Childproof your summer

by Capt. Johnnie Barrett
Ramstein Pediatric Clinic

This summer, children 14 and under will be rushed to emergency rooms nearly 3 million times for serious injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents, drowning, bike crashes, falls and other hazards, according to recent statistics.

Tragedies peak during the summer months because the days are longer and children are supervised less, have more free time and engage in more outdoor activities.
So, while you and your family relax this summer, ensure you’re not also being relaxed on safety.

Keep your family protected by following these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Sun Exposure

For babies under 6 months:
• To prevent sunburn, avoid sun exposure and dress infants in lightweight, long pants, long-sleeved shirts and brimmed hats that shade the neck. When adequate clothing and shade are not available, apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least a 15 sun protection factor to the face and the back of the hands. If sunburnt, apply a cold compresses to the infant’s affected area.

For younger children:
• Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside, and use sunscreen even on cloudy days. The SPF should be at least 15 and protect against UVA and UVB rays.

For older children:
• The first, and best, line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses and cotton clothing.
• Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
• Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater. Be sure to apply enough sunscreen (about one ounce per sitting for a young adult).
• Re-apply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
• Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect UV rays and may result in a sunburn more quickly.

Heat Stress in Exercising Children

• The intensity of activities that last 15 minutes or more should be reduced whenever high heat and humidity reach critical levels.
• At the beginning of a strenuous exercise program or after traveling to a warmer climate, the intensity and duration of exercise should be limited initially and then gradually increased during a period of 10 to 14 days to accomplish acclimatization to the heat.
• Before prolonged physical activity, the child should be well-hydrated. During the activity, periodic drinking should be enforced, for example: a child weighing 90 pounds should drink 5 ounces of cold water or a flavored sports drink ever 20 minutes, and an adolescent weighning 130 pounds should drink 9 ounces
• Clothing should be light-colored and lightweight and limited to one layer of absorbent material to facilitate evaporation of sweat.  
• Practices and games played in the heat should be shortened and more frequent water breaks should be instituted.

Pool Safety :

Install a fence at least four-feet high around all sides of the pool. The fence should not have openings or protrusions that a young child could use to get over, under or through.
• Make sure pool gates open out from the pool and self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach.
• Never leave children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment.
• Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook – a long pole with a hook on the end – and life preserver) and a portable telephone near the pool.
• Avoid inflatable swimming aids. They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
• Children may not be developmentally ready for swim lessons until after their fourth birthday. Swim programs for children under 4 should not be seen as a way to decrease the risk of drowning.
• Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”

Bug Safety
• Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on your child.
• Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and gardens where flowers are in bloom.
• Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints.
• To remove a visible stinger from the skin, gently scrape it off horizontally with a credit card or your fingernail.
• Combination sunscreen and insect repellent products should be avoided because sunscreen needs to be re-applied every two hours, but the insect repellent should not be re-applied.
• Insect repellents containing DEET are most effective against ticks, which can transmit lyme disease, and mosquitoes, which can transmit West Nile Virus and other viruses.
• The current CDC and AAP recommendation for children over 2 months old is to use 30 percent DEET. DEET should not be used on children under 2 months of age.
• The concentration of DEET in products may range from less than 10 percent to more than 30 percent. Ten percent DEET only protects for about 30 minutes – inadequate for most outings.
• The concentration of DEET varies significantly from product to product, so read the label of any product you purchase. Children should wash off repellents when back indoors.

Playground Safety
• The playground should have safety-tested mats or loose-fill materials (shredded rubber, sand, wood chips or bark) maintained to a depth of at least 9 inches. The protective surface should be installed at least 6 feet (more for swings and slides) in all directions from the equipment.
• Equipment should be carefully maintained. Open hooks or protruding bolt ends can be hazardous.
• Make sure children cannot reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap any body part.
• Never attach or allow children to attach ropes, jump ropes, leashes or similar items to play equipment.
• Make sure metal slides are cool to prevent children’s legs from getting burned.
• Parents should never purchase a home trampoline or allow children to use home trampolines.
• Parents should supervise children on play equipment to make sure they are safe.

Bicycle Safety
• Do not push your child to ride a two-wheeled bike until he or she is ready. Consider the child’s coordination and desire to learn to ride. Stick with coaster (foot) brakes until your child is older and more experienced for hand brakes.
• Take your child with you when you shop for the bike so that he or she can try it out. The value of a properly fitting bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new one. 
• Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to “grow into.” Oversized bikes are especially dangerous.
• Your child needs to wear a helmet on every bike ride, no matter how short or how close to home. Many accidents happen in driveways, on sidewalks and on bike paths, not just on streets.  Children learn best by observing you. Whenever you ride, put on your helmet.
• When purchasing a helmet, look for a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the CPSC safety standard.
• A helmet should be worn so that it is level on the head, not tipped forwards or backwards. The strap should be securely fastened, and you should not be able to move the helmet in any direction. If needed, the helmet’s sizing pads can help improve the fit.

There is a reason why children can’t vote in general elections, enter into legal contracts, drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes; children lack the developmental and cognitive capacity to make rational decisions.
This summer, don’t give children options when it comes to protective measures that can guard them from serious injuries or accidents. Be a role model and enforcer of good safety practices.