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Beach Sand Could Make You Sick; Beach Safety; Picking The Right Sunscreen; Kids Refuse To Sell Candy for Fundraiser

Aired May 27, 2006 - 08:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning and welcome to HOUSE CALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Welcome to the unofficial start of summer. 'Tis the season of beaches, and vacation, and lots of fun in the sun. But experts say it's also the season of more emergency room visits.

That's right. Millions of people will be traveling to the beach this summer, watching for too much sun and dangerous water. But did you know this? The very sand between our toes could also make you sick?

Christy Feig has the story.


CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A typical healthy day at the beach with sun, surf, and sand. But according to studies collected by the Clean Beaches Council, mixed with all those fine grains are bacteria and microbes that could indicate potential health problems. The studies are eye catching because most people don't consider sand unsanitary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Water has a lot more disgusting things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You think of rinsing your kids off after they've been in the water, depending on the beaches where you are. Not rinsing them off after they've played in the sand.

FEIG: But studies on beaches where so-called indicator bacteria, like E. coli, are more concentrated in sand than in adjacent water. The indicator bacteria suggests a presence of fecal matter, which may cause illness.

WALTER MCLEOD, CLEAN BEACHES COUNCIL: It's usually in the sand at levels five to ten times higher than the adjacent water. So it's certainly of concern. And it warrants additional research.

FEIG: Researchers say microbes survive longer in sand than in water. The possible effects of contaminated sand on kids is higher because children spend more time playing in damp sand where bacteria breeds.

SHMUEL SHOHAM, DR., WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: The dirty beach can absolutely make you sick. Some people are more at risk. And those would be children, pregnant women, and people who have immune suppressive conditions.

FEIG: Doctors say use common sense. Wash off sand with soap and water immediately after you leave. Avoid getting sand in the mouth. Don't change diapers on the beach. And keep the beaches clean.

Birds leave more droppings if they are attracted to litter on the sand.

I'm Christy Feig reporting from Washington.


GUPTA: All right, Christy. Thanks.

And the obvious other danger at the beach is that inviting ocean water. Now the American Red Cross has some advice. They say be careful of the dangerous, toos. What that means is that if you or your children being too tired, too cold, too far from safety, getting too much sun, and too much strenuous activity.

All that's good advice from the American Red Cross. It can be easy to overdo things, especially when you're having fun. And telling us how to have fun and be healthy still in the summer is Dr. Leigh Vinocur. She's with the American College of Emergency Physicians.

First of all, welcome.


GUPTA: Thank you very much for being here. Now you work in a busy emergency room in Baltimore. And I'm sure you're seeing a lot of different summer related things already. What should people know before they actually start heading out to beach, or doing any kind of summer activity?

VINOCUR: Well, the beach, there's a lot of potential there. Obviously, number one is probably drowning and swimming. You really have to watch your kids. I mean, toddlers, you can't turn away for just a second. Drownings are probably the leading cause of death in kids under four years of age. So you really have do watch them like a hawk at the beach, and especially with the surf coming in and things like this.

GUPTA: Got to say, you know, that really scares me because I have a young child at home. And people talk about that. And it is real. It really happens. I'm sure you -- that's got to be nothing more tragic than seeing a child who is found at the bottom of a pool or drowned.

VINOCUR: Right. And drowning -- and you know, people have this misconception that drowning, they're going to hear splashing and people calling for help. And with children, it's really pretty silent. You can be at a busy pool. You're watching all these children. And one kid just slips under the water. So you have to be pretty vigilant about it.

GUPTA: All right, we're going to talk a lot more about that. That's an important topic.

Lots of e-mails coming in on this particular show. Let's start with a question from Ontario, Canada. Sheila writes this, "I have a 10 year old and an 8 year old and a pool. At what age would you recommend sending children for CPR and first aid training?"

Talking specifically about the children, I think, Dr. Vinocur, in terms of actually getting them trained, what do you tell her?

VINOCUR: Well, the American Red Cross does have a couple of courses for little kids. I think there's a course called "Facts: First Aid for Kids." And it's from the age range of say 5 to 8. And it's just sort of teaches them about the dangers. It's never too early to teach them what's dangerous, what to watch out for, how to get help.

