When to Take Your Child to Hospital Immediately

As a parent, especially if you are a new parent, every sniffle, cough or bout of tears strikes dread in your heart and, depending on whether it’s day or night, you find yourself calling the doctor or bundling your child up in a blanket and rushing to the nearest hospital. And while it is better to be safe than sorry, here are some tips on when you really do have to take them to the hospital. Remember, it is your right to seek help if you feel you need it.

Winter is especially bad for children’s health. You need to know when to wait and watch and when to seek help immediately. The first thing is to watch your child’s behaviour.

Here are 7 things to which you really need to pay attention

Fever
Babies under the age of 2 months should be taken straight to a doctor or a 24 Hour Accident and Emergency Unit if their temperature is more than 38oC.

Babies aged 2-6 months must get medical attention if they have a temperature of 39oC or more. They may also need antibiotics for an infection.

A child over the age of 2 who has a temperature over 39oC just needs to be watched, particularly if the child is fully vaccinated, and is happy and running around. But if the child is lethargic and refusing to drink any fluids, seek help immediately.

Laboured Breathing
If your baby is breathing more than 60 times a minute, which is very fast, or if their rapid breathing is making it hard for them to drink, your baby may have pneumonia. Get them to the doctor or a 24 Hour Accident and Emergency Unit quickly. If your child is older, and their laboured breathing doesn’t resolve itself with rest, or if they are breathing hard and have a high fever or chest pain then you must take them in as well.

Vomiting
Always have a look at the amount and colour of your child’s vomit to determine if there should be any cause for concern. Even if they have a bad cough they can vomit as both coughing and vomiting is triggered by the same impulses in the body.

So, when do you take your child to the doctor or a 24 Hour Accident and emergency Unit? When they have been vomiting for so long that they are now throwing up bile (a bright green or yellow discharge) this should be checked out immediately.

You should also seek help immediately if they have been vomiting for longer than you think is okay or if they have been vomiting blood, have not been able to drink or eat anything for some time or even if they have not urinated for close to eight hours.

Broken bones
Kids fall and hurt themselves all the time. So, if the bleeding has stopped, your child can move the injured body part, nothing is numb and their pain can be controlled with over-the-counter pain-killers, then just keep an eye on your child. If you’re still concerned in a couple of days then go to a doctor or your nearest Lenmed Hospital.

But, take your child to a 24 hour Accident and Emergency Unit immediately if the child can’t move the injured limb or if there is any numbness, for example:

· If your child can’t feel his fingers
· If there’s a lot of swelling
· If there is severe pain
· If the body part looks deformed

Hitting their heads
Even for an adult, hitting your head can be very concerning. When children bump their heads you need to watch them closely. If your child falls down but doesn’t fall off something, this isn’t something to worry about unless the head hits something hard. You can expect a bump, a bruise, pain and crying. They may even vomit once. If your child is running around an hour later as if nothing happened, responds verbally, and vision, hearing and walking are all fine, there is probably no reason to be concerned. Keep an eye on them and if anything changes seek help immediately.

However, if there are changes, take your child to your doctor or to a 24 Hour Accident and Emergency Unit. In the case of a baby younger than 3 months old that has hit its head so hard that there is now a visible bump, you will also need to seek help immediately.

Changes to look for include:
· Vomiting more than once
· The pain is getting worse
· The child is not his or her usual self
· Vision, hearing or walking doesn’t seem right
· They can’t use their limbs
· They have fallen five feet or more (twice their own height)

Suspected Meningitis
Viral meningitis can be dangerous in children. It can also happen very quickly, so, if your child is suffering from a lack of appetite, irritability, lethargy, sleepiness and fever, seek help immediately.

Convulsions
If your child is having a seizure, no matter how small, take the child to hospital immediately.

Parents are the experts when it comes to knowing their children. If you are concerned that something is not right with your child’s health, listen to your instincts. You are almost always right.

If you have any concerns about your child’s health please visit your nearest Lenmed Hospital or the nearest Lenmed 24 Hour Accident and Emergency Unit.

For more information please contact:
Dr Ntshengedzeni Maligavhada (Paediatrician/Pulmonologist)
BSc (Univen) MBChB (Natal) DCH (SA) FCPaed (SA) Cert.Paed Pulmonology (SA)
Randfontein Private Hospital
Tel: +27 (0) 11 411 3089
Email: riatshikhetha@gmail.com or info@lenmed.co.za  

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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Dealing with Malaria in 2019

Malaria is a life-threatening sickness caused by parasites. They are transmitted to people when bitten and infected by a female Anopheles mosquito. Fortunately, the disease can be prevented and is curable.

In this article, we will look at ways to prevent being bitten and contracting malaria. We will also look at the symptoms of the disease and how it can be treated.

Did you know?

