Tips for Staying Healthy and Safe this Summer

 

MedlinePlus and NIH offer lots of information online to help. We’ve summarized some helpful highlights to get you started.

Sun Exposure and Your Skin

Too much time in the sun is linked to everything from sunburns to heat illness, long-term skin damage, and skin cancer.

You can’t see the sun’s UV (or ultraviolet) rays but they contain a form of radiation that passes through your skin and can damage your skin cells.

If possible, stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest. If you do need to go out in the sun, take steps to be safe. Use and reapply a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and wear UV-protective sunglasses and clothing.

Also, keep an eye out for skin moles or spots that change color, which could be a sign of cancer. Contact your health care provider immediately if you think you may have a cancerous mole.

SOURCE: MedlinePlus: Sun Exposure

Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac

Ouch! Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are types of plants with sap or oil that many of us are sensitive to. When our skin touches the sap, it can create itchy rashes and blisters. The rash often doesn’t often start until 12 to 72 hours after contact.

To avoid rashes, try to recognize and stay away from poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Be cautious when you hike or spend time in heavily wooded areas.

If you come in contact with one of these plants, wash your skin with soap right away. If you do get a rash, your pharmacist may recommend over-the-counter medicines to help with itching. Luckily, rashes are not contagious.

If your rash is severe or you notice swelling, contact a health care provider immediately, as that can be a sign of a serious reaction.

SOURCES: MedlinePlus: Poison Ivy, Oak, and Red Sumac; American Academy of Dermatology: Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Opens new window

Dehydration

Our bodies are 90 percent water, so it’s no surprise we need a lot of it to keep going each day. In fact, the average person needs three quarts of water daily to function well.

But when we’re exercising, sweating, or spending time in the sun, we may need more liquid.

Without enough hydration and electrolytes, we can become dehydrated. Signs of dehydration are feeling thirsty, having dark-colored urine, feeling faint or dizzy, and having to urinate less.

If you think you may be dehydrated, try to drink small amounts water over a period of time to prevent throwing up.

Electrolytes—minerals in our bodies that help balance the amount of water—are key to avoiding dehydration. Sports drinks (without caffeine) with electrolytes may help if you have an imbalance.

SOURCES: MedlinePlus: Dehydration; MedlinePlus: Electrolytes

Insect Bites and Stings

At one point or another, you’ve probably experienced a not-so-fun bug bite or sting.

Mosquito and flea bites usually itch. Bee, wasp, and hornet stings and fire ant bites usually hurt.

In general, bug bites and stings are uncomfortable but not life-threatening. However, if you know you are allergic to any insects, like bees or wasps, keep an emergency epinephrine kit handy.

Ticks are usually harmless, but a bite from an infected blacklegged deer tick can lead to Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can cause serious health problems if left untreated. Some early symptoms include fever and chills, headache, joint and muscle pain, and a bull’s eye rash where the tick bit you. After spending time outdoors where there may be ticks, make sure to check yourself, family members, and your pets. If you think you may have Lyme disease, seek medical help immediately.

For mild itching or discomfort from other bug bites or stings, over-the-counter antihistamines, anti-itch creams, and ibuprofen and acetaminophen may help.

To avoid bug bites and stings, use insect repellent according to label instructions, be careful when performing activities outside, wear protective clothing (like long pants or sleeves), and avoid heavily scented soaps and perfumes.

SOURCES: MedlinePlus: Insect Bites and Stings; Food and Drug Administration: Beware of Bug Bites and Stings; Opens new window National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Lyme Disease Opens new window

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Skin care: 5 tips for healthy skin

 

Good skin care — including sun protection and gentle cleansing — can keep your skin healthy and glowing.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Don’t have time for intensive skin care? You can still pamper yourself by acing the basics. Good skin care and healthy lifestyle choices can help delay natural aging and prevent various skin problems. Get started with these five no-nonsense tips.

One of the most important ways to take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun. A lifetime of sun exposure can cause wrinkles, age spots and other skin problems — as well as increase the risk of skin cancer.

