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Tips to keep your children safe this summer

Abigail Vanaskie

As the temperatures climb and the sun is shining, outdoor activities are excellent ways to get the physical activity and health benefits needed for a healthy life. Whether it’s swimming, hiking, biking, or just going to the playground, your children want to be on the move as the weather warms up. As they get more active outdoors, they are likely to fall, slip, and stumble. There are important tips parents can follow to keep your children safe as they enjoy the outdoors. You don’t want an unexpected trip to the Emergency Department to ruin a beautiful sunny day.

You Get Out What You Put In

No matter what activity you do outside, it is important to consider hydration and nutrition for warm weather safety.

–Hydration: Remind your children to drink water throughout the day because heat-related illness can be very serious and even life-threatening. Before, during, and after any physical activity, kids need to drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. Try to avoid caffeinated beverages and sugary drinks. The goal is to drink a half cup to two cups of water every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising. Help them to understand why hydrating is important, especially when it’s warm out and they’re sweating, and that thirst is one of the first signs of dehydration – so don’t wait until you’re thirsty.

–Nutrition: Play is a healthy way for your child to burn off their energy and get moving, but that energy is limited by what your child eats and drinks. A healthy and balanced diet plays a role in preventing dehydration as well as helps keep your child’s sugar levels in check. Avoid sugary foods and processed snacks in favor of fruits and vegetables which provide your child with healthy energy in the form of natural sugars such as glucose and fructose. Also, try to avoid too many salty snacks. While salt and electrolytes play a role in helping your child stay hydrated, high-salt diets not only increase thirst and can lead to dehydration, they also can increase blood pressure, even in children. Talk to your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider about any dietary concerns you may have. They can offer recommendations as well as refer you to a nutritionist or other expert if necessary.

Dress for Success

Equally important as what goes into our children’s bodies is what we put on them. When heading outdoors:

–Make sure your kids are wearing light-colored, lightweight clothing which allows for evaporation of sweat.

–Wear a proper repellent for ticks and other insects and make sure you do a thorough check of your child’s entire body when they come in from playing outdoors, especially their hair. If the tick is removed within 24 hours, the risk of Lyme disease is extremely low. Remove a tick with a sterilized pair of tweezers being sure to remove the entire tick. A tick tornado or tick twister can also make for easy tick removal.

–When riding a bike, skateboard, rollerblades, or any other type of recreational vehicle, wear a helmet. Helmets are an important part of keeping your kids safe. For example, a properly fitted helmet can reduce the risk of head injury when riding a bicycle by 45%.

–Wear a lifejacket and learn to swim. Water safety is very important when you are around open bodies of water, whether it is the pool, beach, lake, a neighborhood pond, and even a baby pool. Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children ages one to four. Always supervise children in and around water, teach your child to swim, and instruct them on water safety measures such as how to properly wear a lifejacket and the dangers of diving in shallow water.

–Wear proper footwear. While sandals allow your child’s feet to breath, they can slip off the foot and cause a fall. Consider sandals with straps as well as toe and heel cover for protection. When heading to the water, try to avoid bare feet in streams, rivers, and natural bodies of water as sharp rocks and objects may be hidden beneath the surface.

Sun Smart

Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Adults and children need protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays whenever they’re outdoors. To avoid overexposure and other sun-related injuries:

–Seek shade when necessary. UV rays are strongest and most harmful during midday, so it’s best to plan indoor activities then. If this is not possible, plan shade breaks and seek shade under a tree, an umbrella, or a pop-up tent.

–When possible, cover up with long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts to provide protection from UV rays. Be mindful of overheating and use light-weight clothing.

–Wear a hat that shades the face, scalp, ears, and neck. If your child chooses a baseball cap, be sure to protect exposed areas with sunscreen.

–Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses protect a child’s eyes from UV rays, which can cause damage and may lead to cataracts later in life.

–Use a mineral sunscreen such as Blue Lizard or Ceravae with the main ingredient titanium dioxide or zinc oxide and at least SPF 15 every time your child goes outside, even on cloudy days. For the best protection, apply sunscreen generously thirty minutes before going outdoors and remember to reapply as recommended on the label. Don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet.

Planning and Prevention Go a Long Way

It is important to get your children outside and moving during the warmer weather. A little planning, preparation, and caution will keep the spring and summer seasons not only enjoyable for your children, but for you as well.

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Abigail Vanaskie is a nurse practitioner with Susquehanna Pediatrics at South Williamsport. Vanaskie along with Mark Odorizzi, DO, and Jessica Osman, DO, see patients at 6 East Mountain Ave., South Williamsport. To learn more about the services provided or to schedule an appointment, call 570-321-1665.

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