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10 Basic First Aid Tips for Summer Holidays

Words: Crush

Summer is finally here and that means sand and surf for all us that are lucky enough to live on the coast. For those of you inland, pools are ideal for a seasonal splash. It’s time to get outdoors and replenish the Vitamin D that we didn’t get enough of in winter. In anything we do, accidents are inevitable, and it’s always a good idea to brush up on how to treat any accident that may occur. Here are a few basic first aid tips to help out with your summer accidental mishaps and knowledge on when to get to a doctor.

Stings (Bees, Wasps and Hornets)

Summer First Aid

Summer has broken; bees are buzzing around to get pollen and stings can happen. Before you even get to the sting stage, remember that bee numbers are under threat, so do anything you can to avoid being stung in the first place, as the bee will die once it has stung you. Bees are critical to pollination and food production so take care to avoid a situation which may end in the death of a bee (and please don’t kill them!).

Here’s what to do if you just happen to get stung:

Stay Calm: Although bees can only sting once, wasps and hornets can sting repeatedly.  If you get stung, calmly walk away from the area to avoid more attacks.

Remove the Stinger: If the stinger remains in your skin, remove it by scraping it with gauze or your fingernail. NB: Try to avoid using tweezers to remove a stinger as squeezing it can cause more venom to be released into your skin.

Wash the sting area with soap and water.

Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling: NB If swelling moves to other parts of the body, i.e. neck or face, get to the emergency room immediately, as you might be experiencing an allergic reaction. Other symptoms include difficulty breathing, nausea, hives, or dizziness.

Pain Meds: Consider taking over the counter pain medication, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen as stings be painful!


First Aid

We all love soaking up some sun and brushing off the chill left behind by winter. It is extremely important to use sunblock when out in the sun. If you don’t, sunburn is what you can expect to deal with. Here are a few tips on how to care for your sunburn.

Take frequent cold showers or baths to cool the skin (really short ones if you’re in the Western Cape!) When you get out of the bath or shower, pat yourself dry, but allow a little bit of water to remain.

Apply moisturiser or specially formulated aftersun cream, specifically something that contains Aloe Vera or a similar ingredient that soothes sunburnt skin.

Consider taking painkillers if you’re really struggling – ibuprofen or aspirin can help with the reduction of discomfort, swelling redness.

Drink plenty of water for hydration – sunburnt skin draws fluid to the skin’s surface from the rest of the body.

If the skin starts to blister, don’t pop the blisters – if these appear it means you have a second-degree sunburn. Allow the blisters to heal; they are your body’s natural protection against infection.

Stepping on a Blue Bottle or a Jellyfish Sting

First Aid

If someone suggests applying vinegar or peeing on you to help with a blue bottle sting, kindly refuse. Vinegar and urine have been proven to be more damage than good for a blue bottle sting. So skip the vinegar and get into some hot water! No, it really does work, just follow the steps below.

Wash the tentacles off the body with seawater and pick any remaining tentacles with your fingers (don’t worry your fingertips have some of the toughest skin on your body, they can handle it!).

The best course of action would be to submerge the sting in the hottest water you can tolerate. If hot water isn’t handy immediately apply an ice pack. NEVER apply bleach, urine, vinegar or alcohol, as they are ineffective, as is using a towel to rub the skin, or using sand.

For jellyfish stings you should take a slightly different approach; here you can apply vinegar, but very briefly.

Get out of the water. Rinse area in vinegar for more than 30 seconds.

Remove tentacles with tweezers. (DO NOT use bare hands)

Soak the area in hot water, a shower can also be taken. Note the water needs to be hot, not scalding. Stay in the water for 20-45 minutes.

CPR in Case of Drowning

Summer First Aid

It’s always handy to know how to properly do CPR when around large bodies of water like the ocean or even a swimming pool – you could just save a life. The acronym CAB, which stands for circulation, airway and breathing, is used when CPR is about to be performed to help people remember the order.

The following is done:

  •      Hard chest compressions.
  •      Tilting the head back to clear the airway.
  •      Breathing, giving mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths.

