Dealing with ailing bodies and human foibles all day long, it’s no wonder doctors have a sick sense of humor, me included. When people show me their kids’ rashes in public, I play it straight and happily consult. However, occasionally adults will haul up their shirts at parties to show me the latest blemish on their bellies or backs and ask, “Hey Doc, what the heck is this?” I nod confidently: “It’s definitely cancer,” I say. Then I give them a wry smile that says, hey, only kidding!
Given the warm winter we’ve had, the early spring, and the early school closings, I predict a rough summer for rashes. Children meet the outside world with their skin. When falling off bikes or monkey bars, not “sticking the landing” as they say in gymnastics, they get scrapes and cuts and bruises. When they plow through vegetation exploring or searching for stray balls, their skin gets irritated by thorns or poison ivy. Mosquitoes enjoy a blood meal from our children, and later, when the bite itches, they tear at themselves with ragged, dirty fingernails. Sun cooks hot, exposed skin too.
We’re all learning new habits from Coronavirus concerns, like washing our hands more often and extra carefully, wiping down potentially contaminated surfaces, and trying not to touch our faces. It’s also a good time to improve skin-care habits for children. That’s the best prevention for skin injuries and infections that we’ll see in the Emergency Department in the coming months. Paradoxically, skin is hardest to hurt when it’s soft and pliable. It bounces back, and heals better. Hard dry skin cracks under pressure and itches worse when insulted.
Kids should use moisturizing soap. Buy brands like Dove and Caress, which are easy on skin, rather than harsh drying soaps like Ivory, Zest, Dial, or Irish Spring. Washclothes and vigorous toweling also can irritate, so kids should use only their hands and the soap, and pat dry with towels. Advanced Parenting involves using white lotion to moisturize kids’ skin, putting on sunscreen, and applying bug spray. When a kid gets a cut or scrape, “rub dirt on it” is just a joke! Wash broken skin with soap and water, and dress it with neosporin and bandages. Please keep those grubby ragged fingernails clean and short.
In 2008, New York City mom Lenore Skenazy was shopping with her 9 year-old son. They had ridden the subway, and that day he begged Ms. Skenazy to let him ride home by himself. Having taught him how to read subway maps and distinguish between uptown and downtown trains, she decided to let him go. He got home safely and was ecstatic with his feat. But when Ms. Skenazy wrote about his adventure in a newspaper column, she set off a storm of controversy.
Some called her the “world’s worst mom.” Child Protection paid her a visit. Others praised her for giving her child freedoms not allowed by “helicopter parents,” so-called because they hover over their kids’ every move. Ms. Skenazy then briefly had a reality TV series where she coached such parents on letting their kids ride bikes or slice vegetables. The show’s title: World’s Worst Mom.
Fortunately, we in Acadiana needn’t worry about children navigating crowded cities. But they will be having adventures on bikes and trampolines, or dirt bikes and ATVs. Most emergencies we’re seeing now are injuries from these. If your child falls off a bike or monkeybars, check the head first. Head injuries are the most common serious injury in pediatrics. If the kid has been knocked out or is acting confused, get them into us right away. Please put helmets on bike-riders before this happens!
If the head checks out okay, limbs are next. Broken bones are obvious: the child cries and points to the dinged wing. Sometimes it’s bent in an unnatural way. The best care for an injured arm or leg is to immobilize it. Preventing the hurt part from moving is the best pain control. Tape it to a rolled up newspaper or magazine, or a handy board. Give your child some pain medicine, like ibuprofen or tylenol. DON’T give your child anything to eat or drink. They’ll need an empty stomach if anesthesia is necessary.
If your child crashes a motorized bike or ATV, you’ll feel like the World’s Worst Mom- these vehicles’ power and speed are too dangerous for little bodies. Bikes are good enough, and better exercise for their skin and bones.