For the most complete sun protection:

  • Use sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or perspiring.
  • Seek shade. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing. Cover your skin with tightly woven long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats. Also consider laundry additives, which give clothing an additional layer of ultraviolet protection for a certain number of washings, or special sun-protective clothing — which is specifically designed to block ultraviolet rays.

Smoking makes your skin look older and contributes to wrinkles. Smoking narrows the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layers of skin, which decreases blood flow and makes skin paler. This also depletes the skin of oxygen and nutrients that are important to skin health.

Smoking also damages collagen and elastin — the fibers that give your skin strength and elasticity. In addition, the repetitive facial expressions you make when smoking — such as pursing your lips when inhaling and squinting your eyes to keep out smoke — can contribute to wrinkles.

In addition, smoking increases your risk of squamous cell skin cancer. If you smoke, the best way to protect your skin is to quit. Ask your doctor for tips or treatments to help you stop smoking.

Daily cleansing and shaving can take a toll on your skin. To keep it gentle:

  • Limit bath time. Hot water and long showers or baths remove oils from your skin. Limit your bath or shower time, and use warm — rather than hot — water.
  • Avoid strong soaps. Strong soaps and detergents can strip oil from your skin. Instead, choose mild cleansers.
  • Shave carefully. To protect and lubricate your skin, apply shaving cream, lotion or gel before shaving. For the closest shave, use a clean, sharp razor. Shave in the direction the hair grows, not against it.
  • Pat dry. After washing or bathing, gently pat or blot your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains on your skin.
  • Moisturize dry skin. If your skin is dry, use a moisturizer that fits your skin type. For daily use, consider a moisturizer that contains SPF.

A healthy diet can help you look and feel your best. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. The association between diet and acne isn’t clear — but some research suggests that a diet rich in fish oil or fish oil supplements and low in unhealthy fats and processed or refined carbohydrates might promote younger looking skin. Drinking plenty of water helps keep your skin hydrated.

Uncontrolled stress can make your skin more sensitive and trigger acne breakouts and other skin problems. To encourage healthy skin — and a healthy state of mind — take steps to manage your stress. Get enough sleep, set reasonable limits, scale back your to-do list and make time to do the things you enjoy. The results might be more dramatic than you expect.

Jan. 12, 2018

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Talking About 13 Reasons Why & Teen Suicide: Tips for Parents

 

When the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” premiered in March 2017, it quickly became one of the most watched—and most controversial—shows of the year. It was no surprise that the news of Season 2’s May 2018 release continued to get a lot of attention.

The drama-mystery centers on a high school student who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 audiotapes for people she blames for her action. Season 2 picks up as the community tries to deal with emotional and legal fallout from the suicide.

Raising Awareness–and Risk?

Fans of the series say it increases much-needed awareness about teen suicide, which is currently the second leading cause of death for children and young people 10 to 24 years old. CDC Teen Suicide Stats - 2015 In addition to graphic portrayal of suicide, the show also focuses on bullying and cyberbullying, underage drinking, sexual assault, guns in the home, and other topics that can serve a tool to start discussions.

But some experts warn the show may do more harm than good. Although the series is fictional, teens can be impulsive and emotional. Watching a character decide suicide is the best option might trigger them to do the same. Researchers found a significant spike in internet searches using terms such as “how to commit suicide” and “how to kill yourself” for 19 days following the release of season 1 of “13 Reasons Why.”

Medical and mental health professionals also report teens listing their own 13 reasons why they wanted to kill themselves. Some families say they believe the show triggered their children to actually take their lives.

Critics of the show point to research that suggests exposure to a peer’s suicide can have a “contagious” effect—especially among 12- to 13-year-olds. There is specific public health recommendations for reporting on suicide in the media that this series goes against:

  • Presenting suicide as a tool for accomplishing certain ends, such as revenge or recognition.
  • Glorifying suicide or persons who commit suicide.

Who’s Watching?

The series is rated TV-MA (Mature Audience), appropriate for ages 17 and up, for its graphic violence, explicit sexual activity and crude language. But school officials and pediatricians say they’re learning of children as young as elementary-school age who are binge watching the show—sometimes without parents knowing, because it can be streamed privately on their phones, tablets, and computers. Parents are often surprised to find out their child has watched the series.

