Health Update: Summer Safety

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Joseph Halphen PA-C
Lake After Hours Central
    When the last school bell of the school year rings, children race outside eager for their long anticipated summer vacation. With all of the fun and activities that we can participate in during summer, we also have to keep in mind that this is the time of year when most accidents happen. Here are simple things you can do to ensure that your children's summer fun involves minimal risk.
    Children should always wear protective helmets while riding their bicycles. Make it a non-negotiable rule, no helmet, no ride. Helmets should be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) and will have a CSPC sticker attached. Be sure to check that the helmet fits snugly and is properly adjusted to fit your child's head, and always secure the straps. Local bike shops often will help you to ensure you have a proper fit and application. In addition, if riding an ATV, appropriate riding gear and supervision is strongly encouraged.
    In the car, kids weighing less than 80 pounds should be secured in a car seat or booster seat, and everyone should wear seatbelts, it’s the law. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that seatbelts saved more than 13,000 lives in 2009. In fact, 63 percent of car-accident-related deaths involved people who weren't wearing their seatbelts, including 34 percent of kids under the age of five.
    To avoid heat-related injuries, make sure your kids remain hydrated. Most kids will not drink enough water without continuous prompting from parents, because they generally don't feel thirsty enough, especially when swimming / playing or when they've already begun feeling dehydrated. During the activity, periodic drinking should be enforced. For example, each 20 minutes, 5 ounces of cold tap water or flavored sports drink for a child weighing 90 pounds, and 9 ounces for an adolescent weighing 130 pounds, even if the child does not feel thirsty.
    When you're ready to hit the pool or beach, be sure to put sunscreen on your kids to prevent sunburn. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting clothing made of a light and breathable fabric when spending time outdoors. The first and best line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward and sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays.  In addition, they make stylish UV swimsuits or SPF swimwear that can provide maximum sun protection for your kids.
    Kids under four should always be within an arm's reach of an adult when swimming and no child should ever be left unsupervised. In 2010, the United States saw a reduction in drownings of children during the summer, the average number of children lost is close to 200 per season. This year was lower at 172 children (under the age of 15) drowning between May 31 and September 6th. Most, if not all, of these drownings could have been prevented with either close supervision or with the wearing of an appropriate life vest, specifically if swimming in a lake or river.
    Keeping kids safe from bug bites and stings can be tricky. Begin by avoiding perfumes or scented soaps and detergents, which can attract insects. Stay away from stagnant water which is a common breeding ground for mosquitoes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that kids over two months old should use insect repellent containing a 30 percent concentration of DEET. Babies under two months should not use products containing DEET. Using citronella candles and sticking fabric softener sheets in pockets also can help to keep insects at bay. A common ingredient found in most dryer sheets is Linalool. Linalool is present naturally in plants such as lavender and marjoram. Basil has also been shown to be toxic to a number of different mites and insects. High levels of the volatile compound beta-Citronellol, found in plants such as rose geranium, citronella, and lemon balm, is known for its ability to repel mosquitoes.
    Summer is a great time for kids and parents to spend more time together having fun, learning and making precious memories. Keeping it safe for them will make it much more enjoyable for the whole family.

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