Skin disorders to watch out for this summer

Its summer once again and with school out, the temperature rising, and kids wanting to go outside and play, it should be more fun than ever with games, crafts, and activities indoors and outdoors.  That’s what makes summer unforgettable not only for kids but for adults as well.  But this also puts not only children but adults, too, at risk for summertime dermatitis and possible life-threatening situations.  We must be able to distinguish between innocent skin eruptions and potentially life-threatening disorders, and counsel children and adults on skin protection during this season.

Insect bites

 When conditions are more favorable for insect activity and opportunities for exposure increase the prevalence of insect bites, the diseases they carry also start to peak. Insect bites result in papular urticaria, those itchy, often grouped, pink urticarial papules (pantal pantal na maliliit). Excoriations occur, resulting in superimposed infection, most often with the bacteria Staphylococcus epidermidis or S. aureus.  It mostly affects younger children. Fleas and bedbugs are the most common. Treatment should be directed at limitation of exposure. Insect repellant use recommendations: Not for children under two months of age. Application is only once a day. Repellants, in combination with sunscreen, are not recommended. Do not use over cuts, wounds or irritated skin. After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water. Wash treated clothing before wearing again. When using sprays, do not apply in enclosed areas or near food. If applying to face, do not spray directly; spray first on hands and then rub on the face. 

Dermatitis and poisoning from plants

When hiking or mountain climbing, one is at risk of getting dermatitis or possible poisoning from plants.  Colorful flowers and plants are no doubt amazing! We all have been informed since way back when we were graders about the merits from the many uses of flowers and plants. But beware, there are some plants you ought to watch out for, or risk death. Such as:

Talumpunay tree/Cachubong. This tree is legendary because of its hallucinogenic properties. No wonder, it has become a weapon of sorts in many an enterprising criminal’s arsenal.

Rosary Pea. Native to India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Philippines, the Rosary Pea is a cold-blooded killer, a slender perennial climber that finds its way through trees and shrubs. One can easily identify it via its seeds, which are bright red with a single black spot. It is so lethal that a mere three micrograms have killed a person.

Castor plants. A lot of these plants grow in the wild.  Native to the Mediterranean region, Eastern Africa, and India, they are now widespread in the tropics.  On the good side, the plant has been the source of healing via the widely used Castor oil. But beware because this plant is so toxic it takes only four to five seeds to kill a full-grown adult. This is because of the toxin called ricin found throughout the plant.

Once the seed is ingested, you feel a burning sensation in the throat and mouth, followed by diarrhea and vomiting. Once the symptoms have set in, the process is unstoppable and the final cause of death is dehydration.

English Yew. If you are out to redecorate your garden, chances are your decorator may suggest using the English Yew bush as a foundation plant for hedges. Don’t be fooled by its aesthetic value. This tree has soft, bright-red berries that are palatable, enjoyed by a lot of birds. But the fruit is the only part that is non-toxic, 50g is enough to kill a human.

Belladonna. How ironic that this plant is useful as an antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, among many other uses. However, ingestion of the fruit, especially of a young plant, is toxic. Symptoms include: loss of voice, dry mouth, headaches, breathing difficulty, convulsions. The whole of the plant is poisonous but it’s the berries that are most dangerous as they are naturally sweet and attractive to children. Ten to 20 berries can kill a fully-grown adult, but as small as one leaf — where the poison is more concentrated — can kill a man.

Trompeta. Behind this plant’s charm lies a killer. Traditionally, the plant is utilized as a hallucinogen and intoxicant. The Trompeta is home to dangerous alkaloids.

Overdose of any of these alkaloids can lead to poisoning. This enchanting plant can be deadly as it can accelerate the heart rate and cause cardiac rhythmic disturbances, which can be fatal. As little as four grams of the trompeta leaves can be fatal to a young child.

Pong-pong. Because of its notoriety, this plant has been dubbed the Suicide Tree. And not without good reason as it  yields a potent poison, so potent it has been used for suicide.


Despite warnings to avoid excessive UV exposure, sunburn is still prevalent during the summer months. Its long-ranging effects include increased risk of skin cancer, photoaging, and immunosuppression. It has been estimated that if sun-protective clothing and sunscreens are used from early childhood, the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) would decrease by 75 to 80 percent. Reactions can range from mild redness to severe blistering, but all forms represent the body’s response to DNA damage and the subsequent release of inflammatory mediators. The best treatment for sunburn is prevention, however cool compresses, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and topical corticosteroids (Class III to VI) for short periods can be soothing.  Treatment is best when given within the first 24 hours of a sunburn.

Sun protection requires a multi-pronged approach incorporating avoidance of intense exposure, as well as protective clothing and hats, along with sunscreens. The risks of skin cancer and photoaging have both been tied to UV exposure in the first two decades of life. In general, children six months and older should use products with SPF 30 or higher with broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) protection. Sunscreens are not tested in children under six months of age, and should not be needed at this age, since shade and sun-protective clothing should be provided for this non-ambulatory group. But if necessary, physical blockers are a safe, non-irritating option.

source: Philippine Star