May is here, and that means parents are welcoming in the season of graduations, proms, end-of-year parties, and making plans for summers filled with fun for their kids. With all of the excitement comes moments of worry and extra precautions to keep kids and their friends safe.
The increased levels of activity outdoors, sometimes supervised by someone other than yourself, can open your child up to more injuries and accidents. At the same time, the more time your child spends at home while out of school for the summer months, the more time they are bored and can get themselves into trouble.
Your pediatrician knows that summer injuries can not only interrupt plans for family fun, but they can also be scary. We are here to guide you toward a summer of happy memories, keeping everyone healthy and safe along the way!
Summer Safety Outside
While many patients come to us through the winter months because of cold and flu season, we often see different illnesses and injuries that arise in the summertime.
Some of the most common issues are:
- Sun poisoning: A severe sunburn can often manifest in symptoms such as vomiting, fever, and dizziness. These effects come from sun poisoning, from being in the sun too long without proper protection or without hydrating enough. Stay ahead of the symptoms and reapply sunscreen, keep fluids going, and make your child take breaks from time in the sun.
- Infections, especially from cuts: Extra time to play outdoors in the summertime can cause more cuts that need treatment. With each cut, be sure to wash, apply antibacterial cream, and keep bandaids fresh over the wound to avoid infections. As always, if it is a serious cut that may require stitches, consult your pediatrician or take your child to the emergency room.
- Swimmer’s ear: Summer means time for pools, which can result in lots of ear infections. Swimmer’s ear can be combatted with the help of ear drops after swimming and investing in earplugs while swimming (especially for younger children).
Often, larger issues send kids to the emergency room, such as:
- Burns: Exposure to grills, fireworks, candles, and more can cause major burns that need attention.
- Concussions: Sometimes, we see patients who have had an injury and parents are unsure of what is wrong. Often, when a child hits his or her head (especially when falling on the playground, being tackled in a game of football, or simply not wearing a helmet when biking), parents do not think a concussion has happened. By taking your child to the emergency room, your child will get the appropriate treatment needed.
- Broken bones: Again, excessive activity can lead to broken bones and teeth. Seek advice on serious injuries from emergency doctors and dentists when injuries occur.
- Car accidents: Accidents increase in the summertime, both inside and outside of cars. With more time transporting kids around, they need to be reminded of wearing seatbelts and following rules in the car. Outside of the car – biking, playing on sidewalks, or playing games in the streets – kids need to be aware of traffic safety and rules regarding traffic. If your kids are playing outside into the evening, it is wise to have them wear light colors or reflective items to allow cars to spot them.
To avoid many of these problems, make sure that your child is supervised at all times, is wearing appropriate protective wear for activities (from sunscreen to helmets and pads), and is taking breaks to avoid exhaustion and dehydration.
Summer Safety Inside
While overexposure to the outdoors can be an issue, so can spending too much time inside. Often, kids find themselves bored during the summer months and resort to activities that are detrimental to their health and harmful for them in the long run.
No matter the age of your kids, your home should be able to protect them from harm’s way. Here are some things to consider, especially if your child will be home for most of the summer:
- Updating batteries: Make sure your fire and carbon monoxide detectors are working and ready for any emergencies.
- Emergency numbers at the ready: If you have older kids who are going to be left home alone, make sure they have a list of emergency phone numbers – from family members, neighbors, your pediatrician, or 911 – all available.
- Understanding of appliances: If kids are using microwaves, the stove, or oven while you are not present, make sure they understand how to use these items properly. Too often we see foil going into the microwave from our little home chefs!
- Kid-proofing your home: You have probably already done this well before your child was born, but it is important to think about the stage of life your kid is in and what they might get into while inside. Make sure appropriate areas are closed off or locked, make sure furniture that can topple over is securely fastened, and ensure that electrical plugs and wires are safely contained so no injuries occur within the home.
Along with all of these physical health worries, there is also a component that is becoming increasingly more common. As kids are bored through the summer, they turn to electronic devices for something to do.
If your kid has access to a computer or phone, the best thing you can do is set limits. Remind your child that they can only be on the phone, computer, TV, or gaming device for a set amount of time, then they must do something else – go outside, read a book, play with a friend or sibling. Encouraging them to get away from screens not only promotes physical health and wellness, but it has mental health benefits, too.
With the rise of social media, kids are experiencing constant judgment and the need to be tuned in with what is happening online. This is a larger topic for another blog; but for now, we are here to remind you that setting a rules and a routine for your child is the best thing you can do during the summer downtime. Giving their schedule structure and providing outlets for creativity, exercise, and in-person friendships and interactions can a big difference.
