by Dr. Gregory Gelpi
Summer is a fun time of the year for children and families to enjoy together while school is out of session. But with high temperatures, pesky bugs and mosquitos, and a lot of time spent in potentially dangerous water, there are also a lot of safety concerns during this time of year.
Despite the many concerns about safety during the summer, these risks can be prevented with a little preparation and education. Here are some tips for a safe summer:
Limit sun exposure.
When possible, avoid or limit the amount of time spent outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. These are the most hazardous times for UV exposure, so plan indoor activities for this time. If this is not possible, seek shade when you can and allow for breaks from the sun, especially for babies and young children who are more susceptible to exposure from the sun.
Protect your children with sunscreen and proper clothing.
When you are out in the sun, choose a “physical” or “chemical-free” sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and that is made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to protect from UVA and UVB rays. Apply generously 30 minutes before your child goes outside and reapply at least every two hours. Protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses can also help protect your child from the sun.
Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids every day -- especially before, during and after physical activity and when outside in the sun. Children should drink two to four cups of water every hour during outside play while also avoiding sugary drinks because those can actually cause dehydration.
Never leave children in a hot car.
Cars can get up to dangerous temperatures in a short amount of time in the Louisiana heat, even with cracked windows. Children are at even greater risk for heat stroke as their bodies can heat up three to five times faster than that of an adult.
Practice water safety.
Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old and the third leading cause of death among children of all ages. Never assume someone else is watching your child. If swimming somewhere without a trained lifeguard, designate a “water watcher” to ensure someone has their undivided attention on children in and around the pool at all times.
Utilize proper pool safety equipment.
Make sure young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard approved life jackets. Keep rescue equipment like rescue ropes and safety rings poolside. Remove toys from the water when your children are not in the pool because a child might fall into the pool trying to reach a toy still in the water from previous swimming sessions.
Beware of bugs.
Not only are bugs a summer nuisance, but they also carry risk of infection and disease. Insect repellents containing the chemical DEET are considered to be the most effective at keeping bugs away and can provide protection for up to eight hours.
Learn how to fight the bite.
Most reactions to insect bites include only mild swelling, but some can cause more painful reactions. If stung by bees, wasps or similar insects, be sure the stinger has been removed from the site of the sting and wash the area with soap and water. Icing the infected area may also help reduce swelling and ease pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers may help, but be sure to follow any dosing instructions for your child. Consult a doctor if your child develops any of the following symptoms within three weeks following a bite: rash, fever, body aches, fatigue, headache, stiff neck or disorientation.
Prevent summer time injuries.
Falls at home and on playgrounds are common injuries seen during summer months. Check any playground equipment to make sure it has been well maintained and that surrounding surfaces are not hazardous for falls. Make sure young children are supervised at all times on any equipment that can lead to falls.
Schedule your child’s annual checkup.
Summer is the perfect time to schedule your child’s annual well check to make sure he or she is in good health. For older children that play organized sports, sports physicals can be given during summer months. It’s also an opportunity to ensure your child is up to date on all vaccines so that they are protected from communicable diseases.
About Dr. Gelpi
Gregory J. Gelpi, MD, FAAP received his medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans. He then completed his pediatric training at Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge. Dr. Gelpi currently serves as Chief of Pediatrics at Woman's Hospital and is a member of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and the Louisiana Breastfeeding Steering Committee. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and is Board Certified in pediatrics. Dr. Gelpi treats children of all ages.