A Safe Summer for Kids

Dina Alveres (The Freeman) - April 23, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — It is estimated that every year, one in four kids ages 14 and younger will sustain an injury that requires medical attention. A report states that 40 percent of all injury-related emergency room visits and 42 percent of all injury deaths happen between May and August.But we can keep kids free from about 90 percent of these accidents by educating ourselves and our kids on how to stay safe while still enjoying summer vacation.

Keep insects away.

Planning to spend time outside means planning to spray yourself and your kids with insect repellent – repellents don't kill insects, but they can help reduce bites from mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and other bothersome bugs.

There are different types of repellents: those that contain DEET and those that don't. Use insect repellents containing DEET on kids sparingly. Never use repellent on infants and check the levels of DEET in formulas before applying to older kids – DEET can be toxic. Repellents with 10 to 30 percent concentrations of DEET can be used on exposed skin, clothing, and shoes but shall not be applied to faces or hands. If you want to avoid DEET, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends repellents that contain picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, both are non-toxic and able to reduce mosquito bites just as well as formulas with low levels of DEET.

Be careful around water.

At swimming pools, they don't hang those "No running!" signs poolside for decoration. According to SafeKids, in 2006 more than 3,700 kids younger than five years old were injured in near-drowningincidents, and every year, more than 830 kids ages 14 and younger die due to drowning.

It should go without saying, but we'll say it anyway: Never leave kids alone near the pool, no matter what their ages or swim capabilities are. Parents can and should take precautions around home pools, in addition to closely supervising kids while they swim. Installing fencing around pools, at least five-feet high, all the way around and with a self-closing, self-latching gate, can prevent 50 to 90 percent of accidental drowning incidents. Pool and gate alarms – they alert you to when the pool water becomes agitated and when the gate is opened – add another layer of protection.

Be careful while at play.

In the U.S., more than 205,000 kids visit emergency rooms with playground-related injuries every year. Many of these injuries could be prevented with a little precaution and adult supervision.

Check the playground equipment before letting kids play on it. For example, surfaces that are too hot can cause burns, and loose ropes – ropes that aren't secured on both ends – can cause accidental strangulation. The ground should be covered in a protective surface such as rubber mats, wood or rubber mulch or wood chips, never grass, asphalt or concrete. The right surface materials could reduce the risk of head injury or other severe injury in the event of a fall.

Also, be sure that your child's clothing is playground-friendly: Remove any strings, such as those on hoodies, only let them wear closed-toed shoes at play and avoid clothing that is loose enough to catch on equipment.

Whether or not you wore a helmet while riding your bike as a child, it's a must for kids these days. Nearly 300,000 American kids make a visit to the emergency room every year with bike-related injuries, some resulting in death or severe brain injury. Wearing a helmet can help reduce your child's risk of making such a visit. Standards have been set for helmets, so be sure to choose one with a safety seal on it.

Keeping kids safe on their bikes also means sending them out on bikes that fit. Checking that your child hasn't outgrown last year's ride is easy: Have your child straddle the top bar of his or her bike with both feet flat on the ground. A one- to three-inch gap between the bar and your child's body means it's still the correct size.

Handle food items properly.

Summertime offers so many gorgeous days for picnicking and cookouts. But don't let the heat ruin your outing – food-borne illnesses are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites and other toxins.

Food-borne illness looks a lot like the flu, and typically includes nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can range from mild gastrointestinal discomfort to bloody stools.

One of the best ways to avoid food poisoning during the summertime is to be sure food items that contain mayonnaise, milk, eggs, meat, poultry and seafood aren't kept at room temperature for more than an hour or two (one hour max if it's 90 degrees F outside). And remember, meat and eggs aren't the only culprits; raw fruits and vegetables can cause problems if not properly washed and stored. If you're traveling with food, be sure to pack any raw meat separately from ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination.

Stay hydrated.

Staying hydrated in hot weather can help reduce the risk of heat-related illness. Keep water or sports drinks (with electrolytes) on hand to maintain hydration, and try to stay in a shady or air-conditioned location during the hottest parts of the afternoon.

Mild symptoms – heat exhaustion – may include feeling thirsty, fatigue and cramps (legs or abdominal). If left untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke.

Heatstroke is serious. Symptoms may include any of the following: dizziness, trouble breathing, headaches, rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, confusion and changes in blood pressure. Skin may be flushed and feel hot and dry (not sweaty). Body temperature may rise to 104 degrees F or higher, and as it becomes more severe, the risk of organ damage (to the liver, kidneys and brain) increases.

Kids are more susceptible to heat illnesses than adults are because their central nervous system is not yet fully developed. Strenuous activity and dehydration make it difficult for young bodies to regulate changes in body temperature, and chronic health conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease and medicines such as antihistamines also increase the risk.

Did you know that if you're feeling thirsty, you're already mildly dehydrated? Relying on thirst as a reminder to take a drink leaves you at risk for dehydration. So to be sure your kids are OK, look for these other signs, instead, which can indicate that a child is dehydrated: dizziness, dry mouth, cessation of sweating, irritability, lethargy, fatigue, dark yellow urine, anuria (lack of urine) for 12 hours (or 6 hours for infants), tearless crying, and sunken eyes.

Help kids avoid becoming dehydrated by reminding them to drink often throughout the day. Drinking about five ounces every 20 minutes, if kids are active in sports, is right for a kid weighing 88 pounds.

Water and sports drinks (drinks that contain electrolytes) are the best options for hydrating kids – avoid sodas, juice and other fruit drinks. Choosing beverages that contain 100 mg (or more) of sodium and 28 mg (or more) of potassium in an 8-ounce serving (if choosing sports drinks, watch out for high sugar content) is recommended.

Avoid sunburn.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, getting one blistering sunburn when you're a kid doubles your chances of developing melanoma.

Regardless of age and skin type (whether or not you burn easily), the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone, adults and kids alike, apply a water-resistant sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays every day of the year. Yes, even in cold months and on cloudy days. Choose a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and apply it 15 to 30 minutes before going outside.

When using sunscreen, apply as much as would fill a shot glass – and if you're using both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply sunscreen first and then repellent.

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