For more info on where you can receive proper CPR training visit Action Training

Mosquito Bites, Ticks and Other Bug Bites

First Aid

With temperatures rising, mosquitos are out with a vengeance. To help prevent getting bitten her are a few natural remedies that act as a natural repellent:

  •      Cinnamon oil
  •      Citronella oil
  •      Eucalyptus oil
  •      Castor oil
  •      Rosemary oil
  •      Citron grass oil
  •      Cedar oil
  •      Oil of cloves
  •      Geranium oil
  •      Peppermint oil

If you happen to get bitten here are a few tips to help:

  •      Wash the area with soap and water
  •      Cold compress or ice may help with the swelling
  •      Apply calamine lotion that is readily available over the counter at your local pharmacy.


Ticks are another pesky bug that makes its presence known in summer, particularly if you love hiking or any outdoor activity. To take care of a tick bite:

Carefully remove the tick immediately. Use a set of tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Gently pull the tick out using a steady, slow upwards motion. Avoid twisting or squeezing the tick.

DO NOT handle the tick with bare hands (experts do not recommend using a burning match, nail polish or petroleum jelly to remove ticks.) If possible seal the tick in a container. Put the container in the freezer. Your GP may want to see the tick if you develop new symptoms.

Wash your hands and the bite site. Use warm water and soap, rubbing alcohol, or an iodine scrub.

When should you seek emergency care?

If you develop these symptoms seek emergency medical assistance immediately:

  •      A severe headache
  •      Difficulty breathing
  •      Paralysis
  •      Heart palpitations

Heat Illnesses

First Aid

Heat illness is an encompassing term for several conditions when exposed to high temperatures for a prolonged period of time.

Heat-related illnesses include:

Heat Stroke: a life-threatening condition in which the body temperature may rise above 41°C in minutes. Symptoms include a strong rapid pulse, dizziness, dry skin, nausea and confusion. Seek medical help right away if these symptoms appear.

Heat exhaustion: This can happen after several days of exposure to very high temperatures and not enough fluids. Symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a fast weak pulse. If not treated, can turn into a heat stroke. The best course of action is to get into a cool place and consume salt and mineral replacing drinks such as Powerade or Energade.

Heat cramps: muscle spasm or spasm that happens during exercise. It usually occurs in your abdomen, arms and legs. Follow the same methods if you have heat exhaustion.

Heat Rash: Skin irritation from excessive sweating. This is more common in children. To treat heat rash: Bathe or shower in cool water with a non-drying soap, then let your skin air-dry instead of towelling off. Use calamine lotion or cool compresses to calm itchy, irritated skin.

Avoid using cream and ointments that contain petroleum or mineral oil, which could block pores further.

Splinters / Thorns

First Aid

Splinters and thorns aren’t really limited to the summer season, but if you do enjoy doing some handy DIY work while it’s hot out, or maybe just a light hike in the woods or running around a park, splinters and thorns can happen. If you do end up getting one, here are a few handy tips to get those annoying little things out:

Clean the area with a mild soap and water. If it’s a small splinter and if it doesn’t hurt, allow the splinter to work its way out over a few days. For a large splinter – clean a small needle and tweezers with alcohol. If you can see the end of the splinter, grip it with the tweezers and gently pull out the entire splinter. If none of the splinter is sticking out, follow the path of the splinter with a needle. Open the skin and expose enough of the splinter to remove it with the tweezers.

If you are having trouble seeing the splinter, use stronger lighting or a magnifying glass. Clean the wound area again. Apply an antibiotic ointment and a bandage.

For thorns follow the same procedure, being careful to try and not break the thorn in the skin.

When to call your GP

Almost all splinters/thorns do not need medical assistance. However call your GP if:

  •      You can’t remove the entire splinter/thorn.
  •      The splinter/thorn is deep in the skin or the wound is bleeding heavily.
  •      The splinter/thorn is underneath a fingernail or toenail. Your GP may need to cut a notch in the nail to remove.

These we just a few handy tips to keep you and your family safe this summer. Remember always wear sunblock when outside and drink plenty of fluids when temperatures are hot.

Enjoy your fun in the sun this summer… safely.

Holidaying away this summer? Check out these tips for travelling with kids.

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