You can always tell when it’s summertime in the emergency room. “Summer is a wonderful time when kids get outdoors and have fun,” says Emory Petrack, chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Floating Hospital for Children. “But it’s also a time when we see a lot of preventable injuries. Kids are excited to be outdoors again, but they don’t always practice basic safety.” Here are a few tips from Petrack for how to make this a fun and safe summer.
Dr. Petrack says: “The number one thing to say about helmet safety is—Wear a helmet! We see a lot of injuries in the summer from kids who go out on their bikes or skateboards but don’t wear a helmet. Remember, wear a helmet every time you ride a bike or skateboard, no exceptions.
Buying a helmet for safety—Purchase only helmets that a bear sticker attesting that they meet Consumer Product Safety Commission standards. You want a helmet that fits snugly on your child’s head and doesn’t slide easily when touched.
Wearing a helmet for safety—Make sure that the helmet sits level on the head—not leaning to the front or back—and that the forehead is covered. Remember that the chin strap must always be fastened.
Tick and Mosquito Safety
Dr. Petrack says: “An unfortunate reality of summertime in New England these days is that parents must take precautions again ticks, which can spread Lyme Disease, and mosquitos, which can carry West Nile virus and EEE. Make sure your kids are protected from bugs while outdoors this summer.”
Do: Make sure to use insect repellant on your kids when they’re playing outside, especially if they’re in wooded areas or are near where water collects.
Do: Choose insect repellant that contains DEET or picaridin. The CDC recommends between 10 and 30 percent DEET. (The higher the concentration, the longer the protection lasts.) Some kids may prefer picaridin, which has no smell and lacks the somewhat greasy feel of DEET. Look for picaridin concentrations of between 5 and 10 percent.
Do: Have your kids wear pants, long sleeves, and socks when hiking or playing in the woods, or when going out when they’re likely to encounter lots of mosquitos. The clothing helps protect against ticks and mosquito bites.
Dr. Petrack says: “When we see injuries or drownings, the vast majority of them were preventable. If you have children at a pool, they must be supervised, and without distractions like cell phones and texting.”
Words to live by
An adult should be present—and paying attention—at all times when children are swimming.
When toddlers are in the pool, the adult should be in the water with them.
Running is not allowed around the pool.
An adult should check to make sure water is deep enough for safe diving.
The pool should be securely covered when not in use.
The gate should be securely closed when the pool is not in use.
Dr. Petrack says: “We all love to feel the warm sun, and many of us like to get a little color. Unfortunately, too much sun can have serious consequences, including painful sunburn and even the potential for developing skin cancer later in life. Babies should be kept out of direct sunlight, and everyone else should wear sunscreen and sun-appropriate clothing.”
Fun (and safe) in the Sun
Apply it: A broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s rated between 15 and 30 SPF. (Lots of sunscreens are rated even higher but it’s unclear whether the extra SPF actually does anything.) Make sure you apply sunscreen wherever you can see skin, and don’t skimp. Spray is OK for the body, but use cream for the face because the FDA is still studying the long-term effects of inhalation. Remember to reapply after the kids get out of the water.
Limit it: Exposure to the sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Wear it: Hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing. Opt for wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses that offer UV protection, and even long sleeves and pants when necessary. You can also buy special clothing that is treated with the same chemical that’s found in sunscreen. Wearing this clothing is the equivalent of applying SPF 100 sunblock. Unfortunately, the protectiveness fades over time as the chemicals degrade.