According to the World Malaria Report, there were an estimated 219-million cases of malaria in 90 countries in 2017 with a total number of 435 000 people dying from malaria in the same year. The African continent makes up the largest percentage of these numbers with 92% of malaria cases and 93% of malaria deaths.

High-Risk Areas

In South Africa, Malaria is a seasonal disease. Low transmission periods are between May and September. Through good control efforts, malaria is now restricted to certain districts in north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal, parts of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Malaria occurs mainly in low altitude areas but is occasionally found in high altitude areas in these provinces. On rare occasions, malaria is contracted near the Molopo river in the North-West Province and Orange River in the Northern Cape Province (Department of Health, 2009).

In some of South Africa’s neighbouring countries (Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and the Lowveld areas in Swaziland) the risk of malaria is present throughout the year. In the northern parts of Namibia and Botswana, the risk period is November-June. And in Zimbabwe, there is risk throughout the year in the Zambezi Valley, from November-June in areas below 1200m, and neglible risk in Bulawayo and Harare.

How do we take preventative measures?

currently, there is no malaria vaccine available on the market. There are however a number of vaccine constructs currently being tested in clinical trials. The good news is there are ways to prevent getting malaria. By simply taking the following precautions you should be safe from malaria:

Take antimalarial drugs - When travelling to a high-risk malaria area it is vital to take antimalarial drugs. They will reduce the risk of you getting malaria by up to 90%. Visit your doctor at least a week before leaving on your trip because you must start taking the tablets at least two days before you depart. You will continue taking them every day while away and for 4 weeks after you return.

Use mosquito repellents – Apply a repellent to the exposed areas of your skin whether you are inside or outside both during the day and, even more importantly, at night time.

Wear clothing to protect – Be sure to wear shirts with long sleeves and long pants that cover your ankles. Do this especially at sunrise and sunset when mosquitoes become extremely active.

Put protective screens on doors and windows – Use wire or gauze with a very fine meshing so that the mosquitoes cannot get in. Make sure to repair any tears or holes that may appear in the screens over time.

Use insecticide sprays inside homes and buildings – Make sure the spray you use is long-lasting. Remember insecticide sprays are toxic and should, therefore, be used with caution – spray away from people and animals.

Keep a fan running when you sleep – Mosquitoes seem to steer clear of the wind current caused by a fan. Put the fan on a rotate setting allowing it to move the air around the room. Run the fan throughout the night.

Install a mosquito net over your bed – Make sure the net fits properly over your bed and keep an eye out for holes and tears where mosquitoes can find their way in. For complete safety soak the netting in an insecticide but find out first which ones are safe to use.

Indoors is safer at night – Spend your evenings inside rather than outside. This way you stand a lesser chance of being bitten. If you do need to go out at night, just limit the time you spend outdoors as much as you can.

The symptoms of malaria

If you happen to get malaria, you can be treated for it if it’s caught in time and you are prescribed the right drugs by a health practitioner.

If you suffer from the following symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your doctor immediately:

  • Chills that make you shake
  • A high fever
  • Sweating abnormally
  • A persistent headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bloody stools
  • Anaemia
  • Muscular pain
  • Convulsions

Also, do make an appointment with your doctor if you are planning to travel where there is a high concentration of mosquitoes or where malaria is suspected.

For more information please contact:
Dr S Mashamaite, General Practitioner
MBChB (Natal), MPH (Unisa), Dip HIV Man (CMSA)
Zamokuhle Private Hospital
+27 (0) 11 923 7785/6
info@lenmed.co.za.

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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TB Truths and Myths

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease which is mostly known to affect the lungs. However, it can also take its toll on other parts of the body such as the spine, brain or kidneys. Not everyone who is infected gets sick – this is called latent TB - but you should make an appointment with your doctor immediately if you begin to show the following symptoms:

  • A bad and persistent cough lasting longer than 2 weeks
  • Pain in the chest
  • Coughing up blood or mucus
  • Extremely tired and weak
  • A loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Chills and/or fever
  • Night sweats

We are often misinformed about TB which is why there are so many myths out there about what causes TB and how it is spread. This article dispels some of the more popular ones.

Myth - TB is extremely contagious

Truth – TB bacteria are spread through the air and are infectious. However, the germs do not spread easily and you only stand a chance of contracting the illness if you spend a lot of time with someone who has TB. Did you know that most people who breathe in the TB bacteria are able to fight it and stop it from growing? What happens then is the bacteria lies dormant and is called a latent TB infection. The problem is it’s still alive in your body and if your immune system is weakened in any way, the bacteria can start growing and become active TB disease.