And then they have a basic aid training course for a little bit older kids, where they might learn a few procedures. So you have to check with your Red Cross. That's, I think, from like 8 to 12 year olds.

GUPTA: OK. Well, let's keep going on theme here, because the backyard pools are something that a lot of people write in about. They're very common, obviously, more common in hot climates.

We got a question like this. What do parents, you know, who like myself who have a pool need to know specifically about keeping children safe?

VINOCUR: Well, obviously, there's a lot of rules around pools and having pools locked up. And again, never leaving your child for, you know, especially a toddler even looking away for a minute.

And if you're in the pool with a bunch of kids, make sure you really keep your eyes on the pool, because as we said, you know, kids will just slip under the water. You're not going to hear them screaming.

GUPTA: Fences?

VINOCUR: Fences around pools, absolutely. There are...

GUPTA: The alarms when the kids fall in the pools.

VINOCUR: The alarm fences are usually good. But believe it or not, by the time you hear the alarm, it's much better to know where your children are all the time. And there are some pool alarms, too, that will make splashing noises. It'll pick it up because they know when kids slip in, you're not really going to hear anything.

GUPTA: I hope a lot of people are paying attention what you're saying this morning, because simple advice like that, I think, could actually, you know, save a young child's life. Really important stuff.

Another big issue that you know about as well at the beach is sunscreen. How much, how often, what SPF should you use?

Well, Judy Fortin is here now with some answers on that.


JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to sunscreen, there are so many numbers and so many choices. We asked a dermatologist what's best to block out dangerous rays.

Does the higher number sunscreen equal better protection?

DR. RUTLEDGE FORNEY, DERMATOLOGIST: Absolutely. The higher of the number, the more protection you get. The numbers determine how many rays get through the sunscreen to your skin.

FORTIN: Which ingredients should we be looking for?

FORNEY: Well, the most important thing is to look for a broad spectrum sunscreen. I personally like the ones that have zinc dioxide and titanium oxide in them, because it's a metal block. And you put those on. And they're immediately effective.

The chemical sunscreens, which are not metallic, will protect you, but it takes 30 minutes for the chemical reaction to take place.

FORTIN: How much sunscreen do you need to be effective?

FORNEY: A lot more than most people put on. You actually need about an ounce to cover your whole body.

FORTIN: And this is an ounce.

FORNEY: And this is going to show you -- most bottles are 6 to 8 ounces. So you ought to use up an entire bottle the whole week you're at the beach.

FORTIN: That may look like a lot of lotion, but Dr. Forney says if you only use half as much sunscreen, you'll only get half the protection.

For HOUSE CALL, I'm Judy Fortin.


GUPTA: All right, thanks, Judy. That's good to see it like that as well. Gives you a sense of just how much lotion you need to be putting on.

But here's a question. What happens if you don't follow the SPF rules? Well, it could mean a nasty sunburn. We've got you covered there as well. Tips to ease the burn, that's coming up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're so sunburned, your T-shirt is on fire. A look at different ways to treat a sunburn. It's not just about aloe anymore.

And it doesn't have to be 90 degrees outside to be deadly in the backseat. How to keep your kids safe in the car.

First, take today's quiz. Which protects you better from the sun, light or dark-colored clothing? That answer, coming up.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Before the break, we asked which protects you better from the sun, light or dark colored clothing? The answer, dark colors. They absorb more of the damaging rays of the sun.

GUPTA: And if you spend too much time with too little protection from those damaging rays, the result can be a sunburn. Everybody knows that. But besides the long term effects, sunburn is just plain painful. And it can even blister sometimes.

So Judy Fortin is back with a primer on easing that burn.


FORTIN (voice-over): Catching some rays doesn't always lead to a deep, dark tan. For many people, it can result in a painful sunburn. So what's the best treatment?

FORNEY: Just like a burn from the kitchen, anything that cools off the skin will help decrease the actual burn.

