Hone up now on your summertime first aid

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By Maryellen Garrison

In Kentucky, we usually spend more time outdoors during the summer months and we may need some First Aid Treatment for the following conditions.

Heat Exhaustion/Heatstroke

Excessive exercise, heavy sweating and not drinking enough water in hot weather can lead to heat exhaustion. You may have a headache, feel faint, nauseated, and dizzy and/or develop a fever. You may also have cool, clammy skin and look pale. Untreated heat exhaustion can become heatstroke, which is a medical emergency and can be life threatening.

To prevent heat exhaustion/heatstroke:

Drink plenty of water,  avoid heavy activities outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and wear light-colored, loose clothing.

What to do if you think you may have heat exhaustion:

Get into a shady or air-conditioned area immediately! Lie down and slightly elevate your legs and feet, loosen or remove tight clothing, drink cool water (without ice) or a sports drink, apply cool water to skin to lower the body’s temperature and call 911 if symptoms get worse.


Within a few hours of staying out in the sun, you may see redness, swelling and blistering of the skin. This can lead to pain, fever, headache and fatigue.

To prevent sunburn

Wear a shirt with long sleeves and a hat with a wide brim when you are in the sun, apply sunscreen of at least SPF 15 on exposed skin 15-30 minutes before going outside and reapply every 2 hours if swimming or sweating excessively. Note: Sunscreen without an expiration date expires three years from the date of purchase.

What to do if you have sunburn:

Take a cool bath or shower, apply an aloe vera lotion a few times a day, leave blisters intact to speed healing and avoid infection, take over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®) for pain (avoid aspirin) and do not apply petroleum jelly, lidocaine, or butter to the sunburned skin (applying these can make burns worse).

Insect Bites and Stings

Insects such as ticks, mosquitoes, and some spiders can bite and inject some chemicals into your skin to cause itching or a rash. Other insects such as bees, wasps, hornets and fire ants can sting and cause swelling and itching that are more troublesome.

To prevent insect bites and stings:

Avoid walking barefoot on grass, avoid using scented soaps or perfumes, dress in darker-colored and non-flowery print clothes, stay away from areas where insects nest or congregate.

What to do if you get an insect bite or sting:

Move to a safe place to avoid more bites and/or stings, do not try to pull out the stinger because this may release more venom, apply ice or a cold pack to reduce swelling and pain, apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion for itching.  Some people may experience an allergic reaction that can be life threatening. This requires immediate medical attention. Danger signs usually begin within 10 minutes after you are stung, but could happen hours later, and may include nausea, faintness, chest pain, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and difficulty swallowing or breathing. If you know you are allergic to stings from insects, your doctor can prescribe a special emergency medication kit to keep with you when you are outdoors.

Exposure to poison ivy/oak/sumac

Most people develop an itchy, burning rash within two to three days after their skin touches plants like poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac. The rash usually consists of small red bumps that blister and it may look crusty as it heals. Severe rashes may last for weeks even with treatment.

To prevent getting/spreading the rash:

Wash all clothing and outdoor pets that may have been exposed to the plant. Note: the rash itself cannot pass from person to person, only the oil from the plant leaf itself can cause spreading of the rash.  Wear protective clothing on exposed skin.

What to do if your skin touches poison ivy/poison oak/poison sumac:

Wash your skin and scrub under your fingernails with soap and water immediately, use calamine lotion for itching, use an oral antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and avoid antihistamine creams or lotions as they can worsen the rash, see a doctor if the rash is on your face or covers a large portion of your body.


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