Myth – You can get TB from the food and water consumed by an infected person

Truth – You cannot get TB through food and water, nor by kissing someone or holding their hand. You cannot even get it by sharing a toilet seat or a toothbrush with someone who has the disease. TB can only be spread when a person with active TB disease releases germs into the air by coughing, sneezing, talking, singing, or laughing. Active TB means the person has a pulmonary infection and displays symptoms of the sickness.

Myth – TB cannot be cured

Truth – The good news is it can be cured, even in people who have HIV. TB is treated with a long course of antibiotics. You may even need to take various types of antibiotics for as long as 31 weeks before the TB bacteria have completely cleared out of your system. And, in order for you to get a clean bill of health, you must take all the prescribed medication or not all of the TB bacteria will be destroyed. Some people start feeling better and decide they don’t need to finish their course of antibiotics. This is a big mistake and the bacteria can start growing again.

Myth – Only people with HIV can get TB

Truth – Anyone can get TB but people who are most susceptible to the disease are usually vulnerable in one way or another, such as those:

  • With underdeveloped immune systems, such as babies and young children
  • Suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes and kidney disease
  • Who have undergone surgery to receive organ transplants
  • Who are being treated with chemotherapy for cancer
  • Who are receiving treatments for deficient immune systems

Myth – TB is a South African disease

Truth – While South Africa may have one of the highest incidents of TB, the illness has infected approximately 33% of the world’s population. This means nearly 2,5 billion people are infected with TB on a global level.

There are 5 ways a medical practitioner can check to see if you have contracted the bacteria:

  1. Blood test – Blood will be taken from your arm using a syringe and then sent to the laboratory for testing.
  2. TB skin test – You will be injected into the skin of your forearm. Your skin is checked after to 3 days for signs of TB.
  3. Sputum sample – Mucus from your lungs is collected in a cup when you have your first morning cough. It will then be tested for the TB bacteria and can be helpful in assisting healthcare providers when choosing the best treatment for you.
  4. Chest x-ray – Your chest area will be x-rayed using a special machine which can help healthcare professionals see whether you have TB and can show signs of swelling, infection, or lung collapse.
  5. CT scan – This is quite similar to a chest x-ray in that the results can show lung damage, infection and indicate TB.

To prevent the spread of TB you should:

  1. Listen to doctor’s orders and continue taking your medicine until it is finished. Contact your healthcare provider immediately you forget to take a dose.
  2. Make sure you wash your hands using soap and water after going to the toilet, changing a baby's diapers, or coughing and sneezing into your hands. Also wash your hands just before preparing or eating food.
  3. Always cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Preferably try cough and sneeze into a tissue, which can be flushed down the toilet afterwards.
  4. Avoid close contact with vulnerable people who are at an increased risk of getting TB, such as babies, the elderly and sickly people.
  5. Be open and honest about your TB with family, friends, and coworkers. They may have latent TB and need to take medicine to prevent it from becoming active.

If you are worried you may have TB, you should make an appointment at your local hospital to be tested. If the results show you do have the disease, you can receive treatment and make a full recovery.

For more information contact info@lenmed.co.za

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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7 Factors men should know that will affect their health

Men often neglect their health because they are “too busy” or “strong and healthy enough”. They also sacrifice their own health to ensure their spouses and children are cared for.

Remember, however, that your wife and children will be far worse off if you are no longer here to take care of them.

This month is Men’s Health Month. So, let’s take a look at 7 factors men should always be aware of when it comes to their health.

1. The Big C – Cancer

Men sometimes erroneously believe that cancer affects more women than men. Not so. In fact, indiscriminate of gender, cancer kills more South Africans than HIV/AIDS, TB (tuberculosis) and malaria combined.

Speaking at the YPO conference held in Cape Town earlier this year, Adrian Gore, MD of Discovery Health, noted that the average South African male is far more likely to die from cancer than a botched hijacking.

The four most common types of cancer are breast, prostate, lung and colon. Lung cancer, for example, which is dramatically increased by smoking, kills almost 150,000 Americans every year, while there are 250,000 new cases of breast cancer in the US annually. Prostrate and testicular cancer are the types that men need to be especially aware of.

Research is varied as to what exactly triggers cancer, but genes, poor diet, high levels of stress and environmental factors can play a role. Cancer is a difficult disease, but it can be beaten. Listen to your body, nourish yourself with good food, lots of water and enough sleep, and visit your doctor for regular check-ups.

2. Erectile dysfunction

This is a very touchy subject, but it’s more common than what most men believe, and it’s one of the reasons why a little blue pill called Viagra is still popular. As men age, so the blood flow can be restricted and it can be harder to reach erection, which can put untold strain on a relationship and may induce feelings of inadequacy.

It is important to know, however, that the problem may be linked to other diseases, so it should never be left unchecked. Blood pressure tablets, for example, which are designed to lower the pressure of blood being pumped through the body, may be a significant contributing factor.

