No one loves summer more than kids. After months of school routines, they eagerly look forward to the more relaxed lifestyle of summer, as do their parents. Along with the fun, though, can come new challenges of keeping your kids safe.
“Summer is such a great season for families to have more relaxed time together,” says Dr. Abby Smolcich, a pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy. “I love seeing everyone being more at ease with less stress in their lives. With so much fun taking place, it’s also important to keep safety in mind.”
Practice Water Safety
“Wisconsin’s beautiful lakes are great places for families to enjoy summer fun,” Dr. Smolcich says. “It’s also a time when parents and caretakers must be vigilant in watching kids who are enjoying water activities.”
According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4.
“If your family is enjoying time on the water, one person should always be the ‘designated watcher’ who’s keeping an eye on everyone swimming, canoeing, kayaking or fishing,” Dr. Smolcich says. “That rule also applies to spending time around a pool. Drowning can be known as a silent killer because the victim rarely cries out for help.”
Running around wet pool surfaces presents another opportunity for injury, so health experts recommend reminding children to walk to help avoid falls that can result in head injuries or broken bones.
“And, of course, any youngster aboard any kind of boat should wear a proper-fitting life jacket,” Dr. Smolcich says. “Ideally, adults should wear life jackets, too, as a way of setting a good example.”
Wear a Helmet
When it comes to any riding activity, well-fitting helmets are a must.
“Any helmet that can easily slip on the child’s head won’t provide needed protection in the event of a crash or fall,” Dr. Smolcich says.
If your child does fall off their bike, check the helmet to see if the foam liner has been damaged.
“If the liner is cracked or crushed, it’s time for a new helmet,” Dr. Smolcich says.
If your child skateboards or rollerblades, encourage them to wear elbow and knee pads as well.
Spending time outdoors leads to increased sun exposure. Anyone over the age of 6 months should wear sunscreen whenever they are outdoors for an extended period of time, regardless of the season, Dr. Smolcich says.
“A product with an SPF or 30 to 50 is best, and it should be reapplied every couple of hours, especially when in or around water or when sweating,” she says. “And don’t forget the ears and the back of the neck.”
Dr. Smolcich also recommends wearing a hat and sunglasses. To give your skin a break from the sun when outdoors for extended periods, you can also consider covering up with a lightweight, long-sleeve shirt.
Time in the sun can contribute to dehydration and heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
“Drinking lots of fluids — especially water — is important for anyone playing outdoors,” Dr. Smolcich says. “Kids are prone to dehydration, especially if they’re exerting themselves playing a sport, swimming or riding a bike. They’re so busy having fun, they forget to drink fluids.”
Parents and caretakers also should know the signs of and differences between heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
“Excessive sweating, clammy skin, an altered pulse, nausea, dizziness, fainting and headache are signs of heat exhaustion and should be treated quickly,” Dr. Smolcich says. “The first thing to do is get the person into a cooler, shadier place, and cool their body down with cool wet cloths.”
A high body temperature and hot, red, dry skin are symptoms of heatstroke. This condition is an emergency, and you should seek immediate medical care or call 911.
Finally, summer in Wisconsin often means time spent in the woods camping or hiking.
“Those activities open us up to the possibility for mosquito, insect and tick bites,” Dr. Smolcich says. “DEET-containing products are good for preventing mosquito and tick bites. Permethrin products can be used on clothing and boots to deter ticks, but not on the skin.”
At the end of the day, parents should check children who have been in the woods and remove any ticks that may have attached, Dr. Smolcich says.
“Ticks can carry several serious diseases besides Lyme disease, so it’s important they are removed as soon as possible to prevent disease transmission,” she says.
To remove ticks, use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull back steadily.
“Once the tick is removed, clean the area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water,” Dr. Smolcich says. “And don’t forget to check pets. Ticks often hitch a ride on pets, which can later transfer the tick to a human.”
Dr. Smolcich wants all Wisconsinites to enjoy summer, safely. “As a mom, I’m excited for all the fun summer activities we’ll be enjoying, and I wish the same for all families,” she says. “It’s just important to keep safety in mind and think ahead to help avoid possible situations that could put our kids in harm’s way. Beyond that, enjoy all the opportunities to be outdoors.”