Hello and welcome back to another pediatric blog! With summer rapidly approaching and schools winding down I thought it would be good to have a blog dedicated to summer safety tips. There is a lot to cover so let’s just jump right in:
- Protect children against bug bites.
- Avoid ticks and other disease carrying bugs by using insect repellent. Check for ticks and remove them from clothes and skin with tweezers.
- Children should hats to protect against ticks when walking in the woods, high grasses or bushes. Check hair and skin for ticks at the end of the day.
- Use DEET repellents when necessary, but only on children older than 2 months of age. The CDC recommends the use of 10% to 30% DEET- 10% DEET provides protection for about 2 hours while 30% DEET provides 5 hours of protection.
- Avoid the outdoors with mosquitoes are bad. If you have to be outdoors, cover up with long sleeved shirts, pants, and socks to prevent bites.
- Do not use scented soaps, perfumes, or hair sprays on your child- these attract certain bugs. Also avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints.
- Avoid areas where insect nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and gardens where flowers are in bloom.
- To remove a visible stinger from the skin, gently back it out by scraping it with a credit card or your fingernail.
- Avoid combination sunscreen/insect repellent products because sunscreen needs to be reapplied every 2 hours but the insect repellent should not be reapplied that often.
Swim / Water Safety:
- Never leave children alone in or near the pool/spa/hot tub, even for a moment.
- Drownings are the leading cause of injury death for young children age 1 to 4, and three children die every day as a result of drowning.
- Close supervision by a responsible adult is the best way to prevent drowning in children. Also teaching kids to swim or formal swimming lessons can protect young children.
- If you have your own pool – install a fence at least 4 feet high around all four sides of the pool. The fence should not have openings or protrusions that a young child could use to get over, under, or through.
- Avoid inflatable swimming aides such as “floaties.” They are not a substitute for approved life jackets and can give children and parent’s a false sense of security.
- Avoid entrapment: suction from pool and spa drains can trap a swimmer underwater. Do not use a pool or spa if there broken or missing drain covers.
- Large inflatable, above-ground pools have become increasingly popular for backyard use. Children may fall in if they lean against the soft side of an inflatable pool.
- Although such pools are often exempt from local pool fencing requirements, it is essential that they be surrounded by an appropriate fence just as a permanent pool would be to protect children from gaining access unsupervised.
- Share safety information with family, friends, and neighbors.
- Boating: children should wear life jackets at all times when on boats, docks or near bodies of water. Make sure the life jacket is the correct size for your child. Blow-up water wings, toys, rafts, and air mattresses should not be used as life jackets or personal floatation devices. Adults should wear life jackets for their own protection and to set a good example.
- Open Water Swimming (Lake/ Oceans/ Rivers): never swim alone. Make sure your child knows never to dive into water except when permitted by an adult who knows the depth of the water and who has checked for underwater objects. Never let your child swim in canals or any fast-moving water. Ocean swimming should only be allowed when a lifeguard is on duty or an adult who is watching the child and who is trained in CPR. Teach children about rip currents (if you caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore until you escape the current, and then swim back to shore).
- Never allow children to drink from an open source of water such as a lake or creek. Open water may contain dangerous parasites. Remind children to avoid swallowing water while swimming. Always have fresh water to drink.
- In the event of a storm, seek shelter. Get out of the water. Get off the beach. This is in case of lightning.
Sun/ Heat Safety:
- Stay hydrated.
- Avoid playing outside during peak heat. Be aware of the signs of heat stress, and provide lots of cool beverages (water is best).
- Heat-related illness happens when the body’s temperature control system is overloaded. Infants and children up to 4 years of age are at greatest risk. Even young and healthy people can get sick from the heat if they participate in strenuous physical activities during hot weather. Link: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html.
- Never leave infants, children, or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
- Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Wear sunscreen whenever going out into the sun.
- Use a sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection. Use a minimum of SPF 15 (sun protection factor).
- Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. Reapplication of sunscreen is just as important as putting it on in the first place, so reapply the same amount every 2 hours.
- Keep in mind that no sunscreens are truly waterproof, and thus they need to be reapplied especially if your child goes into the water.
- Just a few serious sunburns can increase you and your child’s risk for skin cancer later in life. Their skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful rays whenever they’re outdoors.
- Baby Sunburn Prevention: a baby’s skin is more delicate and thinner than an adult’s and burns and irritates more easily. Even dark-skinned babies may be sunburned. Babies younger than 6 months of age should be kept out of direct and indirect sunlight because of the risk of heat stroke (particularly avoid having baby out between 10 am and 2 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest). Dress babies in lightweight cotton clothing with long sleeves and long pants and a sun hat with a wide brim. Sunscreen may be applied to babies younger than 6 months to small areas of skin uncovered by clothing and hats.
