spring cleaning

Avoid Spring Hazards and Tackle Spring Cleaning Like a Pediatrician

Spring is here! The weather is warming up. And there’s finally a light at the end of the flu season tunnel. Unfortunately, as the snow melts and the flowers bloom, a whole new set of illnesses and health risks crops up. Noses run and eyes itch, the sun shines more brightly, and bugs take over. Now is the perfect time to make sure you have everything you need to combat these issues. While many people are thinking about how to KonMari their closets, a serious purge is in order for another area of your home…the medicine cabinet. So let’s talk about a different kind of spring cleaning and what you need to have on hand as flu season heads out and spring and summer move in.

Avoid Spring Hazards

Spring is the time for sun, fun, and relaxation. Unfortunately, the warm weather brings new medical hazards to consider. Prepare for common spring illnesses with these great tips, and keep your children safe during these otherwise fun months.


The reason for the spike in allergy flare-ups in spring is due to the blooming trees, plants, and flowers. Pollen and other products of nature get carried by the wind and end up in our noses, eyes, and lungs. Our immune systems react to the foreign elements and release histamine, which causes swelling and mucus production in the nose, redness and tearing in the eyes, and itching. More seriously, it can cause wheezing, excess mucus production, and swelling in the lungs.

Make sure you have the tools you need to fight against allergies including antihistamines and decongestants! Plan ahead, especially if your child has asthma or tends to wheeze. Speak to your doctor about how to fight allergies now as it can be stressful for both you and your child.

Heat Illness

I am already seeing cases of heat illness in the ER! Know how to recognize and prevent different types of heat illness.

Heat cramps are brief, painful muscle cramps in the legs, arms, or abdomen that may occur during or after exercise in extreme heat. They aren’t dangerous themselves, but they are a painful sign that it is time to hydrate and cool off. Make sure your children drink fluids every 30-45 minutes while out in the hot sun. Have fluids on hand that contain sugar and salt to replenish electrolytes.

Heat exhaustion causes increased thirst, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, irritability, headache, increased sweating, and fainting. If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, take them indoors immediately, take off their clothes, place cool clothes on their body, encourage fluids with salt or sugar (sports drinks usually cover all the bases), and call your pediatrician for next steps. 

Sun poisoning is a sunburn that forms large painful blisters on the body and causes fever, chills, nausea, headache, and signs of dehydration. Having sunscreen in your medicine cabinet or travel bag is imperative. Apply a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, and apply it 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply sunscreen at least every hour and after playing in water. Dress your kids in protective clothing, and limit their sun exposure as much as possible.

Bug Bites

Unfortunately mosquitoes are not only annoying but can be extremely dangerous. Mosquito-borne infections are usually caused by arbovirus and can lead to serious illness including Zika Virus, St. Louis encephalitis, and dengue fever.

Although not as common in Florida, tick-borne infection increases significantly during the spring and summer months. Lyme disease is popular in the media right now, but Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis are other infections spread by ticks, as well.

It is so important to make sure your child wears bug spray. I recommend using an organic bug spray because chemicals that repel insects can be strong. Natural repellants typically contain essential oils found in plants such as citronella, cedar, eucalyptus, or soybean. If you do use a bug spray with DEET, look for one with a DEET ratio of 10-30%. Do not use DEET on infants under 6 months old.

Pack a Medical Bag

Children also get sick on vacation. Changes in their schedule, long hours, crowded places, and confined spaces make the perfect equation for illness. Always travel with Tylenol and Motrin, especially if you go to the Caribbean. And always have the right dose calculated ahead of time. Don’t forget the sunscreen, after-sun care, and swimmer’s ear drops, too. It’s also a great idea to have a small first aid kit for minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises.

Spring Cleaning the Medicine Cabinet

Spring cleaning is a great opportunity to tackle your medicine cabinet. Check the expiration date on all over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Once a medicine has reached the expiration date, it may not provide the treatment you need. Do you know how to properly dispose of expired OTCs? If you’re scratching your head, it turns out, you’re not alone.

  • 62% of adults have never sought info on properly disposing of unwanted or expired OTCs.
  • 50% of adults say they typically dispose of unwanted or expired OTCs in the trash, but only 8% mix them with undesirable substances before tossing.

The good news is that in-home disposal of all OTCs is safe and convenient. Follow these simple steps from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to dispose of OTCs in your household trash:

  • Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds.
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
  • Throw the container in your household trash.

In addition to in-home disposal, you can also take advantage of your local community disposal programs or the U.S.Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) National Prescription Take-Back Day. Check to see if your local pharmacy has a safe medicine disposal program. Often, pharmacies have in-store disposal kiosks for disposing of unwanted, unused, or expired medication – both OTC and prescription drugs – anytime during business hours.

Final Thoughts

Spring cleaning extends to all parts of your home, including medications and first aid bundles for your entire family. Know what you’ll need to have at your disposal in the coming months, have those OTCs on hand and ready-to-go for trips away from home, and properly dispose of any unused or expired OTCs as you make room for new ones.

Happy Spring Cleaning!

Dr. Katie


I’m proud to take part as a blogging ambassador with the CHPA (Consumer Healthcare Products Association) Educational Foundation and KnowYourOTCs.org. This is a sponsored post! While I have received compensation from the CHPA Educational Foundation, all opinions are my own.

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