FORTIN: The American Academy of Dermatology recommends taking a cool bath, using a moisturizer or aloe vera or over the counter hydrocortisone cream.

But not all remedies need to be topical.

FORNEY: Aspirin is incredibly helpful with the sunburn. It's an anti-inflammatory in the skin. And so, if you get a burn, aspirin is a great thing you should take on a regularly scheduled basis until it calms down.

FORTIN: For HOUSE CALL, I'm Judy Fortin.


GUPTA: All right, thanks, Judy.

And those golden rays can do more than just damage and cause a sunburn. Repeated exposure and burns is the number one cause of skin cancer, an important point.

And we're talking with Dr. Leigh Vinocur. She's an emergency room physician at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.

Lots of questions coming in about this as well, because people want to be out there...


GUPTA: ... trying to get a suntan. Let's talk specifically about a question from Marc in Ohio who writes this, "What is the best treatment for sun poisoning?"

First of all, let me ask you. What is sun poisoning?

VINOCUR: Well, actually, sun poisoning isn't really a medical term. It's sort of a lay term for when you get blisters, which is a bad burn. It's all a phototoxic reaction from the sun.

But also people a little bit sick. They might have nausea, vomiting, feel dizzy, and then the severe burn where they're going to blister up.

And there are certain things that can make you prone to that. Certain drugs, Tetracycline, birth control pill, certain perfumes can do it if you're in the sun with it, and even certain scented soaps.

GUPTA: The antibiotics is a good point. If you're going to be taking antibiotics, really watch out for the sun.

VINOCUR: Right. Talk to your pharmacist and find out is this going to make me sun sensitive, because then you will get a bad burn and blistering.

GUPTA: All right, let's keep going. Moving on from the sun, another threat to your skin this summer are bites, rashes, and stings. A viewer in North Carolina is trying to avoid all those things like I guess we all are.

Frank writes this, "My outdoor activities expose me to poison ivy and insect bites. What products do you recommend to treat poison ivy and rashes? Also, is DEET still the best mosquito repellant?"

And Frank, let me just tell you. First of all, the only FDA approved product for preventing poison ivy is called ivy block. It actually forms a claylike coating on the skin to help block the chemical that causes poison ivy. But what other tips are there out there?

VINOCUR: Well, you know, they say leaves of three, leave them be. So really, if you see a leave of three, and you're not sure, probably don't touch it.

But most people just brushing up against poison ivy won't get it. You really have to break the plant. The oil and the sap is in the plant. And then, it takes like within minutes. It penetrates the skin and it'll set up that dermatitis.

The key is you can wash it off right away with water and alcohol, which will sort of break up the oil. It won't stop that initial area from breaking out, because it's already absorbed, but it'll stop you from spreading it all over.


VINOCUR: And then again, topical steroid creams. And if you really get a bad reaction, you can go to the doctor, get Prednisone, which is an actual pill that's a steroid, that can reduce the swelling.

GUPTA: And what about the DEET? Because I've heard a lot about different mosquito repellants out there. What do you recommend?

VINOCUR: Well, DEET's a fairly safe one if you follow the directions. And that means you're mostly going to spray it on your clothes, small areas of exposed skin. Don't spray it directly into your face, obviously. Not for kids under two months of age.

But if you follow the directions carefully, don't spray it on cuts, also, it's pretty safe and pretty effective.

GUPTA: What about those kids under two months of age? Is there anything -- I mean, besides keeping them in indoors?

VINOCUR: Well, you know what, I don't know that I would recommend taking a kid less than two months of age camping. There's a lot of other problems that can happen, but...

GUPTA: Avoidance is best.

VINOCUR: ...certainly outside and, you know, a lot of people can even put mosquito netting on strollers and things like that if they're going for a walk.

GUPTA: OK. Getting good advice from Dr. Vinocur. Lots of important stuff here. Stay tuned for more on HOUSE CALL, talking about some summer safety.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Children react to summer's intense heat differently than adults. How to know when your kids have had too much fun in the sun.

But first, this week's medical headlines in "the Pulse."


