New Course: Managing Medicines in Schools

June 2012: We are delighted to announce that we have launched a new course: “Managing Medicines in Schools“.

This course is aimed at staff working with children who may be expected to administer medication to them. It gives an overview of some of the legal implications and practical issues surrounding the administration of medication to children as well as covering asthma, diabetes and epilepsy and the medications used for these conditions.

School Sports Team

Stopping Sunburn in Schools

Does your school or the one attended by your kids have a clear policy on the reapplication of suncream during school hours? Is it important that it does?

Although this year may be different due to the distinct lack of sunshine, a shocking statistic has emerged; 40% of British children get sunburnt at school each year during the summertime.

On average, 40% of British children get sunburned at school each year

Differing policies

The British Skin Foundation is urging the government to issue clear policies for all schools on the reapplication of sunscreen in school. They are trying to raise enough signatures on their petition to get the matter debated in parliament.

At present policies vary across the country. Some areas have good clear guidelines, others are somewhat patchy. There needs to be some consistency in policy, and a rational debate regarding how we mitigate the risk of sunburn versus the practical issues of applying sunscreen to all those who are vulnerable.

Keeping children in at playtime in hot weather is not a sensible option.

Sunburn is serious but preventable

Sun burn should be taken seriously. As a former cancer nurse specialist, I’ve seen only too well the damage caused by sun burn, and its long term consequences. Two new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every day in the UK amongst 15 to 34-year-olds. However in as many as four in five cases of skin cancer, it is preventable. Many are the times I nursed patients with terminal skin cancer who said that as children they regularly burnt, as no one knew any better.

Sun burn is preventable if sunscreen is regularly applied several times throughout the day.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence suggests that sunscreen with a minimum of factor 15 should be applied ½ hour before and after going out in the sun and reapplied two hours later.

Sunscreen with a minimum of factor 15 should be applied ½ hour before and after going out in the sun and reapplied two hours later.

- National Institute of Clinical Excellence

Most parents will have applied cream before their child goes to school on hot days. However the unpredictability of the British weather means that sometimes it may not have been applied in the morning because it was raining or overcast.

By mid morning, the sun may come out, but by then it is too late for a parent to apply sunscreen. The result is that your child comes home from school with red, sore skin.

Important Questions

In a school setting this is clearly quite impractical to achieve. Most of the school day would be wasted in either putting the stuff on or washing hands to get rid of the greasiness on them. In addition there are other factors to consider and which need debate, including:

Who should apply sun cream to children? The child, parents or teaching / support staff? There are many factors to consider here.

If the responsibility falls to the child, who determines whether a child is old enough to self administer? If he / she is not old enough, who would help them?

For those self administering, should teaching staff be held responsible for checking they applied it properly and not missed bits?

What happens if the child self administers and still manages to get burnt?

If the cream should be administered by a member of school staff, who is responsible for gaining written consent from parents?

How are child protection issues managed?

Who would be responsible for providing cream? Parents or schools or both? And how should allergies to particular brands be dealt with? What happens if the child forgets to bring their own sun cream in to school?

If a national policy were created, what happens if a child refuses to comply with it?

Some parents may also disagree with the concept, feeling this is a personal matter not one for school staff to intervene with. However, not doing so runs the risks of children getting hurt. In all other areas we have worked hard to eliminate risk to children but have not yet got the balance right in this case.

What do you think?

Is it feasible to allow 10 minutes at the end of morning lessons to apply cream before lunch so the children can wash their hands before food and play? Is it just a case of asking teachers to issue timely reminders to apply the cream? We’d be delighted if you could come up with sensible and practical suggestions.

Have your say by adding your comment below. Please note that this is a moderated blog, and so comments will not appear instantly.

A Little Care Could Save Serious Injury

Many use hair straighteners on a daily basis to achieve the sleek look which they want to present to the world.  However, for the unfortunate or careless few, including adults and children in particular, use of hair straighteners can cause a lifetime of scarring and damage.

New Report

A report from the paediatric burns department at Frenchay hospital in Bristol has indicated that 110 children have been treated for serious burns in the last five years caused by hair straighteners.  Many others will have been treated for similar injuries across the other regional burn units, and still more minor burns will have been treated at GP’s.

Serious burns caused by these devices are now the third most common cause of burn injury to children after hot drinks and hot food.  Treatment for such serious burns often result in lengthy hospital stays and skin grafts.

Hair straighteners get hot – very hot; up to 230 degrees in fact.  At temperatures like this it is very easy to see how children and toddlers could get burned just by picking them up by the wrong end or by standing on them accidentally.

Accidents can easily be prevented by ensuring that they are turned off after use, put into heat-resistant pouches and then put away.  Do not leave hot straighteners lying around to cool down, particularly if young children are present in the house.


