Summer is here, temperatures are climbing and the kids are ready for summer fun.
But there are some extra precautions families should take because of the amount of time kids spend outdoors, according to Dr. Kate Land, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center.
“Keeping children safe is a year-round job for families. Education and prevention are the keys to making it a safe summer,” Land said.
Children are at risk for heat illness.
“The key is to stay cool and hydrated. Drink water, not sports drinks or other sugary beverages, and stay in shade or in air-conditioned locations during the hottest parts of the day,” Land said.
Some symptoms of heat exhaustion to watch for include sweating, nausea, dizziness, fainting, weakness, confusion and pale skin. Children with heat exhaustion require medical attention.
Swimming can keep them cool, but drowning is the leading cause of death and injury for children under age 5 in California, so one of the big summer warnings has to do with water safety.
“Never leave kids alone near a pool, lake or other body of water, no matter their ages or swim capabilities are,” Land said. “Be careful not to get distracted, which can happen when there are lots of people socializing around a pool.”
She warned against letting children use inflatable toys or mattresses in place of a life jacket. These toys may deflate suddenly, or your child may slip off them into water that is too deep for him. If you plan to have children on a boat, make sure they wear a properly fitted, child-sized life jacket.
Also, beware sunburns and bug bites.
“Scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays as well as bright-colored or flowery printed clothes can be an invitation to biting bugs,” said Land, who added that light-colored clothes and long sleeves can be your best defense.
She said insect repellents containing the chemical DEET are an option, but should be used very sparingly on children and never on infants under 2 months old.
“If you use a repellent on your child, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended products with only 10 percent to 30 percent DEET,” she said.
If you want to avoid DEET, Land follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to use repellents that contain picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, both are non-toxic and able to reduce mosquito bites. Also, Land said it’s best to avoid combination products that have both repellent and sunscreen.
“You will end up using too much repellent and not enough sunscreen,” she said.
Apply a broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen to kids every day, and reapply every two hours and after swimming. Babies should be kept out of the sun as much as possible and dressed in protective clothing and hats. You can apply sunscreen sparingly to small areas of their bodies.
Tricycles and similar three-wheeled toys provide exercise and entertainment for many children. Keep this activity fun and safe by insisting they wear a helmet every time they ride and make sure the bike or tricycle is the right size for your child, meaning he or she can pedal while sitting squarely on the seat, Land said.
Chyresse Hill, Regional Media Relations Specialist for Kaiser Permanente, a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.