3. High blood pressure (hypertension)

High blood pressure is age-related and is when an increase in blood pressure is usually brought about by hardening and narrowing of the artery walls which restricts the flow of blood in the blood vessels. The heart has to work harder to pump the blood through the body, which increases the pressure in these vessels.

It may seem like nothing, but elevated blood pressure levels above 120/80 carry with them quite a list of health problems, from heart attack and stroke to kidney disease and eye disease. Factors that cause this problem include being overweight, smoking and drinking too much.

Blood pressure testing is inexpensive and pain-free, so get yours tested regularly (especially if you’re over 40), and seek medical help immediately if elevated.

4. Stroke

While we’ve mentioned this above, stroke needs its own point. Known together with high blood pressure throughout the world as The Silent Killer, most men are blissfully unaware of the danger of having one until it’s too late.

A stroke occurs when the blood vessels in the brain have become so constricted that there is either a blockage that cannot pass through the vessels, or they burst. The blood flow to the brain is affected and causes brain tissue to die from lack of oxygen, which leads to mental and/or physical disability (like loss of speech or permanent paralysis).

High blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol are leading contributing factors of a stroke. Medication and lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and regular exercise are the best preventative measures.

5. Diabetes

As delicious as those sugary drinks and chocolate bars are, there is more and more evidence to suggest that we are becoming less and less tolerant to the enormous amounts of sugar that we consume – one of the main reasons the government introduced the sugar tax. Diabetes is the inability of the pancreas to adequately process sugar using insulin.

Again, as with blood pressure, diabetes is now lumped with a whole slew of diseases collectively known as metabolic syndrome, and Type II has been strongly linked to several lifestyle factors such as being overweight and consuming excessive sugar. Again, the best cure is a lifestyle change, especially as we age.

6.  Stress

Stress can be defined as the inability to cope with feelings of pressure brought about by several factors such as work or home environment, the death or illness of a loved one, and even crime.

When men stress, the usual emotional coping mechanisms include an increase in drinking and smoking, eating comfort food, junk food and excessive take-aways, and in some cases, promiscuity, all of which can damage health.

As un-manly as they sound, Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi have been found to lower stress levels, while good old-fashioned exercise or even something as simple as taking a walk outside in the garden can also be of benefit.

If you find that you’re not coping, then always remember that a problem shared is a problem halved. Take it up with a really close friend or see a psychologist if need be.

7. Depression

The rigours of modern living, from constantly living on a smart device to facing the traffic, together with unfulfilled desires and dreams, can all lead to unhappy states that cause depression. Some research even suggests that not following your dreams can create such negativity that the body manifests as disease.

It is important to have emotional and creative outlets, to equilibrate the pace of modern living. Singing in the shower, painting, keeping a journal, cooking, going on holiday with family, parties, visiting friends, hiking in beautiful spaces, exposure to lots of green (both to see and eat), and pursuing meaningful careers and hobbies are all antidotes to depression.

If the problem becomes acute, it is important to see a health professional about the possibility of taking medication, or about redressing psychological imbalances that are making you unhappy.

Life is short, and you have so much living to do. This Men’s Health Month and beyond, make the changes you need to care for yourself.

For more information please contact:
Dr. AT Kongolo (General Practitioner)
MBChB H. Dip Surg
Kathu Private Hospital
+27 (0) 53 723 1848
Info@lenmed.co.za

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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The Heimlich Manoeuvre: What to Do in a Choking Emergency

Choking is a terrifying experience for anyone, whether you are the victim or a bystander. The moment the flow of air to our lungs is blocked we immediately feel panic-stricken, while the people who are with us may feel helpless.

Choking always occurs very suddenly, and we are usually completely unprepared for the crisis. It happens when an object gets stuck in the throat or windpipe, making it impossible to breathe. Adults may choke on a piece of food, while young children often choke on small objects they put in their mouths. In either case, as soon as oxygen flow is cut off, you have to act quickly.

The most effective means of removing the cause of the choking is to use an abdominal thrust called the Heimlich Manoeuvre. Most of us will first try other ways to get the object out. We may try to dig it out of the back of a child’s throat or give the victim a few hard thumps on the back. This is not wrong, but if it does not work immediately then the next step is to apply strong compressions on the abdomen or back to force air upwards out of the windpipe, to expel the object.

As a bystander, you may not realise that someone is choking until they are in severe distress. When you see someone clutching their hands to the throat, do you know that this is usually the first sign that the person may be choking?

Other actions will also give an indication:

  • Inability to talk
  • Difficulty breathing or noisy breathing
  • Squeaky sounds when trying to breathe
  • Cough, which may either be weak or forceful
  • Skin, lips and nails turning blue or dusky
  • Skin that is flushed then turns pale or bluish in colour
  • Loss of consciousness

As soon as you realise that this is a life or death situation, you will need to perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre.

