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June 5, 2023

Keeping Kids Safe This Summer

ThedaCare Pediatrician Offers Advice for Avoiding Summer Issues

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. Mixed in with the fun, though, come new challenges to keeping our kids safe.

“Summer is such a great season for families to have more relaxed time together,” said Abby Smolcich, M.D., 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.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and various safety organizations, the most common health concerns for children during the summer revolve around:

  • Water activities – swimming, boating, tubing, kayaking, fishing
  • Riding activities – bikes, trikes, all-terrain vehicles, scooters, skateboards
  • Sun protection
  • Heat-related illnesses
  • Insect protection

“Wisconsin’s beautiful lakes are great places for families to enjoy summer fun,” Dr. Smolcich said. “It’s also a time when parents and caretakers must be especially vigilant in watching kids who are enjoying water activities.”  

According to the CDC, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages one to four-years-old.

“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,” said Dr. Smolcich. “That rule also applies to spending time around a pool, no matter whether it’s a backyard or public pool. Drowning can be known as a silent killer because the victim rarely cries out for help.”

Running around wet pool surfaces is another opportunity for injury, so health experts recommend reminding children to walk to help avoid nasty falls that can result in head injuries or broken bones

“And, of course, any youngster aboard any kind of boat should be wearing a life jacket, and it’s important that it fits properly,” she added. “Ideally, adults should wear life jackets, too, as a way of setting a good example.”

When it comes to any riding activities, Dr. Smolcich said helmets are a must and again stresses they should fit properly.

“Any helmet that can easily slip on the child’s head won’t provide needed protection in the event of a crash or fall,” she noted.

She added that if a child does fall off their bike, the helmet should be checked to see if the foam liner has been damaged.

“If the liner is cracked or crushed, it’s time for a new helmet,” she said.

For skateboarders, elbow and knee protectors are also recommended.

Safety Outdoors

Of course, everyone outdoors is experiencing more sun exposure. Anyone over the age of six months should be wearing sunscreen whenever they are outdoors for an extended period of time, even in winter, according to Dr. Smolcich.

“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 said. “And don’t forget the ears or the back of the neck.”

She also recommends wearing a hat, sunglasses, and occasionally covering up with lightweight long-sleeve shirt if outdoors for an extended period as a way to give our skin a break from the sun.

Time in the sun can also contribute to dehydration and heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“Drinking lots of fluids – especially water – is important for anyone playing outdoors,” she explained. “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.”

Water or other drinks should be readily available for kids to consume, and they should be encouraged to drink often.

She added that parents and caretakers also should know the signs of and differences between heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“Excessive sweating, clammy skin, an altered pulse, nausea, dizziness, fainting or a headache are signs of heat exhaustion and should be treated quickly,” she said. “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 heat stroke. If heat stroke is suspected, it’s important to get medical help quickly; heat stroke is a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately.

Lastly, Dr. Smolcich observed that 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,” she said. “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, Dr. Smolcich said parents should check children who have been in the woods and remove any ticks that may have attached.

“Ticks can carry a number of serious diseases besides Lyme disease, so it’s important they are removed as soon as possible to prevention transmission of disease,” she said.   

The recommended method for removing ticks is to 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. And don’t forget to check pets; ticks often hitch a ride on pets who can later transfer the tick to a human,” Dr. Smolcich said.

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 said. “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.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.