Helping Kids Stay Safe, Healthy During Summer Break

Summer break is the perfect time to explore and play outside. However, with that, comes an increased chance of getting injured. Alok Patel, MD, Stanford Children’s Health pediatric hospitalist, says the most common summertime injuries include falls, sports injuries and drownings.

“Parents and caretakers should take a moment to consider all summertime and outdoor activities and take notes of injury prevention measures,” Dr. Patel says.

  • Swimming: Children should have age-appropriate swimming lessons and should never be in the water unattended. This is especially important when out in open water, like on a lake or in the ocean. Make sure there is a lifeguard present and an adult should always be within arm’s reach of young children.
  • Cycling: Wearing well-fitted helmets while riding a bike is an absolute must. It reduces the risk of head injury by up to 90 percent for both children and their parents.
  • Hiking: Make sure you stick to paved or marked hiking trails, wear protective clothing, use insect repellant, and bring plenty of water, even if it is a short hike. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends bringing 6-8 quarts of water per day for warm-weather hikes. If you’re going to be camping or playing outdoors in an area known for ticks, be sure to check for the pests after every adventure.
  • Traveling: Take note of any travel vaccine requirements and pay attention to any health risks in different areas. Certain states or countries may have different alerts, such as a local disease outbreaks or mosquito-borne diseases. A great resource is the CDC summer travel guide. Don’t forget to practice the same principles for preventing illness: wash your hands, stay home if sick, and encourage others to do the same.

Cool off with these tips

The hot summer months can get to be too much for the little ones if they’re outside for too long, especially if they’re younger than 4. Dr. Patel says young children are not able to regulate their body’s temperature as well as adults. There’s also more of a chance to get sunburned. So, make sure children stay well hydrated, have sunscreen on, and are covered up, especially during peak sunshine hours, which typically run from 10 am-4 pm.

“Because of their age, heat stroke and dehydration can be harder to identify in young children,” Dr. Patel cautions. “Parents should be aware of the signs of heat stroke such as fever, redness, headache, confusion, nausea, or changes in breathing. Symptoms can progress to disorientation, loss of consciousness, seizures, and coma if left untreated.”

Don’t forget to stay active

As the temperatures rise, children may be drawn to stay inside. They also do not have the same scheduled physical education classes and recess as they normally would during the school year to get them moving.

Current CDC recommendations include a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day for those 6 and up and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends three full hours, or 15 minutes per hour, of physical activity per day for kids ages 3 to 5.

“We are certainly far from that as a society as a majority of adolescents do not meet physical activity guidelines,” says Tim Liu, Stanford Children’s Health physical therapist. “A recent WHO-led study found that 81 percent of those 11–17-year-old were insufficiently active.”

Liu mentions the many benefits that can come from exercise include increased metabolic health, increased cardiovascular fitness, improved bone density, and reduced chronic disease risk. To encourage activity, parents can see what interests their kids or offer a variety of options to see what their kids may be drawn to.

“With younger children, we’re likely to see better engagement if these activities are in settings where fun is the primary focus and they enjoy participation in the activity,” he says.

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