Tag: travel

Viewing the Solar Eclipse – Hype or Hazard

A total solar eclipse is a big deal, although it seems like it might be a bigger deal for some people than it is for others.

What kind of eclipse will you be able to see on August 21st? Map courtesy of NASA.
What kind of eclipse will you be able to see on August 21st? Map courtesy of NASA.

It does start to seem like a bigger deal the more you learn about it…

Solar Eclipse HYPE

Still, there is a lot of hype surrounding the upcoming solar eclipse in the United States.

“Observing a total solar eclipse is a life-changing event. It challenges everything you conceive of as normal.”

Sean Lindsay on the Eclipse hype

Do you buy it?

  • will looking at the eclipse make you go blind?
  • will seeing the eclipse change your life?
  • will you regret missing the eclipse for the rest of your life?

While viewing the eclipse won’t make you go blind, at least not instantaneously, what about all of the hype about how important an event the eclipse is to view? That part has to be true, right?

“A partial eclipse is interesting but forgettable, while a total eclipse is a memorable, life-changing event which burns itself into memory – and never fades. And so we, who have seen this sight, ask you to join us on this momentous day, and do everything you possibly can to see it with us. But you must remember that “close” is not close enough; in order to see the eclipse in all its glory, you simply must…”

“Close” is NOT close enough!

It is for some people. And you might not know if you or your kids are that type of person unless you go and see the eclipse! In totality!

Solar Eclipse HAZARD

  • seeing the eclipse without protection will damage your eyes

We all know that you shouldn’t look directly at the sun or your eyes will get damaged.

And in most cases, you can’t.

It hurts to look at the sun. You’re pupils will constrict. You will blink a lot. And you will very quickly turn away.

At least in normal circumstances.

A solar eclipse is not a normal circumstance.

Since most of the sun is covered, you could likely stare at it (but definitely shouldn’t) and get a good long look at the eclipse. Unfortunately, the part that isn’t covered will be painlessly damaging your eyes, leading to burns on your retina and solar retinopathy.

But isn’t all of the sun covered in a total solar eclipse?

“During the very brief time the sun is in total solar eclipse it is safe to look at it, but do so with caution. Even during the total solar eclipse, the total eclipse may last only a short period of time, and if you are looking towards the sun as the moon moves away from blocking the sun, you might get a solar burn on your retina which can cause permanent damage to your eyes.”

Prevent Blindness America

Yes, but only for a very short time and only if you are in the path of totality.

During totality, it is safe to take your eclipse glasses off and look at the eclipse, being aware that totality may last only a minute or two.

This diamond ring means that the eclipse is not at totality yet and you still need eye protection to look at the sun.
This diamond ring means that the eclipse is not at totality yet and you still need eye protection to look at the sun. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Again, you must be very sure that you are inside the path of totality for a chance at looking at the eclipse without protection – a 70-mile wide band from central Oregon through South Carolina.

If you are not in this relatively narrow band, you will still be able to see a partial solar eclipse, but at no time will it be safe to view the eclipse without protection.

Are you going to be able to see a total or partial eclipse on August 21st?
Are you going to be able to see a total or partial eclipse on August 21st?

Remember that even if you live in or have traveled to a spot inside the path of totality, the total eclipse itself will only last a few minutes.

The whole eclipse will last much longer though.

From the start of the eclipse, to maximum eclipse, to the end of the eclipse, you might be looking at a three hour event. That’s a lot of time to be at risk of looking at the sun outside of totality and getting eye damage if you aren’t wearing protection.

Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

What kind of protection do you need to safely view a solar eclipse.

Fortunately, you have a lot of options.

This solar eclipse viewing protection can include using:

  • solar filters, including ISO 12312-2 compliant eclipse glasses that have been sold online in packs of 5 or 10 (but including some that have been recalled), handheld solar viewers,  and full aperature solar filters for cameras and telescopes
  • a pin-hole viewer that you can easily make yourself with something as common as a cereal box
  • a 2D or 3D printable pinhole projector
  • a solar viewing projector using binoculars or a telescope (not looking through the telescope itself though, unless it had a proper solar filter!)
  • No. 13 or 14 welder’s glasses

But unless you are building a pin-hole viewer or are going to an official eclipse viewing event, be sure your protection is really going to protect your child’s eyes. Are the eclipse glasses you ordered fake, recalled, scratched, or damaged? Then don’t use them.

