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Summer Safety: Making Sure Kids Get All They Can Out of the Warm Months

Dr. Debra Etelson, Pediatrics

June 6, 2024

Summer Safety: Making Sure Kids Get All They Can Out of the Warm Months

The kids are out of school and looking for action! But as with any adventures, some caution should be taken – and knowing what to do if things go wrong can be critically important. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Children (and adults) of any age should slather on the sunscreen if they’re heading outside. I recommend something in the 40-50 SPF range for maximum effectiveness. The general rule is to reapply every 1-2 hours, or more often if they’re swimming or perspiring excessively. Hats can also play a key role in minimizing sun exposure, although very young children may ditch headgear practically as soon as it’s put on.

Speaking of swimming: Drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. This can happen in mere seconds, so be sure to closely monitor your young children if they’re in a pool; likewise, if they’re old enough to head to the lake or larger bodies of water, keep an eye on them. In other words: don’t rely on lifeguards when it comes to your child’s safety, and put down your phone!

At home, empty tubs, kiddie pools and similar water containers immediately after use, and install fences around all sides of larger pools that are at least four feet tall and have self-closing, self-latching gates. Learning CPR is also a great idea if emergencies arise; one resource you can explore is the American Red Cross, which has a searchable site here.

Older kids are also prone to bumps, scratches and scrapes of varying degrees of severity. Common sense is usually the best way to deal with these as they come up: apply ice or a cool cloth to bumps and bruises for 10 minutes on, then 10 minutes off, and repeat until the swelling goes down. Clean minor wounds with antibacterial soap and water, apply bacitracin ointment, and cover with a bandage.

Seek emergency care if your child experiences any of the following:

  • An eye injury or head injury with loss of consciousness, visual changes, vomiting, persistent headache, or dizziness
  • An injury to the extremities that impacts movement or mobility
  • A laceration with bleeding that lasts more than five minutes or recurs
  • An animal bite
  • A severe burn

Bug bites or stings can present their own challenges. Pain, swelling and redness from a bee sting can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, but those symptoms do not necessarily mean it’s an emergency. However, an allergic reaction – known as anaphylaxis – will present within two hours of the sting, marked by hives and trouble breathing and swallowing. Such severe reactions occur in roughly four out of every 1,000 children. If this happens, take the child immediately to the nearest emergency room.

Ticks can also hamper summer fun – but not all ticks carry disease. If you find a tick on your child, use tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin as you can, then pull straight upward without twisting to remove the tick. Call your pediatrician after removing the tick; depending on how long it was attached, they may want to give antibiotic prophylaxis.

If your child develops a rash, fever, or persistent headache – or begins exhibiting other unusual symptoms – beginning 2 to 14 days after the bite, call your physician as soon as you can. A red ring or “bull’s-eye” rash appearing 3 to 30 days after the bite indicates the presence of Lyme disease and should be addressed immediately.

Some readers will take the above as evidence that their children (if not their entire family) should remain indoors with the lights off and the doors locked until the fall, but that is far from my intention. Instead, encourage everyone to enjoy all that the summer months offer – but take a prudent approach if and when a mishap occurs. And of course if you have any additional concerns, contact your pediatrician.

Dr. Debra Etelson

Dr. Debra Etelson is a board-certified pediatrician at White Plains Hospital Physician Associates in Somers. To make an appointment, call 914-849-7075.