- Keep children out of the yard while mowing the lawn – lawnmowers may throw debris such as stones or other objects. Use a lawnmower that automatically turn off once the handle is released and wait until the blades stop before removing any grass.
- Do not let children ride as passengers on riding mowers.
- Children younger than 16 years should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers.
- Children younger than 12 years should not use walk-behind mowers.
- Be on lookout for snakes and other potentially poisonous/dangerous animals.
- Inspect any playground equipment in your yard prior to use and fix any loose boards, chains, slides etc.
- Keep children away from Grills, Fire Pits, and Barbeques etc. While they are in use.
- Your child should not be close to the grill once it is turned on. Have your child draw on the pavement with chalk around the grill area (3 feet on all sides) – a grill only zone which no one should enter while adults grillings.
- Remind your child that a grill/fire pit/barbeque is just like the stove because it gets very hot and should never be touched.
- Don’t forget to clean the grill and turn it off when you are done. An unclean grill can also cause flare-ups, which can be lethal.
- Parent should supervise children on play equipment at all times!
- Playgrounds should have safety-tested mats or loose-fill materials (shredded rubber, sand, wood chips, or bark) maintained to an adequate depth.
- Equipment should be carefully maintained.
- Open “S” hooks or protruding bolts ends can be hazardous.
- Make sure children cannot reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap any body part.
- Never attach, or allow children to attach, ropes, jump ropes, leashes, or similar items to play equipment – children can get strangled on these.
- Make sure your child remove helmets and anything looped around their necks.
- Metal, rubber, and plastic products can get very hot in the summer, especially under direct sun, so make sure slides / equipment are cool to prevent burns.
- Do not allow children to play barefoot on the playground.
Bicycle / Skateboard / Scooter / Rollerblade Safety:
- A helmet protects your child from serious injury and should always be worn. Wearing a helmet at all times helps children develop the helmet habit.
- Any time your child gets on anything with wheels they should have their helmet on, no matter the distance of the ride or where they are riding. Many injuries happen in driveways, sidewalks, and bike paths, not just on streets.
- Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike without training wheels until he/she is ready. Consider your child’s coordination and desire to learn to ride.
- A helmet should be worn so that it is leveled on the head and cover the forehead, not tipped forward or backwards. The straps should be securely fastened with about 2 fingers able to fit between chin and strap. The helmet should be snug on the head, but not overly tight. Skin should move with the helmet when moved side to side. If needed, the helmet’s sizing pads can help improve the fit.
- Children should never ride skateboards or scooters in or near moving traffic.
- Should never skate alone. Children under the age of 8 should be closely supervised at all times.
ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles):
- Children who are too young to have a driver’s license should not be allowed to operate or ride off-road vehicles.
- Because their nervous system and judgment have not fully developed, off-road vehicles are particularly dangerous for children younger than 16 years.
- Children are involved in about 30 percent of all ATV-related deaths and emergency room treated injuries!
- Do not ride double on ATV’s – Passengers are frequently injured when riding ATVs as most ATV’s are designed to carry only one person (the driver)
- Riders should wear helmets (designed for motorcycles not bicycles), eye protection, sturdy shoes (no flip flops) and protective / reflective clothing.
- ATV tires are not designed to grip on pavement so drivers should not ride on paved roads
- Parents should set an example for their children when operating ATV’s themselves.
- Fireworks can result in severe burns, blindness, scars, and even death.
- Fireworks that often thought to be safe, such as sparklers, can reach temperatures above 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, which can burn users and bystanders.
- Families should attend community fireworks displays run by professionals rather than using fireworks at home.
- If using fireworks at home, keep children back at safe distances and adults only should be the ones handling the lighting the fireworks.
I know this was quite long but I felt like we certainly touched on the most important things to help keep you and your children safe this summer in the heat and around water. Enjoy the warm weather!
Baby Sunburn Prevention. (2013). Retrieved May 10, 2018 from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/bathing-skin-care/Pages/Baby Sunburn-Prevention.aspx
Make Summer Safe for Kids. (2017). Retrieved May 10, 2018 from https://www.cdc.gov/family/kids/summer/index.htm
Summer Safety Tips: Staying Safe Outdoors. (2017). Retrieved May 10, 2018 from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/Summer-Safety-Tips-Staying-Safe-Outdoors.aspx
Swim Safety Tips. (2018). Retrieved May 10, 2018 from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/Summer-Safety-Tips-Sun-and-Water-Safety.aspx
Written By: Christopher Elkins, CPNP
Practitioner Elkins was born and raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He is a board certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner by the PNCB (Pediatric Nursing Certification Board). He sees patients from birth to 21 years of age. Christopher and his wife Erin have an 8-year-old son, Everett. Christopher and his family enjoy traveling to the mountains of North Carolina in the fall; enjoy the beaches during the summer, and concert-going all year round.