And make sure younger children are well supervised during the entire eclipse, so that they don’t look at the eclipse at any time that you are outside the time that you are in totality.

Some people will have a better chance of viewing a total solar eclipse in 2024.
Some people will have a better chance of viewing a total solar eclipse in 2024.

What if they miss it?

They won’t have to wait too long for the next total solar eclipse. Another one is headed our way in 2024.

What to Know About Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

I don’t know if it will change your child’s life, but there is no good reason to let them miss this total solar eclipse (or partial eclipse if you aren’t in the path of totality), as long as you take some very simple steps to make sure they view it safely.

More About Safely Viewing the Solar Eclipse

What to Do If a Mosquito Bites Your Child

Mosquito bites aren't good, but you don't have to get panicked about them.
Mosquito bites aren’t good, but you usually don’t have to get panicked about them.

Depending on where you live, a mosquito bite can be just a nuisance or it can lead to a life-threatening disease. From Chikungunya virus to Zika, most parents have learned to fear mosquito-borne diseases and because they hear about them so much, fear or even get panicked over mosquito bites.

While it is good to prepared and learn to avoid mosquito bites, you likely shouldn’t be panicked.

But even if your kids aren’t at risk for a mosquito-borne disease, it’s no fun getting bit by mosquitoes. Mosquito bites are itchy, and even when bites don’t get infected, they can leave behind crusted scabs that kids continue to pick at, over and over again.

Still no reason for panic or fear – just good reasons to learn to avoid mosquito bites.

Mosquitoes and Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Diseases that can be spread from the bite of a mosquito can include:

  • Chikungunya – can develop fever and severe and debilitating joint pain 3-7 days after a mosquito bite from Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Caribbean countries, and most recently, in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Dengue – can cause severe flu like symptoms, including fever, severe headache, eye pain, joint and muscle pain, rash, and bleeding, after a mosquito bite in one of at least 100 endemic countries, including many popular tourist destinations in Latin America, Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands. While there are cases in the US, it is important to keep in mind that “nearly all dengue cases reported in the 48 continental states were acquired elsewhere by travelers or immigrants.”
  • Eastern Equine encephalitis – a very rare disease, which is fortunate, as it is one of the most deadly of the mosquito-borne diseases. Transmission is in and around swampy areas, with most cases in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
  • Filariasis – spread by repeated mosquito bites over months to years, this disease is still found in at least 73 countries in parts Asia, Africa, the Western Pacific, and parts of the Caribbean and South America, these parasitic worms can grow and live in our lymph system
  • Japanese encephalitis – you can get a Japanese encephalitis virus infection after being bit by an infected Culex species mosquito in one of 24 countries in South-East Asia and the Western Pacific, especially if you are not vaccinated.
  • La Crosse encephalitis – rare, but can occur in the upper Midwestern and mid-Atlantic and southeastern states and can cause severe disease, including encephalitis, in children.
  • Malaria – although malaria was eliminated in the US in the early 1950s, we still see about 1,700 cases each year in returning travelers. That’s because malaria is a still a big problem around the world, from certain some states in Mexico to most of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
  • St. Louis encephalitis – can occur in eastern and central states, starts with mild symptoms, but can very rarely (between 1 to 12 cases a year) progress to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
  • West Nile – has now been found in every state except Alaska and Hawaii, but up to 80% of people don’t develop any symptoms and only 1% develop severe symptoms, with folks over age 60 years most at risk. Although West Nile season peaks in mid-August, cases are usually reported from late summer through early fall.
  • Western Equine encephalitis – rare, but deadly, like Eastern Equine encephalitis, and is found in states west of the Mississippi River
  • Yellow fever – a vaccine-preventable disease, the Yellow fever virus is still found in tropical and subtropical areas in South America and Africa.
  • Zika – is mostly a risk during pregnancy as it can cause serious birth defects, including microcephaly, so there are warnings to avoid high risk areas, which in addition to multiple countries and territories around the world, includes Brownsville, Texas and previously included Miami-Dade County, Florida

Won’t a long list of diseases get parent’s panicked? Only if they skip the part about where the mosquitoes that cause those diseases are active.

What to Do If a Mosquito Bites Your Child

Original Title: DPD_A.freeborni_861sRGB
 Do you know what to do if a mosquito bites your child? Photo by James Gathany

If a mosquito bites your child, don’t panic. There is no reason to run to your pediatrician or the ER and get tested for West Nile or Zika.

