The summer months are a special time during childhood. Outdoor activities, vacations, camps, etc. all lead to lifelong memories. Discover the top ways to keep your children safe this summer and what habits to encourage (and avoid) during this long break from school.
I’ve been practicing pediatrics in the Evansville since 2007, as both a pediatric hospitalist and an office (private) practice. I really enjoy caring for children from birth through their teen years, so this topic is something I care deeply about.
- A helmet protects your child from serious injury and should always be worn. EVERYONE should have the “helmet habit.” Children learn best by observing adults. Set the example: Whenever you ride, put on your helmet.
- Your child needs to wear a helmet on every bike ride, no matter how short or how close to home. Many injuries happen in driveways, sidewalks, and bike paths, not just on streets.
- When purchasing a helmet, look for a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the CPSC safety standard.
- A helmet should be worn so that it is level on the head and covers the forehead, not tipped forward or backwards. The strap 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.
- Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike without training wheels until he or she is ready. Consider the child's coordination and desire to learn to ride. Stick with coaster (foot) brakes until your child is older and more experienced for hand brakes.
- Take your child with you when you shop for the bike, so that he or she can try it out. The value of a properly fitted bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new one. Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to “grow into.” Oversized bikes are especially dangerous.
- Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on your child.
- Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints.
- To remove a visible stinger from skin, gently back it out by scraping it with a credit card or your fingernail. Don’t squeeze it with tweezers.
- Avoid combination sunscreen/insect repellent products. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, but the insect repellent should not be reapplied.
- Use insect repellents containing DEET when needed to prevent insect-related diseases. Ticks can transmit Lyme Disease, and mosquitoes can transmit West Nile Virus and other viruses.
- The current AAP and CDC recommendation for children older than 2 months of age is to use 10% to 30% DEET. DEET should not be used on children younger than 2 months of age. Don’t put repellant on young children’s hands, because they often put their hands in their mouth, rub their eyes, etc.
- The concentration of DEET varies significantly from product to product, so read the label of any product you purchase. Children should wash off repellents after being outdoors.
- As an alternative to DEET, picaridin has become available in the U.S. in concentrations of 5% to 10%.
- When outside in the evenings or other times when there are a lot of mosquitoes present, cover up with long sleeved shirts, pants and socks to prevent bites.
- Equipment should be carefully maintained. Open “S” hooks or protruding bolt ends can be hazardous.
- Swing seats should be made of soft materials such as rubber, plastic or canvas.
- Make sure children cannot reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap them.
- Never attach—or allow children to attach—ropes, leashes, etc. to play equipment; these are a strangulation risk. If you see something tied to the playground, remove it or call the playground operator to remove it immediately.
- Make sure your children remove helmets and anything looped around their necks before playing.
- Metal, rubber and plastic products can get very hot in the summer, especially under direct sun. Do not allow children to play barefoot.
- Parents should supervise children on play equipment to make sure they are safe.
- Don’t EVER put a child on an adult/older child’s lap to go down a slide. The little child’s foot can catch on the side of the slide, and the extra weight of both people can put too much force on the leg, causing it to break. (This exact problem is being seen in emergency rooms.) If the child isn’t big enough, or “ready,” to go down a slide by themselves, then wait until they are.
Skateboard, Scooter, In-Line Skating and Heelys Safety
- All skateboarders and scooter-riders should wear protective gear; helmets are particularly important for preventing and minimizing head injuries. Riders should wear helmets that meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or other approved safety standards.
- While in-line skating or using Heelys, only skate on designated paths or rinks and not in the street.
- Most injuries occur due to falls. Inexperienced riders should only ride as fast as they can comfortably slow down, and they should practice falling on grass or other soft surfaces.
- Before riding, skateboarders should survey the riding terrain for obstacles such as potholes, rocks, or any debris. Protective wrist, elbow and kneepads should be worn.
- Children should never ride skateboards or scooters in or near moving traffic.
- Riders should never skate alone. Children under the age of eight should be closely supervised at all times.
Lawn Mower Safety
- 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.
- Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
- Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers. (This is a particular peeve of mine, when I see people on riding lawnmowers holding a little baby!)
- Keep children out of the yard while mowing.
- If children must be in the vicinity of running lawnmowers, they should wear polycarbonate protective eye wear at all times.
- Fireworks can result in severe burns, scars and disfigurement that can last a lifetime.
- Fireworks that are often thought to be safe, such as sparklers, can reach temperatures above 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, and can burn users and bystanders.
- Families should attend community fireworks displays run by professionals rather than using fireworks at home.
Drowning is a leading cause of childhood death. Because water safety is such a long and important topic, I've published a separate blog on this topic, Top 20 Water Safety Tips for Children. I encourage you to read it.
Finally, I want to talk about the importance of limiting screen time over the summer. The AAP recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time for children ages 2 and up. This includes video games, computer use and television.
Too much screen time is linked to problems with weight (childhood obesity is on the rise, and too much screen time is one the reasons), as well as problems with social development, attention/behavior disorders and more.
Children were made to move. They thrive on outdoor activities, camping, summer sports, and other activities.
During those long hot afternoons when no one wants to be outside, reading is a great activity. It keeps their minds active, develops imagination, teaches new things, and helps them stay on track through the summer (not having to re-learn as much when school starts again). Participating in a summer reading program at any local public library is a way to build interest in reading for your children, and have even more fun doing it.
Thanks for reading along. Have safe, fun summer.
I am currently accepting new patients (children from birth through 21) in my practice here at Deaconess Clinic Boonville.
Source of some content included in this article is from the American Academy of Pediatrics.