The Heimlich Manoeuvre Step-by-step

  1. If possible, first ask “Are you choking?” If the victim nods, proceed with the Heimlich Manoeuvre.
  2. Stand behind the victim.
  3. Place one foot in front of the other to brace yourself.
  4. Reach around the person’s waist.
  5. Clench one hand into a fist and position it against the person’s abdomen, above the navel and below the rib cage.
  6. Grasp your fist with your other hand.
  7. Now pull sharply backwards, using the force of both your arms, so that your fist literally punches the victim in the abdomen. Try for a small upward movement as you pull, to expel air up the windpipe. The thrusting movement should be inward and upward.
  8. Repeat this action over and over again until the object is dislodged and coughed up.

What if it’s a child?

  1.  Kneel down behind the child.
  2. Follow the same process as for an adult but use less force.

What is it’s an infant?

  1. Sit down and hold the baby face down on your lap. Rest your forearm on your thigh and support its head and neck with your hand.
  2. Ensure that the baby’s head is lower than its torso.
  3. Now use the heel of your other hand (the bottom of your palm) to thump the baby gently but firmly on its back. Keep your fingers pointing up so that you don’t hit the back of the baby’s head.
  4. If the baby is still not breathing, turn it onto its back, in the same position, on your lap with your hand supporting the head but holding it lower than the torso.
  5. Place two fingers at the centre of the baby’s breastbone. Thrust firmly down against the baby’s chest to compress it downwards. Wait for the chest to rise again, then repeat. Do this five times.
  6.  If the baby is still not breathing, call emergency services. Then continue to alternate between back and chest compressions until help arrives.
  7. If you are able to clear the airway, but the baby has stopped breathing, start CPR immediately.
  8.  If the child is older than age 1 and conscious, give abdominal thrusts only. Be careful not to use too much force to avoid damaging ribs or internal organs.

What if the person is pregnant or obese?

  1.  Instead of using abdominal thrusts, use chest thrusts, placing your fist against the lower part of the chest, where the lower ribs join to the breastbone.
  2.  If the person becomes unconscious, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with chest compressions and rescue breaths.

What if I am choking and I’m alone?

It’s a good idea to practice this procedure so that you can act swiftly if it ever happens to you. You can perform abdominal thrusts on yourself.

  1.  Lean forward over the back of a chair and position your abdomen against the top of the chair’s backrest.
  2. Thrust hard against the back of the chair to compress your abdomen.
  3. Repeat 6-10 times quickly.
  4. If there is no chair to use, place a clenched fist above your navel, and place your other hand over the fist. Using the force of both arms, perform the abdominal thrust on yourself.
  5. Repeat 6-10 times quickly.

In all cases where you are the bystander, you will also need to perform CPR if the victim falls unconscious. Both the Heimlich Manoeuvre and CPR are essential first aid skills that any individual can learn to do

This article is courtesy of IPSS Medical Rescue. To learn more about IPSS Medical Rescue, visit www.ipssrescue.co.za.

For more information or in the case of a medical emergency in the KZN region, please contact:
IPSS Medical Rescue on emergency number +27 (0) 823 911 911

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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Dealing With Burn Wounds: What Every Parent Should Know

Tragically, burns are one of the leading causes of death and injury to urban children under the age of 14 years in Southern Africa, according to statistics gathered by the World Health Organisation. The Medical Research Council reports that more than 3 in every hundred people suffer from burn injury each year, with children and infants being the most vulnerable of this group.

Children, especially at toddler age, are most susceptible to burns when they are confined to small spaces. Also, their skin is much thinner than adults’ so is less resistant to harsher burns, which can result in life-long scarring or disability.

Most burn injuries happen in the home. If we don’t take precautions and educate our children correctly from an early age about burn prevention, and the dangers of fire and heat, the risk of being burned increases.

The most common ways people get burnt in the home are by:

  • Cooking with hot oil or boiling water - This is the most common cause of burn injuries in babies and young children. Usually, this occurs when the child reaches for the saucepan or frying pan containing hot oil or water on the stovetop.
  • Hot drinks - Babies are often burned when they are breastfeeding and the mother accidentally spills hot tea or coffee. Curious toddlers get burned when they pull themselves up using the table where the hot drinks have been placed.
  • Too-hot bath water - Sometimes children will climb into the bathtub not realising the parent has only run the hot water and still needs to add the cold.
  • Using paraffin - This is the most common cause of burns to adults and children. Paraffin is highly flammable and burns easily. If the liquid is spilt the fire will spread quickly and cause severe and extensive damage.
  • Heaters or fires in winter and braais in summer - This is a common way for flammable materials to catch fire. When people leave candles or fires burning and heaters on throughout the night, during the cold winter months, accidents happen.
  • Faulty electrics - People get burnt from electrical faults in plugs, light switches and exposed cables.