That’s not to say a mosquito bite couldn’t send you to the ER, but it would likely only be if your child was severely allergic, with the bite causing an anaphylatic reaction. Fortunately, most bites just leave little red bumps that go away in a few days if you don’t scratch them too much.

So the key treatment after a mosquito bite is classically about relieving the symptoms of itching. As with other itchy rashes, you can do this by:

  • applying an OTC anti-itch cream (hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion) to the bite
  • taking an oral antihistamine, especially at night
  • applying a prescription steroid cream to help control itching

Also, keep your child’s finger nails short to minimize damage from scratching and wash the areas with soap and water to decrease the risk of secondary infections.

“Where you live, your travel history, and the travel history of your sex partner(s) can affect your chances of getting Zika.”

CDC on Know Your Zika Risk

In general, you should see your pediatrician if you have the symptoms of a mosquito-borne disease and have been in an area with risk of that disease.

Should you worry about dengue, West Nile, or Zika, etc?

  • Does your child live in an area where you can commonly find the mosquitoes that carry any of these diseases?
  • Did your child recently visit an area where you can commonly find the mosquitoes that carry any of these diseases?
  • Is your child a pregnant teen?
  • Is your teen sexually active?
  • Does your child have a chronic medical condition, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, or kidney disease?
  • Is your child a first- or second-generation immigrant from a malaria-endemic country who returned to their home country to visit friends and relatives?
  • Was your child at risk for a mosquito-borne disease and skipped taking preventative medications for malaria or skipped getting a Japanese encephalitis vaccine or a Yellow fever vaccine?

Again, see your pediatrician if your child had a mosquito bite and now has the symptoms of a mosquito-borne disease after being in an area with risk of that disease. This is especially important for anyone who is pregnant or with a chronic medical problem, as they might be at higher risk for severe disease. The elderly are more at risk too.

Preventing Mosquito Bites

Of course, whether you are traveling to the tropics or going for a walk in your neighborhood, your best bet is going to be trying to avoid mosquitoes and mosquito bites in the first place.

  • use insect repellent, which can protect your kids from tick bites too
  • wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when possible
  • get rid of standing water around your home – places where mosquitoes can breed
  • make sure windows and doors have screens or are kept shut to keep mosquitoes out of your home
  • instead of insect repellent, consider using mosquito netting to cover your infant’s stroller or carrier when outside, and especially when in high risk parts of the world, using insecticide treated bed nets

And review travel advisories before planning a trip to see if you need to take any additional precautions to avoid a mosquito-borne disease.

What to Know About Mosquitoes and Mosquito Bites

Mosquito-borne diseases, like dengue, West Nile, and Zika, can certainly be serious, but you likely don’t need to panic your child has gotten one of them every time he or she gets a mosquito bite.

More About Mosquitoes and Mosquito Bites

What to Do If a Tick Bites Your Child

Lyme disease.

That’s usually what comes to mind when people find a tick on their child or if they simply think about tick-borne diseases.

It is important to know that there are many other diseases that can be caused by many different types of ticks though, from anaplasmosis to tularemia. And since these ticks and the diseases they transmit are fairly regional, it is easy to be unfamiliar with them if you don’t live in their specific habitats.

That can especially be a problem if, for example, you are from Hawaii, where tick-borne diseases aren’t a big issue, and you travel for a camping trip to Oklahoma and your child is bitten by a tick. Will you or your doctor know what to do if your child develops symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever?

How To Remove a Tick

Fortunately, if you find a tick on your child, you can decrease their chance of getting sick if you remove it quickly. That makes doing daily full body tick checks important.

 

Use tweezers to remove a tick, grabbing it close to the skin, and pulling it upward with steady, even pressure.
Use tweezers to remove a tick, grabbing it close to the skin, and pulling it upward with steady, even pressure. A special tick-removal spoon can make it even easier!

How quickly?

At least 36 hours.

“Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.”

CDC on Preventing Tick Bites

After removing the tick, wash the bite area and your hands with soap and water and observe your child over the next few weeks for symptoms of a tick-borne disease.

Symptoms of a Tick Bite

Although some of the symptoms of tick-borne diseases are specific to the tick that bit your child, some other symptoms are common to all of them, including:

  • fever
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • muscle aches and joint pains
  • skin rashes
  • chills

Like spider bites, tick bites are usually painless. That often leads to a delay in actually figuring out that a tick has bitten your child, which makes it important to do frequent tick checks if they are doing anything that could expose them to ticks.

