, so always keep some lemon balm and citronella oil handy. Both of these repel insects, but are non-toxic. Apis mellifica is specific for bee stings, while applying ice will also relieve the stinging.
Seek medical/professional help if: The redness and itching get worse or don’t improve, or if the bite becomes infected.
Bluebottles and jellyfish
Symptoms: Red welts, swelling, itching, burning, prickling and stinging pain.
Treatment: Most beaches have a board indicating bluebottles and jellyfish, so heed their warnings. If your child does get stung by a bluebottle, calm her down before cleaning the area with salt water. Never rinse it with fresh water, as more toxins will be released. Urinating on the area can also offer instant relief. If the tentacles are still attached, remove them with sand or a towel soaked in salt water. While something cold applied to the area works well for jellyfish, hot water is more beneficial for bluebottles (take care that it’s not hot enough to burn your child). Vinegar can only be used for pain relief from jellyfish stings, but not for bluebottle stings, as it increases the toxins released by them. Elevate the inflamed area and use paracetemol or ibuprofen for pain relief, and an antihistamine for the itch.
Natural approach: Aloe vera, applied topically, works best. For the stinging sensation, Apis mellifica will work wonders if taken orally.
Seek professional help if: Symptoms worsen, the pain is intense and persistant, or if the area becomes red, warm and tender. Remember that a bluebottle sting can be dangerous for children, asthmatics and people with allergies, as it can cause fever, shock and respiratory distress.
As parents living in sunny South Africa, we all know we need to take steps to protect our families from the sun’s rays. But what happens if we miss a spot when applying sunscreen or spend too long outdoors?
Burns are injuries to the skin and other tissues caused by heat, radiation or chemicals. They are a leading cause of injury in the home. Young children and elderly people are especially at risk of being burned, and at these ages, burn injuries are more serious.
Symptoms: Fever, confusion, headaches and sweating.
Treatment: The best form of treatment is prevention. However, if you suspect your child has sunstroke, immediately try to cool her body down using a fan or cool compresses, or put her in a bath with tepid water. Monitor her temperature and rehydrate her with a salt and sugar solution. You can make this by mixing one teaspoon of salt and five teaspoons of sugar in one litre of boiled and cooled water.
Natural approach: A number of homeopathic remedies are effective, including Glonoine and belladonna.
Seek professional help if: Your child has a high temperature – anything over 39°C and especially over 40°C is an
acute medical emergency, as are any signs of floppiness, delirium or extreme drowsiness.
Dehydration is a life-threatening condition, especially in babies and small children who tend to lose body fluids faster than older children and adults.
If your child’s airway becomes partially or completely blocked, he will choke. And if he is unable to get enough oxygen into his lungs, he may lose consciousness. To restore normal breathing, the blockage must be removed.
Symptoms: An open wound.
Treatment: Check for embedded objects and remove them if possible; otherwise go to your GP or nearest hospital casualty. Use direct pressure to stop the bleeding. For a small wound, clean it with an antiseptic like Dettol, and use a compression bandage or plaster. The RICE method is highly effective here: rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Natural approach: Calendula is a natural antiseptic and can be applied before covering the wound with a plaster or compression bandage. Clean and reapply every six hours. For minor cuts, chat to your natural health practitioner, as there are a number of homeopathic healing ointments that could aid the healing process.
Seek professional help if: You can’t stop the bleeding or if the cut is visibly long or deep – anything bigger than 1cm may require stitches or taping.
Symptoms: Not breathing, looking blue in colour and a lack of activity.
Treatment: Any submersion in water needs to be taken seriously, whether it’s in a fish pond, a bath or a swimming pool – a child can drown in 5cm of water. If your child goes under water momentarily and comes up screaming and spluttering, no further treatment should be needed. In all other cases, call for help. It’s vital to check whether your child is breathing and to start CPR immediately if she’s not – even if you think there’s no chance of survival. The sooner you start CPR, the greater the odds of saving her life and minimising brain damage.
Natural approach: Same as above.
Seek professional help if: The submersion is severe. Violent coughing needs urgent medical attention as chlorinated and salt water inhaled into the lungs can cause pneumonia. Drowsiness, unresponsiveness or halted breathing should also be treated as a medical emergency.
Symptoms: Bloody nose
Treatment: The first step is to calm your child – children often become anxious at the sight of blood, which can aggravate the bleeding. Rescue Remedy works well here. Sit your child upright so the blood does not drip down the back of her throat. Apply a cold compress to her forehead or the back of her neck. Pinching the nose with your finger and thumb, and holding it for five minutes, usually also does the trick. If this doesn’t help, it could, for example, be a burst blood vessel as a result of trauma, so seek professional help.
Natural approach: This depends on the cause, so chat to your natural healthcare practitioner for advice. Was your child out in the sun too long? Did she put something in her nose? Is it a bad case of sinusitis or allergies? If it’s due to sun exposure, cooling her down should help. Belladonna (pills or ointment) can be used, as can Arnica if the nosebleed is the result of trauma.
Seek professional help if: The bleeding doesn’t stop or if it’s a frequent reoccurrence. If there’s nasal congestion, your child may have polyps or enlarged adenoids.
Sprains and fractures
Symptoms: Painful, swollen, bruised fingers or limbs (for sprains); an inability to stand on or use a limb or hand, and distorted joints or a broken bone that can be clearly seen (for fractures).
Treatment: The RICE method (see Bleeding) is highly effective here. Paracetamol or ibuprofen may be given to manage pain.
Natural approach: If your child can move the injured finger or limb with ease, apply Traumeel or Arnica to the affected area and immobilise your child with a bandage. Ice is very effective for the first four hours, as it will limit the swelling and stop the bleeding. However, limit the use of ice thereafter, as it can slow down the healing process.
Seek professional help if: There’s any sign of blood under the skin, which may be an indication of a fracture and needs to be X-rayed, if your child is in pain when she moves the injured finger or limb, or if she won’t use or lean on her hand or finger after 24 hours.