How to prevent burn accidents from happening

  • Don’t leave children unattended in the home and make sure the caregiver is a responsible adult who is trained in First Aid.
  • Keep handles facing in when cooking on the stove - try to cook only on the back rings. Buy cordless kettles.
  • Don’t hold a hot drink when attending to an infant.
  • Put hot drinks near the centre of the table when there are small children around and stop using tablecloths at all.
  • Never leave a young child unattended near a heat source - not even to go for a few seconds to the next room.
  • Lower the temperature of your geyser.
  • When running a bath for your child run cold water first and then the hot water after.
  • Don’t leave children unattended around a braai and stop them from playing close to the braai area.
  • Check for faulty electrics and fix them immediately.
  • Keep a burn kit with your First Aid box in your home.

How to prevent fire accidents in your home

  1. Try to have smoke alarms installed in all bedrooms or and just outside those sleeping areas.
  2. Buy a fire extinguisher for your home and budget to get it serviced annually.
  3. Never leave a lighter or matches where a child can reach them.
  4. Make sure the paraffin stove is out of reach of children and placed on a stable and safe work area.
  5. Never go to bed without putting fires and candles out and switch off all heaters.
  6. Switch off all heaters, kettles and stoves when there is a power cut.
  7. Have a home fire escape plan - at least two different routes out of each room.
  8. Exits from your home must be clear to move through quickly and easily - don’t place furniture or other obstructions across doorways.
  9. Create a meeting point outside your home and share the information with your family, explaining why it would be needed.

What does burned skin look like?

A first-degree burn will appear red, painful and dry but there will be no blisters. A second-degree burn will blister and the skin may thicken. A third-degree burn will cause the skin to look thickened with a white, leathery appearance or look blackened and charred.

How to treat a burn

  1. Remove the person from the heat source without endangering yourself. If possible put out the fire or switch the electricity off at the mains.
  2. If appropriate, do Stop Drop Roll with or without a blanket, to extinguish the flames. Douse burning clothing with clean water if electricity is not involved but usually leave it to the paramedics or hospital to remove any fire-damaged clothing.
  3. Remove all jewellery and watches as burns swell quickly.
  4. If you have a burn kit, use it accordingly.
  5. For a first-degree burn, which means the top layer of skin is burned, run cool tap water over the injury, or use a cool compress if there is no access to running water or a Burnshield dressing.
  6. For a second-degree burn, which means the person has been burnt through two layers of skin, run cool water over the injury 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Loosely cover the burn with a clean cloth or sterile bandage from the first aid kit.
  8. Do NOT use any ointments, like Vaseline, or food products, such as butter, on the burn.
  9. Do not break the blisters because this may cause additional pain and infection.

When to seek medical help

  1. For a first-degree burn or second-degree burn, it is only necessary to see a doctor if the burn site gets worse or the pain doesn’t subside after a few hours.
  2. You should also see your doctor if the burn area is blistered or larger than the palm of your hand.
  3. For a third-degree burn, the victim must immediately be brought to the hospital but cool the burn first.

If you are concerned about the healing of a burn wound, historic burns or you want to learn more about the prevention of burn accidents, contact Children of Fire at www.firechildren.org

For more information please contact:
Children of Fire
+27 (0) 11 726 6529
firechildren@icon.co.za

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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How to Cope with an Allergy to Bee Stings

South Africans love being outside and who can blame them with all the great outdoor spaces and lovely sunny weather conditions. However, the outdoors also has an abundant bee population. Bees are beneficial to the environment, and if left alone will generally mind their own business, but they can also sting us if we threaten them, whether accidentally or not.

To most, being stung by a bee is slightly annoying and a little painful but can quite easily be treated at home. But for people who are allergic to bee stings, getting stung can trigger a strong reaction serious enough to warrant emergency treatment. This usually means a trip to the hospital casualty department.

How do you know you are allergic?

Bee stings can bring out a mild reaction, usually in the form of temporary pain and a slight localised swelling where the sting penetrated the skin. It is less common to have a severe allergic reaction. But did you know that having one type of reaction doesn’t necessarily mean it will stay this way? You can have a different reaction every time you are stung by a bee. This means that you need to be cautious around bees whether you react mildly or not.

A mild reaction presents with:

  • An immediate and sharp burning sensation at the site of the bee sting
  • Redness around the area of the bee sting
  • Slight swelling

Usually, this will clear up within a 12-hour period.

A moderate reaction presents with:

  • More irritation over and above the immediate pain
  • More redness
  • More swelling - can start as small and grow bigger throughout the day

Usually, the swelling lasts longer than a day and can take as long as 10 days to clear up completely. Having a moderate reaction doesn’t mean you will have a severe allergic reaction if you get stung again. However, if the reaction gets slightly worse every time you are stung, it is recommended that you see your doctor to discuss treatment and prevention.

