Summer reminds us of our childhood. Days spent endlessly playing outside (without sunscreen). Riding bikes (without helmets). Catching fireflies (without bug spray). Swimming (without floaties). Roasting hot dogs over an open fire (without oven mitts). How did we survive?
Kids today face endless opportunities to injure themselves. Keep the following tips in mind to ensure your family’s summer is incident- and accident-free.
Sunscreen - Kids want to play outside and who can blame them? Avoiding sunburn decreases the risk of skin cancer. Use a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply an ounce of sunscreen on each child. Reapply at least every two hours, and more often if swimming or sweating. Infants should avoid sun exposure. Minimize the risk of sunburn by avoiding the sun from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Hats and sunglasses are a must.
Helmets - Kids love to bike, skate, and scoot, so wearing helmets is a must. Children can be severely injured if they fall without a helmet. Make sure the helmet meets CPSC safety standards and be consistent in requiring its use. Have a strict no-helmet, no-ride policy. Accidents can happen anywhere, even in the driveway. Wear your bike helmet as an example. Buckle the chinstrap and sit the helmet over the forehead. They must be strapped on to work effectively.
Insect repellent - Why is it that the evenings call us outside? It finally cools off enough to enjoy the outdoors. Unfortunately the bugs like it, too. Try to avoid being outside at dusk, and if you must be outside then, cover the skin with clothing. Empty standing water. Avoid scented products which may attract insects. If your child has a bee sting allergy, keep his or her epinephrine auto-injector available. (Use it and dial 911 if he or she gets stung.) Avoid combination sunscreen and insect repellent products as sunscreen needs to be reapplied, while insect repellent does not. Children over 2 months may use an insect repellent product with 10%-30% DEET. Shower your child before bedtime to remove the insect repellent. Be sure to wash little hands well before eating.
Boating safety - Our area is rich with boating opportunities, and most children love to go out on a boat. It is a fun family activity, but safety needs to be stressed. Children should wear a life jacket at all times on a boat. Be sure that the life jackets are an appropriate size. Don’t drink and boat, just as you wouldn’t drink and drive. Be smart while boating and keep your children safe on the water.
Firework safety - Who doesn’t like to watch fireworks? Still, fireworks can be as dangerous as they are beautiful. Fireworks can burn, blind, scar, disfigure, or even kill children. Sparklers, for example, can reach temperatures over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not allow your children to play with sparklers or ignite fireworks. Instead, let them carry glow sticks. Let’s leave the big booms to the professionals so that we can all have a safe and festive holiday (and not spend it in the emergency room).
Lawnmower safety - Even though it’s summer, chores still have to be done. Cutting grass is a rite of passage. Lawn mowers account for many preventable accidents each summer. Use a lawn mower that stops if you release the handle. Children must be over 16 years old to drive a riding lawn mower, and over 12 years old to push a walking mower. They need closed toe shoes and protective eyewear. Keep younger children and pets inside while mowing. Avoid pulling a lawnmower in reverse. Only adults should put gasoline into a lawn mower. Put safety first while cutting the grass.
Water safety - It wouldn’t be summer without water fun, would it? Kids love to play in water whether it’s at the beach or the pool. However, children must be supervised in and around the water at all times by an adult (who can swim and knows CPR). Swim lessons and floaties are not a substitute for adult supervision. Never leave kids alone in or around water. Teach them to never swim alone. Surround your pool with a fence and consider installing a pool alarm. Keep your pool drain cover up to code. Swim in areas with lifeguards. Explain rip currents to kids and how to swim parallel to the shore until released from the current. It only takes a few minutes for a child to drown.
Car safety - Cars get dangerously hot in the summer. Never leave your child in a car, even for a few minutes. Children can die quickly in the extreme heat of a locked car. Restrain your child in an approved child safety seat in the back seat. Children under two years old should be rear-facing. Put your purse or bag in the back seat to remind you to check there. Use a teddy bear in the front seat as another reminder. Ask your sitter to call if your child is ten minutes late to daycare. No errand is worth a child’s life.
Playground safety - Kids love to go to the park. It’s a great way to run off energy. There should be a soft playground surface. Ensure that surfaces, such as slides, are not too hot, as children can get burned. Trampoline use should be supervised by adults. One at a time on the trampoline please. Enjoy the park, and be safe on the playground.
Help keep your children safe this summer. Have a wonderful summer filled with fun!
Dr. Melanie J Wilhelm DNP CPNP is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Pediatric Specialists in Norfolk. Her first book, Raising Today’s Baby, is available on Amazon or at www.RaisingTodaysChild.com. You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on facebook and twitter @DrMelanie4kids.