It seems summer and fun have always gone hand-in-hand. Free from school for a couple of months, kids can't wait to get out there and do all kinds of stuff. So how can parents keep their children safe while still letting them have a blast? The experts weigh in!
"Summer is a time to relax and enjoy," says Nancy Burris, RN at Step By Step Pediatrics, LLC in Indy. "But if parents 'relax' too much, it can cause stress levels to rise and your wallet to empty by making a trip to the E.R. for a preventable occurrence."
Jacqueline Wilson, mom at PrimeParentsClub.com, agrees. "We, as parents, need to be more aware of taking precautions during summer activities than winter ones because kids tend to be more, well, active. There are more opportunities for them to be out and about."
Sunscreen is the first line of defense against unnecessary burns. "Seems like parents are good at the [infant and toddler] age with this and/or keeping them in the shade," says Burris. "To help prevent rash-type reactions, wash off the sunscreen as soon as you come indoors."
"We teach our preschooler daughter, Ella, to always wear sunscreen in the summer," says Wilson, "because even though we can't see it, the rays of the sun can hurt our skin. We also wear sunglasses to protect our eyes from the sun."
Some folks, it seems, haven't gotten the sunscreen memo, according to Burris. "Every year after race weekend, we generally see kids with a sunburn," she says. "Parents forget to apply on a cloudy day or reapply as often as they need to because they just aren't in the habit yet." Bottom line: Get in the habit -- fast!
Where there is sun, there is also often water, and water safety is hugely important. "Keep an eye on your kids at all times and don't assume someone else is watching them [when in the pool or ocean]," insists Burris. "If you are hosting a party, or even think your attention might be diverted [for any reason], hire a sitter or designate another adult to watch the little ones!"
Says Wilson, "We teach Ella she's not allowed to go near pools without us because she could drown. Since she's just learning to swim, if she's in the pool, or the water at the beach, she always has to wear a lifejacket over her swimsuit."
"Swimmies and floaties are not replacements for lifejackets in the pool," says Burris, even with children up to age 10 and even higher. "[As kids get older] they become more daring and may try new 'tricks' in the water and may not be able to recover if something goes wrong. Your kids still need to be supervised and watched."
According to Burris (and almost anyone who has children) bikes are also a source of summertime injury. "First of all," she says, " do not let your child on his or her bike without a helmet. And be sure to check the manufacturer's directions to ensure it is put on correctly. Unfortunately, kids crash their bikes. Of course, if they are in acute pain, an E.R. visit is next on your to-do list. But hopefully, since they are wearing a helmet, they can walk away with just a cast." (Or sling. Let's be optimistic!)
Wilson admits she needs to get better about the helmet issue. "Ella's not allowed to ride her bike on the street yet, so often we let her ride in the driveway or on the deck without a helmet. She has one and [knows that] it keeps her head from being injured. We just need to do a better job on follow-up with this one."
Some general advice from Burris is to employ plain old common sense. Being aware of what your kids are doing is half the battle. "Poisons are a big problem," she explains. "Keep alcoholic drinks up and away from curious children. Mommy's 'sippy cup' needs to be out of reach. Check the yard for potential poisonous plants or berries. Garage poisons also need to be stored high and away from kids. They will drink weed killer even though they won't eat their broccoli!"
Fireworks are a particular hazard Wilson won't let her young daughter anywhere near. "Her touching them is not an option. When we are at a home where they are shooting off fireworks, we teach Ella to stay away from them and not run up on them. When using sparklers, she has to stay in one place and not run around. We teach her that even when the pretty stuff is gone from the fireworks, they can still burn."
While general advice is good (wear sunscreen; use bug spray; stay hydrated; wear a bike helmet) Burris reiterates, it's really all about paying attention. "Prevention and awareness is the best defense," she says. "Teach your children about the dangers they may encounter and [hopefully] they'll understand why you worry. Maybe not, but you can try!"
Conner Prairie's Launches Sun Safety Program
Tags: In This Issue, Parenting
Conner Prairie is partnering with Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health North Hospital and Outrun the Sun, Inc. to launch a new sun safety program throughout the park. The program will include free sunscreen for guests, new shady spots in the historic outdoor areas and a new shade structure over River Crossing Play Area at 1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana that includes a climbable steamboat, water tables and water cannons.
Guests can also discover how people used protective clothing in the 1800s to stay safe in the sun by trying on various historic items such as bonnets, hats, pants and dresses and engaging in discussions with costumed interpreters.
Free sunscreen, shady spots and sun safety information will be available through October. For more information, visit connerprairie.org.