Many people are also surprised at how many different diseases can be transmitted by ticks, including:

  • Anaplasmosis – transmitted by the black-legged tick (northeast and upper midwestern United States) and the western black-legged tick (Northern California). May not cause a rash.
  • Babesiosis – transmitted by the black-legged tick (northeast and upper midwestern United States). Can cause severe hemolytic anemia.
  • Colorado Tick Fever – a viral infection that is transmitted by the Rocky Mountain wood tick (western United States, especially Colorado, Utah, Montana, and Wyoming). Can cause meningoencephalitis.
  • Ehrilichiosis – transmitted by the lone star tick in southcentral and eastern US.
  • Lyme disease – transmitted by the blacklegged in the northeastern U.S. and upper midwestern U.S. and the western blacklegged tick along the Pacific coast. Erythema migrans rash or Bull’s eye rash.
  • Powassan disease – a viral infection that is transmitted by the black-legged tick (northeastern United States and the Great Lakes region). Can cause biphasic illness, with children appearing to get better and then the symptoms reappearing again.
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever – transmitted by the American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick in the U.S. Causing a classic petechial rash on the wrists, forearms, and ankles, which can then spread to the trunk.
  • Rickettsia parkeri Rickettsiosis – transmitted by the Gulf Coast tick in the eastern and southern United States.
  • STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness) – “transmitted” by the lone star tick (central Texas and Oklahoma eastward to the the whole Atlantic coast). Children have an expanding “bull’s eye” lesion at the tick bite, like Lyme disease, but the cause is unknown.
  • Tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF) – spread by multiple soft ticks in the western United States which live in rodent infested cabins and can cause relapsing fever – 3 day episodes of fever, in between 7 days stretches in which a child might be fever free, over 3 to 4 weeks.
  • Tularemia – transmitted by dog ticks, wood ticks, and lone star ticks or by handling a sick animal, including wild rabbits, muskrats, prairie dogs, and domestic cats. Can cause an ulcer at the site of infection.
  • 364D Rickettsiosis – transmitted by the Pacific Coast tick in Northern California dn along the Pacific Coast.

And although it can be helpful to know about all of the different tick-borne diseases and their symptoms, you should basically just know to seek medical attention if your child gets sick in the few weeks following a tick bite.

What to Know About Ticks and Tick Bites

Of course, it would be even better to reduce your child’s risk of getting a tick-borne disease by avoiding ticks in first place, including limiting his exposure to grassy and wooden areas, wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent, treating your dogs for ticks, taking a shower within two hours of possibly being exposed to ticks, and doing frequent tick checks.

In addition to avoiding ticks, it is important to know that:

  • The Vermont Department of Health advises that the best way to prevent tickborne diseases is to prevent tick bites.
    The Vermont Department of Health advises that the best way to prevent tickborne diseases is to prevent tick bites.

    Tick activity is seasonal, with adult ticks most active in spring and fall, and the smaller nymphal ticks more active in late spring and summer.

  • Tick bites that lead to tick-borne diseases are often not noticed because they are usually painless and are often caused by nymphs, the immature, smaller forms of a tick. So while you might be thinking about a large, adult tick when you are asked about a recent tick bite, a nymph is tiny (about 2mm long) and might even be missed.
  • Testing (on your child), including antibody tests, can be done to confirm a diagnosis of most tick-borne diseases, but keep in mind that testing can be negative early on. You also shouldn’t wait for results before starting treatment in a child with a suspected tick-borne disease. Testing is usually done with either indirect immunofluorescence antibody (IFA) assay or enzyme immunoassay (EIA) tests.
  • It is usually not recommended that you have a tick that has bitten your child be tested for tick-borne diseases. Even if the tick was positive for something, it wouldn’t mean that it transmitted the disease to your child.
  • Experts don’t usually recommend that people be treated for tick-borne diseases after a tick bite unless they show symptoms. The only exception might be if the tick was on for more than 36 hours and you were in an area with a high risk for Lyme disease.
  • Although doxycycline, one of the antibiotics often used to treat tick-borne diseases, is often restricted to children who are at least 8 years old because of the risk of side effects, it should still be used if your younger child has Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, or anaplasmosis.

You should also know that most old wives tales about ticks and tick bites really aren’t true. You should not try to burn a tick that is biting your child with a match, paint it with nail polish, or smother it with vaseline, etc. Just remove it with tweezers and throw it away in a sealed bag or by flushing it down the toilet.

