Safe Summer Play for All Ages
Sunny summer weather offers children an opportunity to explore and enjoy outdoor fun. Pediatrician Taqdees Afreen, MD, with Bayhealth Pediatrics, Milford, encourages parents to supervise youngsters’ play, as well as food and beverage intake, to ensure that the good times are not spoiled by injuries or illness. She offers these summer safety tips:
- Pick bump-toe sandals to protect little feet. “We don’t recommend flip flops outdoors.” Pick something more protective for riding bikes or scooters because children’s skin is more tender than an adult’s. Be aware of hot pavements or sand when kids are outdoors; children’s feet can get burned quickly. She also suggests that adults touch sliding boards, swings, and the metal chains on swings to be sure they’re not too hot so that play is injury-free.
- Re-apply sunscreen every two hours. Use an SPF greater than 15, but the amount to apply varies according to the child’s age. “Only a little sunscreen, containing titanium or zinc oxide, is recommended for babies,” she said.
Dr. Afreen uses the “teaspoon rule” – no measuring, just visualize the spoon size – as a guide for applying sunscreen on toddlers and older children: one teaspoon on the face, neck, and upper extremities and two teaspoons on the torso, front and back. “Apply it 15-20 minutes before exposure and reapply every two hours, but not more frequently than that,” she said. “We don’t recommend a combination sunscreen and insect repellant. If you also need to apply insect repellant, apply it after the sunscreen. Dr. Afreen also advises parents to use clothing to cover exposed infants’ – under 6 months of age – skin, and that includes a hat with a brim to protect the baby’s face. Clothing can offer sun protection for older children as well.
- Like adults, children need to be well hydrated – with water. Although babies need to drink breast milk or formula, toddlers need four cups of beverage each day, water or milk, rather than juice or sodas, said Dr. Afreen. Children ages 4-8 years old need five cups of beverage, and kids over age 8 need 7-8 cups of water each day, just like adults.
“We recommend plain water. The excessive sugar in juice or soda is bad for children’s teeth,” she said.
Be mindful of signs that your child may be dehydrated. Monitor infants’ wet diapers and tear production, and a baby’s skin may be flushed. Older children may become irritable, experience muscle cramps as well as headaches.
- Bike helmets are required! “Children need to wear helmets all the time when they are on a bike, skates, or scooter, even for short rides, even right outside the house,” Dr. Afreen said. The helmet should fit the child’s head, and the strap needs to be snug but not too tight. She recommends that parents set a good example as well by wearing helmets when biking with their children. Teach children basic bicycle safety and supervise children on wheels. “Children need to know how to avoid hitting people and how to watch for traffic hazards.”
- Make sure your child’s food is safe to avoid illnesses and discomfort. Dr. Afreen recommends monitoring foods so that they are refrigerated properly in the summer heat. “Don’t leave food out, and store cooked meat properly,” she said. She urges adults to be aware of signs of food contamination, such as frothy liquids in canned foods or smells that indicate spoilage.
Signs of food poisoning can be stomach cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. “Most cases don’t require hospitalization; most get better on their own,” she said. But there are symptoms that indicate more a more serious situation. “Watch for high fevers, bloody diarrhea, and decreased sensations in their lower extremities. Let your doctor know immediately if this happens.” Frequently, food poisoning affects multiple members of the same family, she added.