Summer Fun, Sun and Safety

Summer Fun, Sun and Safety

Having made it through yet another cold and flu season, just about every parent and child I know is eager to welcome the sunny days of summer. But now that summer is here – complete with swimming, sun and all sorts of fun outdoor activities – it’s important to prepare your family for (and hopefully prevent) some of the most common seasonal irritations and inconveniences.

Bug bites. Whether you’re talking spider, mosquito or tick bites, bug bites are a sure sign of the season. Occasionally a particular type of spider bite will cause a more serious reaction, or a tick can burrow its way into the skin and require a trip to the doctor; but most routine bug bites require little medical intervention. In general, the use of bug repellent and protective clothing, or avoiding mosquito-populated areas altogether, can prevent many of these unwanted irritations. It’s useful to note that mosquito bites in some children (and adults) can cause a much more significant reaction, but this doesn’t necessarily make them any more serious – just more obvious. In addition to reducing itching, the use of over-the-counter anti-itch creams and medications will help minimize scratching that can lead to infection.

Sprains, strains & broken bones. I’m all for summer time sports and other physical activities, but as a pediatrician (who’s married to an orthopedic surgeon), I’m all too aware that there’s always a chance for injury. The number of children who need to be seen for these common injuries goes up noticeably in the summer time, but the good news is that when it comes to broken bones, children tend to heal better than adults. That said, there are definitely things you can do to minimize your child’s chances of getting injured this summer. At the top of this list is limiting your child’s trampoline use. I realize that this statement is not likely to make me very popular among the jumping set, but it’s not just my recommendation. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding recreational trampoline use altogether, as trampoline injury rates are higher in children than adults. In fact, there are nearly 100,000 trampoline-related incidents per year. Furthermore, netting and other safety equipment does not seem to reduce a child’s risk for injury.

Sunburns. Although spending time in the sun is nearly unavoidable, getting a sunburn is a sure-fire way to ruin your day. Since a child’s skin is more sensitive to the sun, and they are more vulnerable to damaging UV rays, it is particularly important take the following simple sun safety measures:

  • Infants under 6 months of age should avoid direct sun whenever possible. Use sunscreen on exposed areas of skin when avoidance is not possible.
  • For all children (and adults), it is best to avoid being out during peak sun hours (generally considered to be 10:00am to 2:00pm). Always use (and reapply) sunscreen of at least SPF 30, and wear sun-smart accessories such as hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing. 

If your child should get a mild to moderate sunburn, the discomfort can generally be treated with cool compresses or soaks, calamine lotion, or aloe vera-based gels. Anything more severe warrants a call to the doctor.

Water works. Water plays a key role in your family’s summer fun – whether it means staying well hydrated or playing in the pool! However, it is important to follow strict observance of swimming safety principles:

  • Make sure pools are surrounded by locked gates and fences of at least 4 or 5 feet in height.
  • Teach young children how to swim but keep them at arm’s reach and closely supervise them in the pool.  

One of the most bothersome swimming afflictions is what’s often referred to as “swimmer’s ear”. This infection of the ear canal (also known as otitis externa) generally results from water lingering in the ear which causes inflammation. It can be very uncomfortable, but fortunately is relatively easy to treat. Your doctor can help you thoroughly dry out the canal and treat the inflammation, infection and pain as needed.

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