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Doc Talk Preparation, inspection can help ensure your child’s safety this summer

  • Published Saturday, July 5, 2014, at 2:08 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, July 8, 2014, at 7:10 a.m.

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Summer is a wonderful time to enjoy the simple pleasures of being outdoors. Unfortunately, thousands of children are injured playing during the summer months every year. Here are a few precautionary tips to help keep your child safe while enjoying outdoor activities the remainder of the summer.

Play equipment

Inspect: Always inspect equipment for broken parts or sharp edges. Make sure that all S-hooks are properly closed and that wooden parts don’t have splinters. Metal parts can become very hot, so feel the surface before your child hops on.

Select a soft landing zone: Sand, rubber mats or wood chips under and around the equipment provide a soft landing and can help prevent many injuries.

Educate: Instruct children to walk a safe distance from swings in use, to have just one on the slide at a time and to quickly move away from the bottom after they ride down. Children ages 5 and under should play separate from older and bigger children to decrease episodes of injuries.

Trampoline safety: Head and neck injuries are common and some deaths have occurred. Enforce rules of one child on the trampoline at a time. Remove the ladder next to the trampoline to limit access by small children.

Swimming

• Never allow a child to swim without adult supervision, preferably by a strong swimmer. Swimming lessons do not “drown proof” children.

• A pool should have a sturdy fence around it. A gate should swing outward and be spring loaded so it closes and latches without assistance. An alarm on gates or doors helps decrease the risk of drowning.

• Ensure pool drains have proper covers as suction from the drain can pull and trap a child underwater.

• Make sure the pool has safety equipment – life preserver and shepherd’s crook (pole with loop) should be available.

• Always have a cellphone in case of an emergency.

Bicycling

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that 600 children die from bike accidents each year and several hundred thousand are injured. Make sure your children know the rules of the road.

• Ride on the right side of the road with traffic.

• Stop at all stop signs and red lights.

• Use hand signals.

• Wear bright colored clothing to be visible to motorists.

Safety equipment is important, too.

• Ensure the child wears a helmet designed specifically for cycling. Football helmets or other hard hats do not protect the skull from impact that can occur in a cycling accident.

• Make sure children ride a bike appropriate for their size to allow optimum control.

• Never allow children to ride at dusk or after dark, even with bike reflectors and reflective vests.

Sun protection

Sun exposure contributes to skin cancer or melanoma as an adult, and the more sunburns one has and the more severe they are (particularly as a child), the greater the odds of developing skin cancer.

• Always apply SPF 12-30 sunscreen (overcast skies still let ultraviolet rays through) 15 to 30 minutes before leaving the house, preferably a broad spectrum sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. Don’t forget the hands and ears.

• Reapply sunscreen during and after swimming. When perspiring, apply every two hours. No sunscreen is totally waterproof, regardless of what the packaging claims.

• Stay in the shade when possible.

• Wear tightly woven, light-colored clothing to help reflect the sunshine.

• Cover arms and legs when possible.

• Wear a wide-brimmed hat.

Heat exhaustion

It doesn’t take long to heat up with 100-degree temperatures, which can result in heat cramps and exhaustion.

Heat cramps are muscle spasms in the abdomen, arms and legs that may occur during exercise. If your child is having cramps, take them to a cool place and give them lots of fluids – water or sports drinks. Even after the symptoms go away, have the child continue to rest for several hours. Untreated heat cramps can progress to heat exhaustion.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body’s temperature becomes elevated due to heat, not illness. The symptoms are the same as for heat cramps, but may also include:

• Cold, clammy skin

• Fatigue

• Headaches

• Nausea or vomiting

• Dizziness or fainting

• Rapid pulse or breathing

To prevent heat-related illnesses, ensure your child drinks plenty of fluids, such as water or sports drinks with electrolytes. Pop or caffeinated drinks are not good because they contribute to dehydration.

If your child displays symptoms, give them fluids and monitor them closely. If symptoms do not improve rapidly, especially if there is an elevated body temperature, seek immediate medical care.

One of the most important components for summertime safety is a responsible adult. Many educational classes are available through the American Red Cross (www.midwaykansas.redcross.org) and other organizations. Ensure your babysitter also knows how to respond to a serious situation.

Mark J. Springer is a pediatrician with Via Christi Clinic.

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