The Newsroom    Published Tuesday, Jul. 21, 2009, 9:07 AM
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Play it safe at the beach this summer

Your health
By Sally Robinson and Keith Bly

Hot summer days on the beach provide a number of ways to get hurt. 

Fortunately, the crop of jellyfish seems to have landed earlier in the year, but occasional stings have been reported. Not all species sting, but the sea nettle and the Portuguese man-of-war cause pain when they sting. 

A new sunscreen — Safe Sea — is reported to repel jellyfish. Short of that, watch for warning systems at beaches that notify beachgoers when jellyfish are in the water. Galveston beaches use a blue flag to warn of jellyfish.

Treatment for jellyfish stings isn’t part of the usual stuff that families carry to the beach. If you like to be prepared though, carry a container of vinegar and gauze pads to make a compress, which should be applied for up to 30 minutes to prevent any undischarged toxins from being released by the stingers. 

Don’t rub or try to pull the tentacles off until after the vinegar treatment. Don’t use freshwater to wash off the small cysts as that causes them to release the toxin. Then apply some shaving cream and gently shave the area to remove the stingers. 

Of course, if you already have more gear to carry to your favorite spot on the beach, you will choose the “ounce of prevention” approach. 

Always be alert for an allergic reaction when someone gets stung. If you see swollen lips or tongue, a new rash or hives or if the child is faint or has trouble breathing, get immediate emergency medical treatment. 

Despite warnings, summer sunburns continue to ruin many vacations. Prevention is easy. Wear waterproof sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater. 

Remember to protect your eyes and those of your children. Sun damage to the eyes is cumulative. Most occur by the end of adolescence but shows up only years later. Only an eye doctor could measure the yearly degrading of a child’s retinas — that light and color sensitive layer recording what we see. 

Sunglasses should protect against ultraviolet A, B, and C, if possible. Buy special sunglasses for active outdoor living with dark lenses large enough to protect against the glare of light reflected off the water or light colored surfaces. 

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Children’s Hospital and Keith Bly is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the UTMB Children’s Emergency Room. This column is not intended to replace the advice of a physician.

 

 




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