Summer safety for kids
Summer is almost upon us, and with it comes warmer weather, outdoor fun, and more freedom for our children to move and be healthy. As the season approaches, it helps to be reminded of ways to keep our kids safe in the summer months.
Don’t Bug Out
Unfortunately, fleas, ticks and mosquitoes love summer as much as we do. Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile Virus, which has been on the rise in recent years, along with St. Louis encephalitis and other diseases. To protect yourself, reduce the number of mosquitoes in and around your home, by draining sources of standing water and repairing door and window screens. Wear long sleeves and long pants outdoors when weather permits, and use mosquito netting over infant carriers and strollers. Avoid outdoors when possible at peak mosquito biting times (dawn and dusk).
The most effective repellents are those which contain 20-30% DEET, and repellents with greater than 30% DEET have not been shown to offer any extra protection. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends repellents with no more than 30% DEET on children.
Other ingredients such as picardin and essential oils (eucalyptus, lemon, cedar, soy bean) have shown some effectiveness in studies by the Centers for Disease Control if you want to try a more natural repellent. The AAP recommends NO insect repellents of any kind for children under 2 months. Chemical repellents containing permethrin are recommended for tick and flea infestations in yards, outdoor equipment, and even clothing, but should never be applied directly to the skin.
If you do find a tick on a member of your family, don’t panic. Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull UP evenly to avoid leaving the mouth-parts attached to the skin. After removal, thoroughly clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. As always, if a family member develops severe headache, confusion, or weakness, seek medical attention immediately, as these may be symptoms of a transmitted illness.
Sun Smart, Swim Smart
Make sure to use sunscreen every day you are in the sun, with at least SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 and both UVA and UVB protection (“broad spectrum”). Reapply after swimming. Recently, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) proposed new regulations regarding sunscreen, including removal of claims that they are “waterproof” or “sweat proof,” and changing products that claim to have SPF higher than 50 to read simply, “SPF 50+.” There is no reliable data that products with SPF over 50 provide any additional protection, and these products can be more costly and more laden with chemicals.
Please keep an eye on your children at all times. Children can drown in seconds, and in silence. Use personal flotation devices that are U.S. Coast Guard approved for children. If you own a pool, make sure that the fence and self-latching gate are in working order, and never allow children to swim in your pool unattended or while you are away. The Consumer Product and Safety Commission has a great website on pool safety: www.poolsafely.gov.
Additionally, avoid swimming when you are sick. Yes, chlorine helps to kill germs, but not immediately. Many people have become sick from germs in contaminated pools and lakes, so teach children to avoid getting water in their mouths. Take kids on bathroom breaks often, and check diapers/swim pants frequently. Be sure to shower after swimming, using the bathroom, or changing diapers.
Safe food handling and hand washing
It just isn’t summer without some delicious food cooking on the grill. Just make sure to avoid food-borne illness by washing hands before and after handling food, and use a food thermometer to ensure that meats are cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165° F. Marinate and defrost in the refrigerator, not on the countertop, and don’t put cooked meats back on the same unwashed plate that held raw meat. In hot weather, food should not sit out for more than an hour before going to the fridge.
The freedom that summer brings for kids can create a lifetime of memories. To make sure everyone stays safe, make sure to remind your kids of basic traffic rules, including looking both ways, using crosswalks, and never allowing children under 10 to cross streets without an adult. On bikes, wear a helmet every time you ride, even on short rides. Make sure you know where your child is at all times, and tell them when they are expected home. Teach kids to avoid isolated areas, and to practice the “buddy system,” instead of wandering off alone. Revisit the conversation about “stranger danger,” including the fact that grown-ups should ask other grown-ups for help, not children.
Summer also means more cars on the road, including yours. So remember to buckle up every time, and keep kids under 12 in the back seat. Remember that kids need a booster seat until they are about 4 feet 9 inches tall. Avoid distractions while you are driving, so that you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings. With more states and communities passing “no texting while driving” laws, consider an app for your phone that sends automated responses to incoming texts while driving, such as SafelyGo, DriveScribe or Zoomsafer. Interestingly, a recent study showed that tending to children in the car distracts the driver up to 12 times more often than talking on a cell phone! Set some ground rules for your kids, so that they know they can’t get your help until the car stops.
Our community has so much to offer in the warm summer months. Following these simple tips will ensure a safe and happy outdoor season.
The story originally appeared in Brazos Family Magazine’s Spring/Summer 2013 edition courtesy of Alison Fisher Pittman, RN, M.S.N., CPN, assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.