Health Matters Blog

Keeping Summer Fun Safe for Children and Families

By Cynthia Howes

Cynthia Howes, RN, CPNP

Cynthia Howes, RN, CPNP

Summer is finally here! Getting out and enjoying the warm weather are what kids do in the summer. Activities range from biking, swimming, hiking, camping, picnicking, playing sports, and just playing with friends and families. Following a few safety tips helps keep kids healthy.

It is very important to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Reduce damaging exposure by wearing tight weave cotton clothing, sunglasses, and wide brimmed hats. Stay in a shaded area whenever possible and limit peak exposure time from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Also remember to wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Sunscreen with an SPF of 15-30 helps to protect against UVA and UVB rays. It should be applied 20 minutes before going out and reapplied every two hours. After swimming or sweating, sunscreen should be reapplied. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies under 6 months should avoid sun exposure and be dressed in lightweight long sleeve shirts, long pants and brimmed hats to avoid sunburns. If that is not possible, parents can apply a small amount of sunscreen of 15 SPF to the infant’s face and backs of the hands.

Water safety is critical. The leading cause of death among children, including infants and toddlers is drowning. It is vital that parents make sure that there is appropriate supervision, safety equipment, and instruction. Dr. Thomas K. McInerny, the 2013 president of the AAP, says, “While swimming lessons are helpful, they are not a foolproof plan. Parents should never – even for a moment – leave children alone near open bodies of water.” Infants and toddlers should always be within arm’s length, providing “touch supervision”. Ideally, the adult supervising the children knows how to swim and perform CPR. “Floaties” or other inflatable aids should be avoided as they may give a false sense of safety. Approved life vests are recommended.

Everyone on a bike should wear a helmet on every bike ride. Between the ages of 5 and 14 years, research shows that children are at the highest risk of bicycle injury. Head injury accounts for the majority of bicycle-related deaths and hospital admissions. Helmet use provides significant reduction in head, brain, and severe brain injury for riders of all ages. Parents should set the example by always wearing a bike helmet too. Helmets should be worn so that they are level on the head and cover the forehead. They should not be tipped backwards or forwards. The helmet should be a bike helmet that meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) federal safety standards. Children should be taught traffic and safety rules before being allowed to bike on the street. They should ride with traffic, stop and look both ways before entering the street, stop at all intersections, use hand signals before turning and look all ways before turning.

Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated is especially important in the summer. If children are involved in strenuous sports or activities, they should be well hydrated before starting. Water alone is adequate for one hour of activity. After that, every 20 minutes children should be drinking additional water or sports drinks. Clothing should be light weight and light colored to help with evaporation of sweat. If children start to feel dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous, they should seek a cooler surrounding.

Protecting from bug bites is also important while enjoying the outdoors. Avoid using scented soaps, perfumes or hair spray on your child. Avoid using combination sunscreen/insect repellent as the sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours while the bug repellant should not be reapplied. The current AAP and CDC recommendation for children older than 2 months of age is to use 10% to 30% DEET. DEETS containing insect repellents prevent insect related diseases like Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus and other viruses. Insect repellent with 10% DEET protects for about 2 hours and 30% DEET provides about 5 hours of protection. The lowest concentration for the length of time or protection should be used.
Some facts to be aware of are that trampolines are dangerous. Injuries are common, even with netting, padding, and adult supervision. Dr. McInerny states, “Trampoline injuries are common, and can be potentially catastrophic. From temporarily debilitating sprains, strains, and contusions to cervical spine injuries with lasting consequences, the risks associated with recreational trampoline use are easily avoided.”

Wonderful memories come from summer fun. Getting out and enjoying the activities that are available while remembering seasonal safety tips is crucial. Enjoy and be safe!

Cynthia Howes, RN, CPNP, is a pediatric nurse practitioner with Just So Pediatrics, a member of BMH Physician Group. She can be reached at 802-254-2253.

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