Common Summer Ailments, treatments, and when to go to the Doctor

Kids love to spend the summer outside, poking around the backyard, cooking out at camp, and playing in the water. Accidents are bound to happen during these forays into the great outdoors. Most of these ailments are mild and respond to home treatments, sometimes they are more serious and need to be seen by a doctor.

Learn about how to treat minor cuts, sunburns, and other common ailments, and when they are so serious they need to be seen by a doctor. Remember, no matter what you read here, you have a parent’s intuition. If you think your child needs to see a doctor, take your child to the doctor.


The first rule of treating sunburn is to prevent sunburn. Every part of a body that is exposed to the sun can be sunburned, the scalp, earlobes, bottoms of feet, everything. Follow the A, B, C’s of preventing sunburn. A is to avoid the sun, stay out of the sun during the middle of the day, when the sun’s rays are most harmful. B is blocking the sun using SPF 30 or higher sun block. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and frequently throughout the day. Especially after swimming or sweating. C is for covering up, wearing hats, sitting in the shade, and wearing clothes that protect the skin can help prevent sunburn. Sunscreen should not be used on kids under 6 months of age.

But, we all know, accidents happen. Sometimes we miss a spot and it gets burned or sometimes another person in charge makes a mistake. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine at, the symptoms of sunburn can include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Pain
  • Blisters
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Weakness, confusion, or faintness
  • Dry, itching, and peeling skin days after the burn

To treat sunburn, use cool compresses or baths, topical moisturizer, children’s Tylenol or acetaminophen, and extra fluid. If you see blisters, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or feeling faint, or if the sunburn is very severe, it is time to see a doctor.

Insect Bites

Insect bites are very common in the summer for children and adults. Some are more serious than others. Depending on where you live, insects like mosquitos and ticks may carry diseases that can affect your children. To find out more about insects that carry disease, check your region’s DNR website or with the CDC Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD). Be warned though, it’s pretty creepy!

To avoid insect bites, wear long pants, long sleeved shirts and hats when in brushy or woodsy areas. Try to avoid being outside when insects are most active, sunrise and sunset. Insect repellants containing DEET are approved for children over 2 months of age by the American Academy of Pediatrics, using 10-30% DEET. When using insect repellants on children, spray on your hands and spread on your children. Wash insect repellant off skin after returning indoors.

According to Seattle Children’s Hospital at

Call 911 Now

  • Past life-threatening allergic reaction to same insect bite not just hives and bitten less than 2 hours ago
  • Trouble breathing or wheezing
  • Hoarse voice, cough, or tightness in the throat or chest
  • Trouble swallowing, drooling or slurred speech
  • Hard to wake up
  • Acts or talks confused
  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Hives or swelling all over the body
  • More than 20 fire ant stings in a child less than 1 year old
  • Fever and bite looks infected spreading redness
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Severe pain and not better 2 hours after taking pain medicine
  • New redness around the bite starts more than 24 hours after the bite
  • More than 48 hours since the bite and redness gets larger
  • Redness or red streak around the bite gets larger than 1 inch 2.5 cm
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Scab that looks infected drains pus or gets bigger not better with antibiotic ointment
  • You have other questions or concerns

To treat an itchy bite, use 1% hydrocortisone cream 3 times a day until the itch is gone. You can also use a baking soda paste, ice wrapped in a wet washcloth for 20 minutes, or allergy medicine.

Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

Most of us have had the uncomfortable, itchy, painful reaction to poisonous plants at some point in our lives. The best way to avoid a bad reaction to these plants is to learn to identify and avoid them. Cover your child’s skin as much as possible when walking in areas where poisonous plants might be present.

If you or your child come into contact with any of these plants, remove your clothes, wash your skin with cool running water and soap. Wash all clothes that were in contact with the plants. According to the Cleveland Clinic at

When should I call the doctor?

If any of the following occurs, seek medical attention:

  • You have symptoms of a severe reaction, such as severe swelling and/or difficulty breathing.
  • You have been exposed to the smoke of burning poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac.
  • The rash covers more than one quarter of your body.
  • The rash occurs on your face, lips, eyes, or genitals.
  • The initial treatment does not relieve the symptoms.
  • You develop a fever and/or the rash shows signs of infection, such as increased tenderness, pus, or yellow fluid oozing from the blisters, and an odor coming from the blisters.

To treat a mild rash, cool baths or showers can help with itching or burning and calamine lotion can help with the itch.

Have a safe summer with your kids

Have a safe and healthy summer with your family by trying to avoid sunburns, insect bites, and poisonous plants.


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