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July 3, 2007 > Keep Summer Fun and Safe for the Family

Keep Summer Fun and Safe for the Family

July is here and families are starting to ease into summer living. While the kids are home from school and everyone enjoys a rest from the usual routine, it's important to keep in mind that a safe summer is a successful summer. Dr. Rebecca Klint, a Washington Hospital Medical staff pediatrician, refers to the keys for summer safety as "Flight, Bite, Sun, Run and Fun."

Flight

A lot of families travel over the summer and many make plans to travel internationally. If you are traveling to another country, you may need to get yourself and your children vaccinated against diseases particular to another part of the world.

"Talk to your pediatrician at least a month before you go on the trip so you can get necessary vaccinations," Dr. Klint advises. Most vaccines take time to become effective in your body. Certain vaccines must be given in a series over a period of days or sometimes weeks. "At the very latest, you should talk to your pediatrician at least two weeks ahead," Dr. Klint says.

To learn about the vaccines necessary for the region to which you are traveling, go to the Web site for the Centers of Disease Control, www.cdc.gov. You can click on a section called "Traveler's Health" and enter the specific country you will be visiting.

Bite

Bugs are out in full force during the summer months. The more children are protected, the less they have to suffer itchy, painful or even dangerous bites.

Dr. Klint recommends children avoid wearing anything scented so they don't attract insects. Also, your child should avoid wearing brightly colored or flowered clothing. Children should stay inside at dusk and avoid any stagnant pools of water.

"If your child has a stinger, like from a bee, scrape is horizontally with a credit card or fingernail to get it out. Don't squeeze it," Dr. Klint says.

Children should wear insect repellant, and it should be applied independently of sunscreen. Avoid products that combine bug repellant with sunscreen since sunscreen should be re-applied every two hours but bug repellant should not be put on children as frequently. Dr. Klint says you should read the label of a bug repellant for the amount of DEET in the product, the chemical that is most affective against insects. Insect repellant used on a child should have no more that 30 percent DEET, and it should not be used at all on children younger than two months old.

To avoid getting ticks, dress children in long clothing that closes at the ankle and wrists. Children should wear collars and hats to keep the ticks out from the hairline. Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks and if the disease is untreated, an infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

"If you see a tick on your child, you don't have to run to the doctor," Dr. Klint says. "But if the child has a rash or gets sick after the tick bite, then you should talk to your doctor."

Bites can be very itchy and it is hard for children not to scratch. But scratching with dirty fingernails could cause an infection in the bite, so Dr. Klint suggests putting an antibiotic ointment on bites to prevent infection.

Sun

Dr. Klint reminds us that "someone who gets a blistering sunburn before the age of 18 has a higher risk for skin cancer later in life." Sunscreen and sun protective clothing can help keep children safe from the damaging effects of the sun.

Children should wear a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15, re-applied every two hours, even on cloudy days. Sunscreen should also be re-applied after swimming or after heavy sweating.

Babies under six-months old should avoid sun exposure and be dressed in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts and brimmed hats that shade the neck. If proper clothing or shade is not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to small areas of the infant's body, such as the face and the back of the hands.

Limit a child's time in the sun during the most intense time of the day for sun exposure, which is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The risk for sunburn is greater near sand or water.

Sun protective clothing is made of a tightly woven fabric that protects the skin with the equivalent of an SPF 30 sunscreen. Dr. Klint highly recommends sun protective clothing that a child can wear all day and keep arms, legs and torsos safe in the sun. It can be found at drug stores or from Internet vendors, which you can find through a search engine by typing in the keywords "sun protective clothing."

Run

Kids love to use long summer days to run and play sports. In warm weather, children need to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids to stay healthy and prevent heat exhaustion. Dr. Klint says this means serving them more than just water. She recommends sports drinks, which parents can dilute with water for a half-strength blend if they prefer. Sports drinks replace the salts the body is losing through sweating, as well as the fluid.

Parents and caregivers should know the signs of heat exhaustion. "If your child looks fatigued or flushed or confused, seek urgent medical care," Dr. Klint says. She adds, "In humid weather, you don't sweat as well so be especially careful."

Children near swimming pools need constant adult supervision. Dr. Klint recommends that a child should wear a life vest until them have demonstrated that they can swim one-half the length of the pool. Life vests are especially important when children are swimming in rivers or oceans.

Children who bike ride, skateboard or roller skate should wear protective gear at all times. Make sure that a bike helmet is fitting your child's head correctly. It should fit snuggly and sit level on the head (not tipped back). The chinstrap needs to be secured in order for the helmet to work as protection. You can test that a bike helmet is fitting properly by pushing on the front of the helmet. The helmet shouldn't move if it fits properly.

Dr. Klint says that sometimes people wonder about letting children ride ATVs (all terrain vehicles). Her advice is, "If you wouldn't let them ride a motorcycle or a moped, then they shouldn't ride an ATV."

Fun

The summertime gives kids a chance to explore things they might not have time to do during the school year. "Just because you're not in school doesn't mean you have to stop learning," Dr. Klint says. Vacations, day trips, outings and even a child's own backyard can be a place for children to let their curiosity run wild and learn something new and exciting. Parents can help provide the tools, resources and opportunities for impromptu education.

"It's not the ABCs, but in summer they are learning lessons for life and building lifetime memories," Dr. Klint reminds.


For more information on Summer Safety, visit the Web site for the American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org. Choose "Parenting Corner" from the menu, and then click on "Seasonal Tips for Parents."


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