A severe allergic reaction presents with:

  • Hives on the skin (not necessarily localised around the sting area) or the skin can become flushed or very pale
  • Swelling of the throat and tongue which will cause difficulty breathing
  • A weak and rapid pulse
  • Dizziness and even fainting
  • Nausea
  • Loss of consciousness

This type of reaction is called anaphylaxis and can be fatal if not treated as an emergency. If someone shows the above symptoms call for an ambulance immediately. People who are severely allergic can have these reactions very quickly, and about 30 to 60% of people who have severe reactions can become anaphylactic the next time they are stung.

When are you more at risk?

If you have had a bad reaction to a bee sting before, you stand a bigger chance of having a severe allergic reaction if stung again.

Adults are more at risk of having a severe reaction than children and it can be more life-threatening for them.

If you are frequently outdoors or live close to a beehive you should be very cautious and take preventative measures.

Prevention

By following some precautionary measures you will put yourself and your loved ones at a lower risk of being stung by bees:

  • When outdoors, make sure you keep sweet drinks and all food covered.
  • At home, clean away garbage and over-ripe fruit.
  • During bee season - spring and summer - don’t go barefoot when you are outside.
  • Be aware of beehives when you are mowing the grass as loud, vibrating noises can disturb the bees and, when threatened, the swarm may attack you.
  • Do not wear bright clothing and sweetly scented perfumes and body lotions if you are going outdoors in bee season.
  • If there are bees flying around where you are, do not panic and swat at them as this will make them feel threatened. Remain calm and slowly move away from them to another area.
  • If you can hear or see a swarm of bees approaching, calmly but quickly leave the area and get inside the closest building. Close all windows and doors behind you until the swarm has passed by.

The good news

Most people only ever experience mild reactions to bee stings. According to the Journal of Asthma and Allergy, around 5% of people will experience a severe allergic reaction to insect stings in their lifetimes.

If you have a moderate or severe reaction to bee stings, you should make an appointment to see your doctor who can help you with preventative measures in the event of you being stung again.

Finally, if you are not sure about the seriousness of a sting you can call an emergency number and ask for advice or call for an ambulance.

For more information please contact:
Jurgen Kotze, Emergency Care Practioner (ECP) REG (ECP 0001031)
Advanced Life Support
www.emer-g-med.co.za
Emergency number: 0861 007 911
+27 (0) 53 045 0350 (Royal Hospital and Heart Centre)
+27 (0) 53 723 3231 (Kathu Private Hospital)

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Skin Cancer

Q: What is skin cancer?

A: Simply put, skin cancer is a tumour or growth of abnormal cells in our skin. The most common types of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Of the three, malignant melanomas are the most dangerous and more likely to spread.

Q: What causes skin cancer?

A: Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight and in tanning beds. But there are parts of the skin not exposed to sunlight which also develop skin cancer. These skin cancers may be formed by exposure to toxic substances or by having a weakened immune system.

Q: What would increase the risk of getting skin cancer?

A: The most common factors that could increase your risk of developing skin cancer are:

  • Fair skin. Anyone can get skin cancer. However, having fair skin greatly increases your chances. If you have blond or red hair, light-coloured eyes, and you freckle or sunburn easily, you're more likely to develop skin cancer than a darker skinned person.
  • A history of sunburns. Having had one or more blistering sunburns especially as a child or a teenager, increases your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. However, sunburn at any age is also a factor.
  • Excessive sun exposure. Here is what most people don’t know - a tan is your skin's injury response to excessive UV radiation. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, without protective clothing or sunscreen you may develop skin cancer. Tanning beds are a high-risk factor, especially for malignant melanoma.
  • Sunny or high-altitude climates. You are more at risk if you live in a sunny, warm climate and at a higher elevation than people living in colder climates with much less sunshine.
  • Moles. People who have many moles or abnormal moles which look irregular and generally larger, are more likely to develop skin cancer. Pay close attention to your moles, check them regularly. If they change or worry you, visit your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Precancerous skin lesions. A skin lesion is a part of the skin that has an abnormal growth or appearance compared to the skin around it - rough, scaly patches varying in colour from brown to dark pink. Known as actinic keratosis, they are usually found on sun damaged skin on fair-skinned people and usually on their face, head and hands. They can increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
  • A family history of skin cancer. If anyone in your family has had skin cancer, you need to be extra careful to always wear sun-screen and wear protective clothing.
  • A personal history of skin cancer. If you developed skin cancer once, you are at risk of developing it again.
  • A weakened immune system. Having a weakened immune system increases your chances of developing skin cancer. People living with HIV/AIDS and those taking immunosuppressant drugs after an organ transplant are at greater risk.
  • Exposure to radiation. If you received radiation treatment for skin conditions like eczema and acne, you may have an increased risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.
  • Exposure to toxic substances. Exposure to certain substances, such as arsenic, may increase your risk of skin cancer.

