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June 26, 2012 > Warm Summer Days Bring Children Out to Play

Warm Summer Days Bring Children Out to Play

Fremont Pediatrician Offers Tips for Keeping Kids Safe

The long hot days of summer are here. For kids that means more time for swimming, biking, skateboarding, and other outdoor activities.

"Have fun this summer, but also think about your child's safety and take precautions," said Fremont pediatrician Dr. Amy Tun, who is a member of the Washington Township Medical Foundation and the medical staff at Washington Hospital. "The risk for injury increases in the summer months, when children tend to be more active and spend more time outdoors playing."

She said water safety is important to think about during the summer months. Whether you have a pool or a boat, or just spend time near the water, there are ways to prevent children from drowning.

"Drowning is one of the top causes of death among children, especially among children between the ages of 1 and 4," Tun said.

All children, regardless of their age, should be supervised by an adult at all times when swimming, she added. Infants and toddlers should have "touch supervision," which means they should be within reach while in or near water.

"Supervising adults should not be preoccupied by their smart phones or other activities while sitting poolside," Tun said. "They should be free from distractions and it is best if the supervising adult can swim. I also suggest having someone who knows CPR available. In a drowning situation, the minutes before the paramedics arrive are critical. Immediately performing CPR can save lives and improve outcomes."

Put Up a Barrier

For families who have pools, it's important to have a four-sided barrier around the pool. It should be at least four-feet high with no footholds or handles that make it easy to climb over.

"Studies have shown that a four-sided isolation fence reduces drowning by 83 percent compared to a three-sided fence," she said. "It also helps to have pool rules like no running around the pool and no diving. Do not leave toys around the pool when they are not in use. Kids may be tempted to enter the pool area unsupervised. Deflate blowup pools when not in use for the same reason."

She said it is also a good idea for children to take swimming lessons at a young age. Kids who can swim are safer around water.

Regardless of their ability to swim, children should always wear life jackets when boating. Not only is it a good idea, it's the law in California.

"In 2010, 72 percent of boating deaths were caused by drowning, and 88 percent of those were not wearing life jackets," Tun said.

Playground Safety

Most kids will spend more time at the playground this summer, raising their risk for a multitude of injuries. Close supervision is important for preventing playground injuries. According to Tun, a lot of playground injuries occur when falling off high equipment like monkey bars, which can sometimes result in a serious injury.

"Make sure the surface under the equipment can absorb the impact of a fall," Tun advised. "Rubber mats, wood chips, or sand can absorb the impact much better than cement or asphalt. Wooden play equipment should be checked for splinters or bolts that are jutting out on a regular basis. When available, children under age 5 should play on equipment separate from older children to prevent injury."

Children should wear helmets and other protective equipment when riding their bikes or skateboards. It is important for adults to be role models and wear helmets as well.

No matter how hard you try to keep them safe, children do hurt themselves. Minor cuts and bruises can be treated at home. You can wash cuts with plain water. An ice pack wrapped in a towel can be used for bumps, bruises, and minor sprains.

She said deep cuts and possible fractures require emergency medical care, particularly if the cut is bleeding profusely.

"If a cut is bleeding, put a sterile gauze or cloth over it and apply pressure for 10 minutes," Tun said. "If the bleeding does not stop, reapply pressure and contact your provider or go to the nearest emergency room. If a cut is more than half an inch long, or if it is deep, it probably will require stitches."

If your child falls and is unresponsive or vomits more than once, you should seek emergency medical care, according to Tun.

"Children should be watched closely for signs of unusual behavior after a fall," she added. "They could have a head injury."

Cover Up in the Sun

Children as well as adults need to be protected from the sun's harmful rays while outdoors. Just a few serious sunburns as a child increases the risk for melanoma skin cancer.

Sunscreen can help to prevent sunburns and skin cancer. Tun said when choosing a sunscreen, look for one that has a broad spectrum, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. To be effective, sunscreen should be reapplied often and sunscreens that are water resistant hold up to water and perspiration longer.

"Children should wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15," Tun explained. "Babies have more sensitive skin, so choose chemical-free sunscreens that instead contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Babies under 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight."

She suggested parents try a patch test to see if their child's skin is sensitive to the ingredients in the sunscreen. You can do this by applying a small amount of sunscreen on the arm or leg and see if the skin becomes red or irritated. If it does, you should use the chemical-free types.

"It's also important to limit sun exposure during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.," Tun added. "Children should wear protective clothing, including long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat. To protect their eyes, use sunglasses that have at least 99 percent UV protection. Children spend a lot of time outdoors, so we need to help them learn how to enjoy fun in the sun safely."

Your health care, your way

For more information about Washington Township Medical Foundation and its more than 60 board-certified physicians with expertise in a broad range of medical specialties - from neurosurgery to pediatrics - visit www.mywtmf.com or call (866) 710-9864.

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