I am so ready for summer. Warm weather, bike rides, popsicles, and swimming pools. With all the fun activities of summer, we also see an increase in the occurrence of unintentional injuries. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in children ages 1-18.
June is right around the corner and is National Safety Month. Let’s review four important things to remember this summer to keep your family safe.
1. Sun = Sunscreen
Babies under six months should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible. They should wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to keep their skin protected from the sun as much as possible. Limit the amount of sunscreen you apply to children under six months of age. Don’t forget the hat and sunglasses!
Children older than six months should wear sunscreen when outside in the summer, especially if outdoors between the hours of 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Apply liberally and reapply often. Use SPF 30 or greater. Most experts actually believe that higher SPF sunscreens don’t offer that much more protection and it’s more beneficial to reapply often.
Look for sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, is water resistant, and is in a form that is easy to apply. Sprays are great for busy toddlers. Sticks are great for faces. Zinc oxide is one of the best protective ingredients in a sunscreen.
One in five Americans develops skin cancer, so although tanned skin may be beautiful, it is not necessarily safe. Besides skin cancer, harmful UV rays can also cause eye damage, immune system suppression, and premature aging. Twenty-three percent of lifetime skin exposure occurs before age 18, so let’s help reduce that by slathering up our kids with sunscreen and being smart about sun exposure! (Source: National Safety Council)
2. Water = Watching
Refreshing as it may be, water is one of the great dangers for kids in the summer. According to the National Safety Council, more than one in five drowning victims are children 14 years old and under. As someone with a preschooler and a blow-up pool in my backyard, this has been especially on my mind recently.
Pools and bathtubs are the same in that you should never leave children alone in either place. Fences (high) with a self-closing and self-latching gate can help keep children out of pools, supposedly preventing 50-90% of accidental drowning accidents. Door alarms, gate alarms, and pool alarms can also add a layer of protection. More than anything, remember that nothing is as good as direct supervision and your eyes, ears, and attention on the water.
3. Helmets = Heads (Safe ones!)
As a general rule, if it has wheels and you can ride it, you should be wearing a helmet. Bicycles, scooters, rollerblades, skateboards, etc., are all included in this generalization. In Iowa, there is no law requiring helmets for bicyclists. However, helmets have been proven to reduce the risk of bicycle related head injury by about 80 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 400 children die each year due to bicycle crashes, and over 150,000 are treated annually in emergency departments for bicycle related head injuries.
Helmets need to be fitted properly. When buying a helmet, you need to try them on your child. Going by the recommended age range may be helpful, but might not give you the best fit.
Here is a video overview on finding the best fit.
Remember: EYES, EARS, MOUTH.
Here is a more detailed description on how to adjust the helmet for the best fit.
4. Bugs = Bites
Don’t you love swatting away the 800th mosquito of the day when you’re hanging out in the great outdoors? Unfortunately, I cannot ban mosquitoes from Iowa, but insect repellent can help you from being bitten.
The most effective insect repellents contain DEET. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you do not use repellents containing more than 30% DEET on children. Most of the family oriented repellents will comply with this recommendation. Higher concentrations protect you longer, so if your child is only going to be outside for a few hours, you can use a repellent with 10% DEET instead.
Another important tidbit – insect repellents are not recommended for children younger than two months. For these children, use lightweight, light-colored clothing to physically protect from mosquito bites.
-wristbands soaked in chemical repellents
-garlic or vitamin B1 taken by mouth
-ultrasonic devices that give off sound waves
-bird or bat houses
-backyard bug zappers
Some more natural mosquito repellents include
If your child is bitten, there a few things which can help relieve the symptoms. A cool wet washcloth or ice can help relieve the swelling. Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl, Zyrtec, or Claritin can help with itching. Topical steroids (hydrocortisone 1% cream) can help as well. Try to keep your child from itching as much as possible. Keep their fingernails short. If one of the bug bites starts to look infected, you may want to do an antibiotic ointment several times a day or see your pediatrician.
Hope you have a safe, healthy, and happy summer! Enjoy!
Meet Guest Blogger Dr. Tricia Cooperrider
Hello! My name is Tricia Cooperrider, and I’m a local pediatrician in Waukee with UnityPoint Clinic.
I grew up in southern Minnesota on a farm. I went to college in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota. After graduation, I worked for one year doing Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy with children with autism. I then moved to Des Moines for medical school and pediatric residency at Blank Children’s Hospital. Following completion of my residency in 2011, I was able to find my dream job with the UnityPoint Clinic Pediatric location in Waukee. It’s been wonderful to grow my practice and develop relationships with my patients over these last few years. I look forward to watching these children grow up into amazing people.
I am not only a full-time pediatrician, but also a full-time mom and wife. I am constantly working to find the balance between work and home. I’m married to my husband of five years, Jeff, and we live in Waukee. I have a very energetic 3-year-old, Liam, and I gave birth to our second son, Noah, this past August.
I love my job taking care of children but struggle to be everything to everyone – home, work, family – it’s overwhelming! Despite the craziness, I’m in love with my life and my work. I hope to be able to offer you a little perspective from the world of pediatrics while keeping it real… because, let’s face it—textbook advice does not always line up with reality!