Q: What are the signs of skin cancer?

A: Different types of skin cancer share some of the same signs, which is why it is important to have your doctor look at anything suspicious as quickly as possible. Skin cancers can appear as moles, scaly patches, open sores or raised bumps. Here are some signs to look for:

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cells lie just below the surface. They are your skin's inner lining. While squamous cell carcinoma usually occurs on areas of your body, such as your face, ears and hands which are exposed to the sun most frequently, people with darker skin are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma on areas not often exposed to the sun. Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as:

  • A firm, red nodule
  • A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface
  • A flat, scaly red patch (may look similar to a skin rash)
  • A small, smooth, shiny or waxy bump (bumps may bleed or develop a crust)
  • A red or brown scaly skin patch

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cells, which produce new skin cells, sit beneath the squamous cells. Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs in sun-exposed areas of your body, such as your neck or face. Basal cell carcinoma may appear as:

  • A pearly or waxy bump
  • A flat, flesh-coloured or brown scar-like lesion
  • A flat, scaly red patch
  • A small, smooth, shiny or waxy bump (bumps may bleed or develop a crust)
  • A patch with large blood vessels (may look like a birthmark)
  • A brown or black raised bump
  • A lesion with rolled edges and a central ulcer

Malignant Melanoma

While Melanoma can develop anywhere on your body, it most often appears on the face or the trunk of affected men, and most often develops on the lower legs of women. It can occur on skin that hasn't been exposed to the sun, otherwise normal skin or in an existing mole. In darker skin tones, melanoma occurs more often on the palms or soles, or under the fingernails or toenails.

Melanoma signs include:

  • A large brownish spot with darker speckles
  • A mole that changes in colour, size or feel or that bleeds
  • A small lesion (an area of skin that looks different to the skin around it) with an irregular border and portions that appear red, white, blue or blue-black
  • Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus
  • A new mole
  • A mole that is getting bigger
  • A mole that changes colour or shape
  • A mole that bleeds
  • A mole that itches or causes pain
  • A mole with an uneven border or shape

Q: Who is most at risk for skin cancer?

A: The following people are most at risk for skin cancer:

  • People with a lot of freckles
  • People who get sunburned
  • People with a family history of skin cancer
  • People with light skin
  • People with blue/green eyes

Q: How can I tell if I have skin cancer?

A: If you have a mole or other skin lesion that is causing you concern, show it to your health care provider. After examining your skin, she may remove the mole or bump herself or may ask you to see another doctor. The removed tissue will be sent to a laboratory and when the results, positive or negative, are back your doctor will contact you.

Q: How is skin cancer treated?

A: Where your skin cancer begins determines its type and your treatment options. Treatments include removal by your doctor, cryotherapy – freezing, electrodesiccation and curettage - scraping and burning, radiation therapy, and Moh’s surgery or wide local excision. The earlier skin cancer is removed, the better are your chances for a full recovery.

Q: Can skin cancer be prevented?

A: Yes, in many cases, skin cancer can be prevented. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid too much sun. You can do this by following these tips:

  • Avoid the sun during the middle of the day, 10am to 4pm, and don't spend long periods of time in direct sunlight.
  • Wear sunscreen year-round. Remember that cloudy or overcast days are as dangerous as hot, sunny ones. Use broad spectrum sunscreens with a SPF of 30, preferably higher - ideally SPF 50, which protect against the sun’s UV-A and UV-B burning and tanning rays. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside and then reapply every 2 hours. More if you’re swimming or perspiring. Be generous in your application and put it on all exposed skin, including your lips, the tips of your ears, and the backs of your hands and neck.
  • Use a lip balm with sunscreen at all times.
  • Wear protective clothing. Sunscreens don't provide great but not complete protection from UV rays. Wear preferably dark, tightly woven, long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your arms and legs. Wear a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than a baseball cap does. A brimmed hat protects your face, ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Look for brands that block both types of UV radiation.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Lights used in tanning beds emit UV rays and can increase your risk of skin cancer.
  • Some common prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including antibiotics, can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Check with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor. Examine your skin often for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks.
  • Check your entire body carefully, even the nooks and crannies. You may need to use a mirror.
  • Show any changing mole to your doctor, the earlier, the better.

If you have any concerns about any moles or other sun-related skin concerns, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

For more information please contact:
Dr F Spruyt (Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon)
MBChB (UFS) FCS (SA) Plastic Surgery | MMED Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (UFS)
Royal Hospital & Heart Centre
Tel: +27 (0) 53 045 0580
info@lenmed.co.za or info@drfritsspruyt.com

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.

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