Summer presents an entirely new set of challenges when it comes to childhood safety. From sunburns and scraped knees to securing proper immunizations and physicals, there is much to take into consideration while school is out.
Here are a few suggestions to help keep children safe and happy this summer:
Protect your skin
• Parents should purchase a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens in the SPF 15 to 30 range are usually the best. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are no FDA studies that show sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) rating greater than 30 is more effective.
• Be sure to apply sunscreen a half-hour before going into the sun to ensure it is absorbed into the skin. The most important thing to remember is that sunscreen needs to be reapplied at least every two hours and immediately after swimming or perspiring. Remember to cover the sensitive areas like the nose, tops of the ears and tops of the feet.
• Infants older than 6 months may use sunscreen, but caregivers should wash off the sunscreen immediately to avoid any possible skin irritation. Hat and protective clothing should also be used and limitation of time in direct sunlight is stressed.
• The strongest UVA rays occur from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and it is important to remember that you can be sunburned on an overcast day.
• If your child does develop a sunburn, be sure the child is adequately hydrated, use lukewarm baths and cool aloe. If the sunburn is concerning to you, contact your pediatrician.
Cuts, scrapes and other injuries
When encountering a cut, immediately apply pressure and clean the wound. It’s a scary situation for the parent, especially if there is heavy bleeding. Stay calm and remember these helpful tips.
Seek medical attention if:
• The bleeding lasts longer than 15 minutes
• The cut was obtained by something rusty or dirty that may easily cause infection
• The cut is deeper than ¼ inch
• You can see fat, muscle or bone
• The wound is over a joint, knee, knuckle, elbow or deep in a finger
• There are any cosmetic concerns (facial wounds may need to be glued or sutured for best results)
If the wound does not require medical attention, be sure to keep area clean and covered. If signs of infection develop (redness, discharge), call your pediatrician.
During the summer, children expend a greater amount of energy due to outdoor play, camps, sports programs, etc. The warm temperatures increase loss of water through perspiration which can result in dehydration. Children may not feel the need to drink as much as adults. The AAP recommends children drink six glasses of water on an average day. During activity, your child may lose up to half-liter of liquid per pound. The AAP suggests about 5 ounces (or two kid-size gulps) of water or sports drink every 20 minutes for children and 9 ounces for adolescents. Make water a fun flavor and appealing to the eye by adding fruit. Sports drinks, flavored water or lemonade are all good choices during the summer. Remember that drinks containing caffeine like soda or iced tea can cause the body to lose water due to their diuretic qualities. Remember to pack a water bottle for all hikes, bike rides, trips to the park and any other outdoor activities.
• If you have a landline, make sure to teach your children how to use it correctly
• Make a list of important phone numbers (grandparents, neighbors, work numbers, primary care physicians and poison control)
• Teach your children how to call 911
• Set up a family emergency plan so your child knows what to do in an emergency situation
Stay on schedule with required immunizations and physicals
The summer is a very popular time for parents to take their children to their pediatricians due to easier scheduling. The target ages of those who need vaccines and physicals are usually the ones that parents are the most diligent about. However, it is important to remember that children need one well check per year even if they are up-to-date on vaccinations. Yearly things like weight management and healthy behaviors and choices are important aspects of health and keep a child on track to healthy adulthood. Keeping children on schedule not only helps their overall health and well-being, but it also helps to build a positive relationship with their primary care doctor.