Any area that is burned needs to be cooled down with copious amounts of water to reduce the burning and to help remove the heat from the skin. Depending on the size and depth of the area burned, it may be appropriate to cover with either a proprietary burns dressing or with clingfilm. Seek medical advice if the area damaged is larger than an inch square or the injured person is a child or if you are worried in any way.

Useful Link

Daily Telegraph’s reporting of Frenchay Hospital’s findings

A Recipe for Gardening Success

Whilst gardening is a fantastic hobby, it is not without its own risks.

Labouring in the garden under a hot sun (remember that?) brings sunburn and heat stroke and maybe muscle strains too. Many of the tools used are sharp and often more than a little rusty which poses problems when you cut yourself. Not only that, many of the plants themselves are somewhat irritant to the skin, causing rashes and blisters and other irritations. Soil also contains the tetanus bacteria and so gardeners are more at risk of acquiring tetanus via cuts to the skin.

Like all things in life, prevention is better than cure but how many of us think we might get hurt in the garden – unless of course we are wielding a chain saw about in a frenzy!

There is of course a recipe for ensuring you stay fit and well in the garden and it involves the following:

First take one human body
Apply the appropriate clothing; long legged trousers and long sleeve shirts to prevent scratches and bites
Undertake some gentle stretching exercises to warm up the muscles
Fill up a water bottle and take it out to the garden
Apply liberal quantities of sunscreen to exposed areas of skin
Check tools are clean and ready for use
Apply a hat
You should be ready to undertake the gardening now, just ensure you don’t overdo it!

Joking aside, if you do get any small cuts and scratches whilst gardening it is very important that you clean them thoroughly with warm water and that you cover them with a suitable dressing before continuing with your work. This is because there are a whole host of bacteria that live in the soil and which can be found on plants via bird droppings etc. These can cause some extremely nasty skin infections which can make you very ill.

In addition BBC Scotland recently reported a rare outbreak of legionnella linked to handling compost. So the advice is to consider wearing gloves when handling potting compost.

Winter weather warning

Over the last few days Eastern Europe has been plagued by extreme drops in temperatures that have led to many people dying due to the cold. So far more than 110 have died across Europe as the temperatures have plummeted to -30°C.

That cold front is covering much of the UK but is likely to meet with mild air from the west causing problems from tonight to Sunday. The Met Office have today announced level 3 weather warnings for extreme drops in temperature and the possibility of the heaviest snowfall this winter so far.

Those who are vulnerable to extreme cold weather, young babies and children, the very old and those who are already vulnerable due to ill health should take extra care. Those with breathing problems such as asthma should also be careful as the cold may trigger attacks. Be extra vigilant with elderly neighbours to ensure that they are warm enough.

Are you ready to deal with cold weather?

There are some basic steps that you can take to keep yourself and those around you safe and healthy during the cold snap:

  • Obviously you need to wrap up warmly using plenty of light layers to help trap the heat in, this works better than one thick layer.
  • Ensure you keep well hydrated and have regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day if possible.
  • Keep as active as possible.
  • Check on any family members or neighbours who may be more vulnerable than most.

Could you recognise the signs and symptoms of hypothermia?

Hypothermia happens when the body’s temperature drops below 35°C. It is often caused by being out in the cold or in an unheated or poorly heated room for too long. It could also be caused by falling into cold water and failing to get warm and dry quickly enough.

Hypothermia is a dangerous condition and can be life threatening. The early signs are quite insidious and can creep up on a person. They include:

  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • uncontrollable chattering of teeth
  • tiredness, progressing towards extreme tiredness
  • mild and growing confusion, perhaps ultimately becoming violently confused
  • slurred speech
  • slow, shallow breathing
  • unconsciousness.

Ultimately, the condition can be fatal, if the causes and symptoms are not treated in a timely fashion.

Babies are particularly vulnerable to cold and may look pink and healthy but will be very cold to touch. They are also likely to be very limp and refusing to feed.

If you suspect someone is suffering with severe hypothermia:

  • call 999
  • remove any wet clothing and replace with dry clothing if possible
  • cover with blankets
  • try to keep them warm.
  • Note: Do NOT use hot water bottles, or other direct heat sources, as these divert blood away from heart & lungs.

If the casualty is conscious, you can provide them with warm (but not hot or alcoholic) drinks.

Obviously, do not give any drinks to anyone who is unconscious!

Unconscious casualties should be placed in the recovery position and monitored carefully. If they stop breathing commence CPR.

For more information see:

Girl using inhaler to manage asthma symptoms

Online Asthma Test announced by Asthma UK

1st Feb 2012

Asthma UK have launched a new online test designed to help asthma sufferers gauge whether or not they are at risk of having an attack.  The online test is called Triple A: Avoid Asthma Attacks.

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