FORTIN (voice-over): Smoking pot does not lead to an increased risk of lung cancer according to researchers at UCLA. A study reveals even heavy, long term marijuana users were not more likely to develop the disease.

The findings come as a surprise to researchers, who say compared to cigarettes, marijuana contains a higher concentration of chemicals that are linked to lung cancer. Doctors say it's possible that the THC, a potential chemical found in marijuana smoke, may kill off aging cells before they turn cancerous.

Potential good news for asthma sufferers who aren't responding to traditional drug treatments. Tests are underway on a new procedure that literally burns off muscle tissue surrounding and blocking the airways, making it easier for asthma sufferers to breathe.

Some researchers say the treatment may actually do some damage, though, and weaken or scar the airway.

Judy Fortin, CNN.



GUPTA: All right, we're back with HOUSE CALL. We all know as the summer sun heats up, the inside of a car can become unbearable. Research shows it doesn't have to be sweltering outside to be dangerous inside.

Christy Feig is back now with some surprising facts.


FEIG (voice-over): Janelle Eaton used to think poorly of parents who left the kids in their cars while they ran errands. So imagine her terror two years ago, when she took her 11-year old daughter to the dentist, but forgot she also brought along her 5-month-old, and left her in the hot car alone for 40 minutes.

JANELLE EATON, LEFT DAUGHTER IN CAR: When I got out there, she was real red faced, sweaty in the face, which was a good thing I found out later because she wasn't dehydrated. And she was screaming at the top of her lungs.

FEIG: Eaton was extremely fortunate. Her baby was fine. But every year, children in the U.S. die because they're left in hot cars. And it doesn't have to be 90 degrees outside for it to be deadly.

In a new study, Stanford University researchers found even when the temperature outside was in the 70s, the temperature inside a car could climb to almost 115 degrees within an hour. Extremely dangerous for kids.

STEVEN TEACH, DR., CHILDREN'S NATL. MEDICAL CTR.: For their body size, they have a lot of skin exposed to the environment. So they absorb heat very quickly and heat up much more quickly than adults do.

FEIG: But according to the group Kids in Cars, many parents don't realize how quickly it can become life threatening.

MICHELLE STRUTTMANN, DIRECTOR, KIDS IN CARS: Nearly one out of every four U.S. adults living with children in their home reported leaving their child alone in a vehicle.

FEIG: I'm Christy Feig reporting from Washington.


GUPTA: All right, thanks, Christy. And of course, as the dog days of summer approach, it's good to keep in mind that heat can play havoc on anybody from young to old. And we're talking with Dr. Leigh Vinocur with the American College of Emergency Physicians.

As you were watching that piece, I heard you say, gosh, I mean, that little baby's lucky to be alive. And this is a real problem. VINOCUR: Right, it is. And actually, the very old and the very young are the most susceptible to heat stroke or heat illness. So...

GUPTA: So what advice do you have? I mean, the obvious one. I mean, you don't want to keep your kid locked in a hot car, but what about just heat illness in general?

VINOCUR: Heat illness. You really have to keep ventilated and hydrated is key. It's sort of a whole spectrum, where it starts out with heat cramps and heat exhaustion, where you're just getting dehydrated. And you have nausea and vomiting and you get a little dizzy all the way to heat stroke, which is a true medical emergency. And that's where the body's thermostat breaks down.

And sweating, which is the mechanism to lose heat, doesn't work anymore. And then what happens is the temperature -- your temperature can shoot up to 106. You have organ failure. And the reason they call it heat stroke is the central nervous system starts to break down. And people become confused, they go into coma, they have seizures, and they need immediate care.

GUPTA: You know, it's interesting because you were talking about with sun poisoning, or some things that make you more vulnerable to that, antibiotics and things like that. Are the things that make you more likely to develop heat illness or...

VINOCUR: Yes, there are drugs that also increase your metabolism can do that. Little babies, because they can't get out of the way. Elderly people because their, you know, regulation -- thermo regulation isn't very good. Their thermostats are already not working very well. So those people. Alcohol can actually contribute.

GUPTA: How fast can it all happen? Let's say you're walking down the street and you know, it's hot outside. I mean, how quickly can you go?

