10 Tips for a Safe Summer
Avoid Sun Damage
Kids love the carefree days of summer. There’s so much to do—bicycle rides, picnics, trips to the beach, and time at the park! Enjoying the great outdoors is grand, but summer can present safety challenges, too. Here are some cautionary tips to beat the heat and stay safe.
Playing in the sun can be fun but turn very uncomfortable quickly if you or your kids get too much exposure. Follow these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to avoid painful sunburn and damage from ultraviolet rays.
- Avoid sun exposure for babies younger than six months. Dress infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats to prevent sunburn.
- The first and best line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays, and cotton clothing with a tight weave.
- Stay in the shade whenever possible and avoid sun exposure during the peak intensity hours between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or greater. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside, and use sunscreen even on cloudy days. Be sure to apply enough sunscreen—about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
When people play in the heat, they sweat. Perspiration acts like a natural air conditioner; however, this system can fail if you overexert yourself on hot and humid days, resulting in heat exhaustion or heat stroke. During activity, your body uses large amounts of water and it’s easy to become dehydrated.
To prevent dehydration, you and your children should drink about a cup of water every 30 minutes on hot days. Give the kids their own plastic water bottles to encourage drinking before, during, and after activities. Limit caffeinated and sweetened beverages, which can deplete the body of water.
Steer Clear of Poisonous Plants
Remember this rhyme: “Leaves of three, let them be.” Exposure to the poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac plants can cause allergic outbreaks and uncomfortable itching for many people. If you come in contact with the sap of any of these plants, wash the exposed area and any clothing that has come into contact with warm to hot water. Know the plants in your yard and teach your child not to pick plants without first checking with an adult. Some plants are poisonous if ingested. Call the poison control center for emergency information (800) 222-1222.
Some children develop heat rash from excess sweating during these hot and humid months. Be sure to dress your little ones in lightweight, loose-fitting clothes made of comfortable cotton fabric. If your child feels especially uncomfortable, a cool bath with a couple tablespoons of either ground oatmeal or baking soda will help comfort itchy skin. Or, apply Calamine lotion to the uncomfortable itch; some people even use cornstarch to absorb excess body moisture.
Take the Sting out of Bug Bites
Along with summer fun come insect bites. Bites from common culprits such as mosquitoes, gnats, chiggers, ticks, bees, and wasps can make anyone miserable. Some insects are carriers of serious diseases, so it is important to avoid the bites as much as possible.
There are many safe and effective insect repellents that you can use to protect your child, including those that use DEET, citronella, or soybean oil. Remember to only use products that are approved for children and wash off the repellent when you return indoors. Be aware that insect repellents do not protect against most stinging insects, such as wasps, bees, and fire ants.
In general, apply the repellent to all exposed skin. When applying to the face, spray onto an adult’s hands and then rub onto the child’s face, being careful to avoid the eyes and mouth. DEET is absorbed through the skin, so limit the amount you use (and be sure it is age appropriate for your child). It’s best to apply the repellent to clothing rather than the skin whenever possible. To keep your children safe from insect bites, you can also:
- Keep as much skin covered with clothing as possible. Wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat especially in the evenings, when insects are at their peak.
- Wear light colored clothing
- Avoid scented products, which can attract bugs.
- Make sure you change water in birdbaths, fountains, wading pools, etc. Remove excess or unnecessary water from places where insects like mosquitoes will breed.
- If there are warnings about mosquito-borne diseases in effect, stay indoors during the evenings when mosquitoes are most active until further notice.
Beware of Sea Lice
Unfortunately, the ideal season for ocean sports coincides with the season for “sea lice,” which are common in some areas of the United States. These sea bathers’ eruptions form an itchy rash that scientists believe is caused by jellyfish larvae. The dermatitis usually becomes noticeable between four and 24 hours after exposure, although some may experience a prickling sensation while still in the water.
