Summer Safety Tips for Kids
Posted on Jul 16, 2013
Swimming, skateboarding, bike riding, hiking – summer is prime time for enjoying the outdoors with your kids. But injuries, sun burns, bug bites and more can ruin the fun. Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s pediatric urgent care specialist Lauren Brave, M.D. , offers tips to stay healthy and safe.
Cuts, Scrapes, Twists and Strains
Outdoor playtime often leads to minor cuts and scrapes. Wash the wound gently and thoroughly with soap and water – it’s the most effective way to avoid infection. After cleaning with soap and water, bandages and antibiotic ointments are fine to use but not necessary. See a doctor for any pain, spreading redness, or discharge as these are signs of infection.
If you are uncertain whether or not a wound is deep enough to require stitches, seek medical attention as soon as possible. The risk of infection increases dramatically after a wound has been open more than six to eight hours, so early closure is best. To minimize scarring, cover the area daily with sunscreen (at least SPF 15) after the wound has healed.
To help soothe minor ankle, knee or wrist twists or strains, use R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) and an over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If there is a specific area of tenderness or pain around a joint or bone and your child is hesitant to move it, consult a doctor to see if an X-ray is recommended.
Whether your kids are zipping off to the local skate park or biking in the neighborhood, helmets are always a must. Skateboarders and scooter riders should also wear protective gear such as knee and wrist guards. Set the best example by always wearing a helmet yourself. If your child takes a tumble and hits his head while not wearing a helmet, call your doctor. If he is wearing a helmet and bumps his head, watch for symptoms such as vomiting, dizziness, confusion, slurred speech or a headache. Always replace a damaged helmet.
At dusk, wear long sleeves and pants and use an insect repellant containing DEET (10 to 30 percent concentration will provide effective protection). DEET insect repellants are not suitable for babies under 2 months old. If your child has bites from insects such as mosquitoes, use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to soothe itchiness and, if needed, oral antihistamine medication. See the doctor if your child is in pain, as this could be a sign of infection.
If your child is stung by a honeybee, wasp or yellow jacket, scrape out the stinger as quickly as possible with your fingernail or a credit card. Pinching and squeezing the stinger will only inject more venom into the sting site. Then treat as you would a mosquito bite. If your child experiences swelling, stomach pain, an itchy throat or a full-body rash, head to the nearest medical facility for care.
Out hiking? Check yourself and your loved ones carefully for ticks when you get home. If a tick has become embedded in the skin, grab the head with a pair of tweezers and pull it straight out. If the head breaks off, don’t worry. Much like a splinter, the body will expel it eventually. Clean the area with soap and water. Lyme disease is only spread by the deer tick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website section on Lyme disease provides the most accurate information.
Leaves of Three, Let it Be
Poison oak can cause an itchy, red skin rash. The best prevention tool: Teach your family to identify the plant – its leaves grow in clusters of three – and avoid it. If you think you or your child may have brushed against any poison oak, rinse skin and clothing as soon as possible with soap and water.
Poison oak reactions can last for two or three weeks; use topical hydrocortisone and oral antihistamines to ease the itchiness. If the rash spreads all over your child’s body, face or groin area, see the doctor.
Make sure you and your kids use sunscreen daily with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 that protects against UV (ultraviolet) A and B rays. Apply sunscreen about 20 minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after a dip in the pool, even if your kids are using a water-resistant product. Wide-brimmed hats, whole-body swimsuits, sunglasses and lip balm with an SPF15 add important protection.
Don’t use sunscreen on babies 6 months old and younger. Instead, protect babies from the sun with lightweight pants, long-sleeved shirts and a hat with a brim.
Treat sunburns with soothing agents such as aloe and emollient lotions. Use over-the-counter hydrocortisone to ease discomfort. Blistering indicates a more severe, second degree burn. Additional hydration, both for the skin and orally, is essential. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids, and if he or she develops a fever, see the doctor.
Beat the Heat
Plan your families’ outdoor adventures for the cooler morning and dusk hours. Avoid direct sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and always make sure everyone in the family stays well-hydrated.
If your child is playing summer sports or is physically active outdoors, keep cool drinks such as water or sports drinks close at hand. A 100-pound child should drink about 5 ounces every 20 minutes – even if he or she claims to not be thirsty. If your child develops a fever (101 F) after heat exposure, seek medical attention.
If you have a backyard pool, make sure it is fenced in with properly functioning and locking gates. Don’t rely on inflatable toys or mattresses to keep your child safe. Close supervision is essential at all times – you need to be close enough to reach out and catch your child if needed.
Looking for more summer safety or healthy kids tips? Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ HealthyChildren.org website.
Lauren Brave, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician in the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Pediatric Urgent Care Department at the Palo Alto Center. Advice is not intended to take the place of an exam or diagnosis by a physician.