VINOCUR: It's usually not walking down the street. It's maybe shut-ins. You know, elderly people that are shut in, and they don't have air conditioning. They sometimes can't even get the windows open because they're so old. There's no one there to help them.

And then the temperatures soar. And we have heat wave. But usually within several hours. Or athletes if they're really exerting themselves or recruits in the sun. And they really can't stop what they're doing. It's part of their training regime. And then they're not hydrated enough.

GUPTA: And we hear about the athletes quite a bit, as well. Good stuff. We're answering more of your summer questions, coming up. Plus a look at kids on strike.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The candy stripers, they've just said no to selling candy for a cause. Teaching their school a lesson in healthy habits. That story still to come on HOUSE CALL.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. Well, our Fit Nation series continues now with a look at some kids who took their school lessons to heart. You see, they were learning about good nutrition when they were asked to sell candy as a fundraiser for a school trip. So they just said, no.



GUPTA (voice-over): This school trip may look like any other field trip to Washington, D.C., but these kids are on strike. They refused to sell candy to raise money for this trip. And they've been named the candy striker kids.

DAPHNE AUGUSTE, CANDY STRIKER: It's important because of the people health and weight and their life, because eating a lot of junk food and unhealthy food could cause you to die.

GUPTA: Ten-year-old Daphne Auguste took the lead in her class to stand up and say no to selling candy. She felt so strongly about her convictions on health and wellness that she refused even though it meant forfeiting a trip to Washington, D.C.

AUGUSTE: Any other way. And you have to think about other people health and nutrition before you think about yourself.

GUPTA: But when the candy striker story got out, other kids responded.

EDMOND TUCKER, BROWNS MILL ELEMENTARY: I thought that she was very bold about not selling candy, knowing that many kids like candy. And it's becoming a problem nowadays.

GUPTA: And soon, donations poured in from all over the world.

MICHAELLE POPE, PRINCIPAL, NORTH SIDE ELEMENTARY: We were able to raise over $35,000 to bring the entire fifth grade student body here.

GUPTA: Most schools raise a lot of money for trips by selling candy, but Georgia principal Yvonne Sanders-Butler says she's seen amazing success with healthier fundraising options.

YVONNE SANDERS-BUTLER, PRINCIPAL, BROWNS MILL ELEMENTARY: Your gear, your school wear is a great fundraiser. Your T-shirts, baseball caps, socks, lanyards, wrist bands. Also theater. We are a discipline based art education school, sort of theater with dinner. Having dances, doing car washes. We also do water and natural juice sales that are really, really wonderful.

GUPTA: The kids said seeing the Washington Monument was exciting. And the adults praised the kids for taking a monumental stand.

(END VIDEOTAPE) GUPTA: All right. Great job, Daphne, and the rest of the kids for taking a stand. A really important one as well.

Stay tuned for more HOUSE CALL coming up after the break.


GUPTA: For more information about summer safety, go to That's the Web site for the American College of Emergency Physicians. Or go the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. That's at You're going to find information about everything from seat belts to boating safety. All very important stuff. It's been a good show, an important show.

VINOCUR: Yes, a lot of summer problems you got to take care of ahead of time.

GUPTA: You know, one thing that we didn't really get a chance to talk about was just protecting your head with helmets. What do you tell people about that?

VINOCUR: Well, it's key for bike injuries. 75 percent of bike fatalities are related to head injuries. And head injuries are the most serious injuries in anything. Inline skating, skate boarding. So you really definitely have to wear a helmet and protect your head.

GUPTA: Yes, inline skating as well. A lot of people forget that when you're rollerblading. The weather is nice. You got to wear that helmet as well.


GUPTA: Good show. Thank you very much.

Unfortunately, we're out of time. I want to thank our guest, Dr. Leigh Vinocur for being here.

Also, make sure to tune next weekend for another edition of HOUSE CALL. E-mail us your questions of Tune in to see if your e-mail was selected. But remember, this is the place for the answers to your medical questions. Thanks for watching.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news on CNN.


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