The only real prevention is to avoid the water when there’s a sea lice warning posted. If you or your kids are exposed to sea lice, remove your swimsuits and rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible. It might be a good idea to take several bathing suits with you to the beach and change your children into clean dry suits between swims. With sea lice, you can expect skin irritation with redness and welts, possible flu-like symptoms, fever, and nausea. Hydrocortisone cream and oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl, help to relieve the itching. Check with a doctor if the symptoms become severe.
Be Diligent about Pool Safety
Young children need continuous supervision near water; a child can drown in as little as a few inches of water in a five-gallon bucket as well as in a swimming pool. Swimming lessons, pool barriers, and safety locks are important safeguards, but nothing can replace adult supervision. These safety tips from the AAP can help your family have a safe summer in the pool:
- Never leave children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment.
- Install a fence at least four-foot high around all four sides of the pool.
- Make sure pool gates self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach.
- Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook—a long pole with a hook on the end—and life preserver) and a portable telephone near the pool.
- Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties.” They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
- Children are not developmentally ready for swim lessons until after their fourth birthdays. Swim programs for children under four should not be seen as a way to decrease the risk of drowning.
- Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”
Prevent Playground Injuries
Playgrounds and young children are synonymous with summer fun. Staying safe should be your number one priority. The National Program for Playground Safety offers this safety checklist for parents (visit them online at www.uni.edu/playground or call (800) 554-PLAY):
- Watch out for strings and ropes. String on children’s clothing and ropes used for play can cause accidental strangulation if caught on equipment.
- Children should play on age-appropriate equipment. Children ages two to five and kids ages five to 12 are developmentally different and need separate areas and different equipment to keep the playground safe.
- Nearly 70 percent of all playground injuries are due to falls. Acceptable surfaces include mulch/fiber, sand, and synthetic materials such as poured-in-place rubber mats or tiles. Playground surfaces should not be concrete, asphalt, blacktop, packed dirt, or rocks.
- Check to make sure the equipment is anchored safely in the ground, all equipment pieces are in good working order, S-hooks are entirely closed, bolts are not protruding, there are no exposed footings, etc.
- Adult supervision is needed to watch for potential hazards, observe, intercede, and facilitate play when necessary.
Pack a Safe Picnic
When you pack a picnic to feed your hungry family, keep in mind these tips from the US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. Call their hotline (888) 674-6854 and listen to safety recordings or visit their website at www.fsis.usda.gov.
If you’re carrying perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, and salads, keep everything on ice in your cooler. Have plenty of ice or frozen gel-packs on hand before starting to pack food. Consider packing drinks and water in a separate cooler so the food cooler is not opened frequently. This will help preserve a safe temperature for the perishables.
Don’t Use Fireworks at Home
A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than one that is partially filled. If the cooler is only partially filled, pack the remaining space with more ice or with fruit and nonperishable foods such as peanut butter, jelly, and cheddar cheese. Meat or poultry may be packed while still frozen so it stays colder longer; however, make sure it is fully thawed and cooked thoroughly before eating. Keep raw meat and poultry wrapped separately—or packed into separate plastic containers—away from cooked foods and raw foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Keep your cooler in the air-conditioned passenger compartment of your car, rather than in a hot trunk. When you park, move the cooler to the shade. Limit the times the cooler is opened and be sure to close it quickly.
Every year lightning kills about 100 people. Children should be taught to seek safe shelter before a storm begins. If no shelter is available, they should get to an open space and squat low to the ground as quickly as possible and kneel or crouch with their hands on their knees.
Kids love the crash, bang, boom of fireworks—and summer’s celebrations are full of these explosive bursts of light. Smoldering fireworks have seriously burned children, so it’s best to pay attention to these safety warnings by the AAP. Fireworks can result in severe burns, scars, and disfigurement that can last a lifetime.
Even fireworks that are often thought to be safe, such as sparklers, reach temperatures above 1,000 degrees F, and can burn users and bystanders. The AAP recommends prohibiting public sale of all fireworks, including those by mail or Internet, and encourages parents to attend professional fireworks displays instead of using fireworks at home.
With an extra ounce of parental supervision and some important summer safety education for you and your family, all of you can relax, kick back, and enjoy some fun and sun!
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