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Pediatric Health

Focus on Summer Safety

Precautions to Minimize Summer Injuries

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Let's face it. Childhood is not safe. Children are fearless, curious adventurers. As the weather gets warmer, children often find new and exciting ways to get into danger and while we can't keep them safe from everything – we can keep them safer.

The most common injuries – scrapes, sprains, bumps and bruises heal well with a little TLC and an ice cream cone. Even a broken arm usually poses few long-term consequences for the growing child. Some injuries, however, can have profound lifelong effects – head injuries, drowning and believe it or not, sunburns. Preventing and minimizing these injuries matters. So here are a few simple strategies to make summer safer.

Make your child wear a helmet.

Helmets absorb energy and protect your child's brain and face when your child falls. Wearing one may prevent up to 88 percent of serious brain injuries that result from bicycle related accidents. A helmet should be worn whenever your child is on a bicycle, a scooter, a skateboard or rollerblading. So get a helmet for your child, and while you are at it – get one for yourself. Studies have shown that children whose parents wear helmets are more likely to wear their own.

Make your child wear sunscreen.

Today's sunburn is tomorrow's skin cancer. In fact, repeated sunburns in childhood have been shown to increase the risk of melanoma, a potentially lethal skin cancer, later on in life. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends selecting a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. It should be reapplied every few hours and after swimming. But sunscreen is only part of the equation. Encourage your children to play in the shade, especially during midday when the sun is most intense. Make sure they wear protective clothing and hats to limit sun exposure. For babies less than six months of age, sun avoidance is the rule. Babies should wear lightweight long sleeves, pants and wide brim hats. Sunscreen may be used on the face and the backs of the hands when sun exposure is unavoidable.

Practice Pool Safety

Every year children die from drowning – usually in home pools with an adult nearby. While children do not appreciate potential pool dangers, practices have been shown to decrease the drowning rate and to improve pool safety. Here are just a few. Fence your pool on all four sides. The pool gate should be self-latching and at least four feet high. Make sure that an adult is watching your child at all times when your child is by the pool. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that for children under four years of age, that an adult be within arm's length at all times when near a pool. Keep toys away from the pool when not in use. Teach your Kids to swim and remind them that everyone needs to swim with a buddy. Finally, put the cell phone away. Make sure your undivided attention is on your children…and make sure to reapply the sunscreen.

Elizabeth Weinstein, MD is Assistant Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics, IU School of Medicine

Tags: Health, Infant & Baby, Kids, Parenting

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