“It has come up quite a bit when I’ve been talking to my patients, especially those who’ve been depressed or anxious,” said Cora Breuner, MD, MPH, FAAP, a pediatrician and chair the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Adolescence. “Quite a few of them already watched ’13 Reasons Why’—without the knowledge of their parents,” Dr. Breuner said. “It’s usually a major aha moment in my office, when the parents look at their kids and say, `Wait a minute, you watched that?'”

As a parent, it is your job to counsel your children and teens about smart and safe media use. Dr. Breuner said she also asks her patients (and their parents) how much time they spend on screens and what shows they watch.

Even if your child hasn’t watched…

Parents should be aware that their child may hear friends talking about the show at school or on social media—even if they haven’t seen it themselves. Regardless, Dr. Breuner said the series is “absolutely inappropriate” for children under age 13.

If you haven’t watched the show, look up episode summaries and be prepared talk with your child about the ways fictional shows don’t always reflect reality. Use the show as an opportunity to talk with your child about the very real situations teens face—and how your child can come to you with anything he or she may face in the future.

How to Help Teens Process the Show in a Safe & Healthy Way:

Despite concerns about ’13 Reasons Why,’ the show can serve as a powerful teaching tool with informed, adult guidance from parents, teachers, spiritual leaders, and others who work with teens.

What parents can do:

  • Co-view. The AAP media use guidelines encourage parents to co-viewing programs with their children and discuss values. This is especially important for shows such as ’13 Reasons Why’ with themes difficult to process and easy to misinterpret. Watching the show together lets parents pause and point out instances of cyberbullying, for example. Then parents can ask if their child has seen it happen at school, how he or she reacted, and what to do if it happens again. ​
    • Children in groups at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and actions should not watch the show alone, Dr. Breuner said. This includes kids with a family history of suicide, a history of physical or sexual abuse, mood disorders, and drug and alcohol use, and/or those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.
  • Discuss reality vs. fiction. Explain that the show gives an unrealistic view of the help available for teens who may feel suicidal. In particular, the lack of effective mental health care provided to lead character, Hannah Baker, is both troubling and unrealistic. Statistics show that a large majority of the time, teens with suicidal thoughts and behaviors are in the grips of treatable mental illnesses, such as depression. In the show, Hannah voices clear suicidal warning signs to her school guidance counselor. Yet, the counselor failed to connect her with other professionals and resources for help and told her simply to “move on.” Critics say this sends a dangerous message that adults can’t help.
  • Play it safe. If your teen does watch the show, make an extra effort to watch him or her a little more closely afterwards—in a mindful, nurturing way. Know the signs of depression, such as withdrawing from friends or family, eating or sleeping less or more, or losing interest in activities.
    • If you have a gun in your home, make sure it is stored unloaded and locked up separately from ammunition. Studies have found the risk of suicide is 4 to 10 times higher in homes with guns than in those without. And although Hannah Baker uses a different method to end her life, suicide by firearms is now the second leading cause of death among teens 15-19. More than 80% of guns used in teen suicide attempts were kept in the home of the victim, a relative, or a friend.
  • Provide access to help. Give your child su​​​ggestions for whom he or she can turn to in times of need—including you, as well as other trusted adults. Your pediatrician can also help. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended all children over age 12 be screened for depression at their annual wellness exams. For any immediate concerns about your child, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-TALK, or text START to 741741.

Keep in Mind:

It may feel uncomfortable to talk with your teen about some of the difficult issues raised in “13 Reasons Why,” but talking about tough topics with teens is every bit as important as making sure a baby’s bath water isn’t too hot.

Teen Media Quote - Dr. Cora Breuner

Remember to talk with your child’s pediatrician if you have additional questions or concerns about your child’s media use or mental health.

Additional Information & Resources:

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The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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3 Tips for Sleeping With a CPAP

If snoring is the soundtrack of your sleep, you may have sleep apnea. And a CPAP machine, or a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, can help you sleep. Follow these 3 tips to make the transition to sleep while wearing a CPAP mask go more smoothly.

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