What to Do If a Tick Bites Your Child

Don’t panic if a tick bites your child. You have up to 36 hours to remove it, before it is can likely transmit any diseases to your child, like Lyme disease or Rocky mountain spotted fever.

More About Ticks and Tick Bites

What is Causing your Child’s Diarrhea?

Often described as the "cruise ship virus," you can get norovirus infections in daycare centers, schools, or after eating at a restaurant.
Often described as the “cruise ship virus,” you can get norovirus infections in daycare centers, schools, or after eating at a restaurant. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Why does your child have diarrhea?

Could it be the “stomach flu,” food poisoning, or just an intolerance to something your child eat?

Common Causes of Diarrhea

While parents often quickly jump to the idea of “food poisoning,”  infections are typically the most common cause of diarrhea in kids.

These include:

  • viruses – rotavirus (a vaccine preventable disease), adenovirus, and norovirus
  • bacteria – C. diff, Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli, Campylobacter jejuni, Bacillus cereus, Listeria, Cholera
  • parasites – Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Cyclospora

Not all diarrhea is caused by infections though. If the diarrhea lingers for more than a few weeks or keeps coming and going, then you might consider that your child might have a lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, Celiac disease,  or other non-infectious cause.

Hints of Diarrhea Causes and Risk Factors

To help figure out what might be causing your child’s diarrhea, consider these questions and share the answers with your pediatrician:

  • Does your child have bloody diarrhea (sometimes a sign of a bacterial infection)?
  • Is your child getting dehydrated? While that doesn’t tell you want is causing the diarrhea, it is a good sign that you need to seek medical attention.
  • Does your younger child (under age 2 to 4 years) have bloody diarrhea that is becoming jelly-like and episodes of severe, colicky abdominal pain (sign of intussusception)?
  • Is your child in daycare? Has anyone else recently been sick with diarrhea or vomiting?
  • Has your child recently been on antibiotics (a risk for C. diff)?
  • Does your toddler with diarrhea drink a lot of juice (Toddler’s diarrhea)?
  • Have you recently traveled out of the country (Traveler’s diarrhea)? Did your child get sick a few days later (could be a bacterial or viral cause) or a few weeks later (parasites have longer incubation periods)?
  • Has your child recently spent time on a lake or river and possibly drank untreated water (risk for Giardia infection)?
  • Do you have any high risk pets, including turtles, snakes, lizards (or other reptiles); frogs, salamanders, newts (or other amphibians); chicks, chickens, ducklings, ducks, geese, and turkeys (or other poultry); mice, rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs (or other rodents); or farm animals (all can be a risk for Salmonella)?
  • Have you recently visited a farm or petting zoo (risk for Salmonella and E. coli)?
  • Has your child recently visited a water park or public swimming pool (risk for Cryptosporidium)?
  • Does your child drink raw milk, unpasteurized juice, raw or undercooked eggs, or undercooked beef, pork, and poultry (risk for food poisoning)?
  • Has your child recently eaten leftover food that had been unrefrigerated for more than two hours (risk for food poisoning)?
  • Is the diarrhea worse after your child drinks a lot of milk or eats a lot of dairy (a sign of lactose intolerance)?
  • Does your child have alternating episodes of constipation and diarrhea (irritable bowel syndrome)?
  • In addition to chronic diarrhea, is your child irritable, with poor weight gain and other symptoms (a sign of Celiac disease)?
  • Does your child also have abdominal pain or just diarrhea?
  • Is your child taking any medications that might cause diarrhea as a side effect?

Once you have narrowed down the possibilities, blood and stool tests, including stool culture tests for bacteria, parasites, and viruses can sometimes help to figure out what is causing your child’s diarrhea. Keep in mind that these are usually reserved for diarrhea symptoms that are severe (bloody diarrhea, fever, weight loss, etc.)  or lingering for more than a few weeks.

And remember that the most common causes of diarrhea, including food poisoning and viral infections, typically go away on their own without treatment. In fact, you can make things worse if you treat some causes of diarrhea with antibiotics, including some Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli infections.

Still don’t know what is causing your child’s diarrhea? In addition to your pediatrician, a pediatric gastroenterologist can be helpful when your child has diarrhea.

What To Know About Diarrhea

While diarrhea is common in kids and we often don’t figure out the specific cause before it goes away on its own, there are clues that can help you figure out if your child’s diarrhea is caused by a virus, bacteria, parasite, or other condition.

For More Information on Diarrhea