One of my patients came to see me today with severe right knee pain. This is not a new problem, and in fact, we have been dealing with flare ups of her osteoarthritis for years. It mainly affects her knees and hands and today her right knee was swollen and felt like the “bone was rubbing together” with each step. She could hardly walk because of the pain.
Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative arthritis and it is one of the most common maladies of aging joints, affecting millions of people. The cartilage in joints wears down and inflammation causes the bones to build up spurs and small micro tears. It affects women more than men and the cause is unknown. There are likely genetic factors as it tends to run in families. Arthritis can occur in any joint but the most common are the fingers, wrists, hips, neck and spine and knees. Stiffness (especially in the morning) and pain are the main symptoms that limit mobility.
My health club’s outdoor pool’s hot tub has a new sign:
“No children under 12 allowed in the hot tub…this includes dangling feet and dipping toes!”
It’s very large and placed in front of the entrance to the hot tub at the stairs. Not only can you not miss it, you can’t miss reading it – the letters are huge and neatly written.
You only have to be at the club for a few minutes to see why the need for the sign:
1. This week, the high heat: in this weather, kids will dehydrate quickly and put themselves at risk for heat-related illnesses. Just not worth the few minutes in the very hot water. Kids may already be relatively dehydrated if not drinking enough in heat waves so time in hot water will hasten the onset of heat illnesses in that situation.
2. Parents were already ignoring the smaller posted signs.
3. Hot tubs are really grown-up venues and actually have a therapeutic function. They are not toys or meant as recreation so shouldn’t be used or fostered as such.
Adults, too, shouldn’t be in a hot tub for very long when the outside temperature is in the mid 80′s and above with high humidity. We, too, can become dehydrated and put ourselves at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. However, sometimes us adults need the hot tub for therapeutic reasons, such as after exercise, to aid in the healing of injury, arthritis, etc. That’s how I use the hot tub and why I found myself sitting in it for a few minutes on an 85 degree, very humid day. My healing back needed a few minutes of intense heat and those jets after my usual swim. I kept my eye on the time and after 10 minutes got out and downed some cold water.
The sign did keep away most people and most older kids and adults did respect it. But, a few blatantly did not. One mom actually read the sign for a good few minutes and then when her toddler tossed a fit because she wanted to go in she finally relented but said “only your toes…that’s allowed.” Well, actually not. The sign specified no toes specifically so I’m not sure how she made the leap that her daughter’s toes were the exception.
Her daughter didn’t dip for long before a lifeguard came over and shooed her away. The mom looked miffed but hopefully will be wiser next time and not attempt to pull one over on the staff or the rest of the people there to have fun and were willing to follow the rules.
Safety aside, the ultimate issue here, the other important issue is teaching our kids that rules are meant to be followed. If we break the rules and don’t follow them ourselves, our kids will grow up thinking they, too, can break rules, that they are “above the rules”. Those are the kids who tend to get themselves into all sorts of trouble as teens. The seeds of risk taking and bad behavior do start young and are often planted by watching us.
So, have a blast this summer but follow the posted rules. You’ll not only keep your kids safe today…but tomorrow, too.
For more information on heat illness in kids, click here.
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