Summer Safety with Friends
For kids of all ages, summer is an important time to spend with friends, developing social skills and making memories that will last. However, this sometimes means that your child will be away from home and without your supervision. From play dates to sleepovers to vacations away, your child will experience all kinds of summer adventures with their friends.
The best thing you can do is have open communication with the parent who is in charge. You must trust them (and, in turn, have their trust) to keep communication open and your kids safe. Especially if your child is going to be with their friends for an extended period of time, it is important to keep the parent aware of any allergies, your child’s limits (normal bed time, when they usually eat, how long they should spend outside), and anything else that is pertinent to maintaining their health and schedule.
If you have teenagers, this process can become a bit more complicated. With the introduction of cars and older friends, you need to take time to discuss summer safety with your teen. From issues with drinking to driving safely to making general good decisions, your teen needs to hear from you. Provide guidance, remind them that you are always there for them, and remind them that one bad decision can impact many of their future goals and dreams.
Unsure of how to handle this conversation? Talk to your pediatrician. We can offer tips on how to have an open conversation with your teenager and how to discuss safe choices with them.
Summer Safety on the Road
For many of our patients, summertime takes them out of town, whether going on family vacations, to camp, or to stay with grandparents. When kids are traveling, it is important to think outside of their normal routine and needs, thinking about where they will be going.
For instance, if your child is going camping, it is important to pack items like tweezers (for splinters or ticks), bug spray, anti-itching cream (for bug bites or poison ivy), band-aids, and any other items they may need. You know your child best; if they are scared of the dark, pack a little lantern, and if they are susceptible to stomach aches, pack medicine to give them relief.
If you are taking your child on a family vacation, it is important to be aware of your surroundings. Of course, lather on sunscreen at the beach or lake; but also, be aware of harmful factors that your child may not always experience. According to the CDC, “Drownings are the leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1 to 4, and three children die every day as a result.” Take precautions ahead of time to invest in life jackets, swimming lessons, or other valuable tools that can prepare your child for the vacation.
When in doubt, follow the guide we created last year for a summer first aid kit. Pack this kit up, keep it in your car, and be ready for any injuries that may strike!
Summer Safety as a Family
One of the best rules to follow is the most simple: safety in numbers! By sticking together as a family this summer, you can not only keep an eye on each other, but also establish important traditions that will be enjoyed for many summers to come.
Although spending time together can sometimes be outside of your control, juggling schedules for everyone, it is important to establish routines and make appointed family times. Here are a few ideas to help get you started:
- Get Grilling: Set one night a week to grill up fun summer favorites like hot dogs, burgers, corn on the cob, s’mores, and more. Make it a family event, and sit outside to enjoy the warm summer nights.
- Biking Fun: With so many trails, parks, the new Big River Crossing, and the Greenline available in Memphis, it is a great way to bike as a family. Set aside Saturday mornings to get up and get moving!
- Splash Around: Beat the heat by turning on the sprinkler, getting in the pool (or finding a friend who has one!), or having a water balloon fight. Splash pads at local Memphis favorites like Shelby Farms, the Zoo, and the Children's Museum are popular options, as well.
- Enjoy Memphis: summer is one of the most fun times to be a Memphian! From free summer concerts at the Levitt Shell, to cool museum days at the Pink Palace, the Children’s Museum, or one of our great art museums, there is so much to explore. Set aside one day per week to explore a festival, hear music, or get in touch with our city’s rich history.
- Family Movie or Game Night: If your family loves movies, make a night of it! Encourage kids to pick a movie and plan a meal that is on theme with the movie of their choice. Or, if your family loves games, set aside a night to have a pizza and game night.
These are just a few ways you can keep your kids safe and enjoy family fun together. Let us know how you spend time with your family by sharing your favorite traditions and tips on our Facebook page!
Your Summer Safety Experts: Pediatrics East
Pediatrics East has been Memphis’ favorite pediatrician summer after summer. We help you not only take the precautions necessary for a safe summer, but we are there for you when injuries and illnesses happen.
Most of all, we want to hear from you! Tell us what plans you have this summer and if you need advice on how to keep your family safe and feeling well. No one patient is alike, and we want to offer a personal approach to your child’s health and safety.
Summer will be here before we know it! Until then, we wish you all a wonderful month filled with excitement, big changes, celebrations, and warm memories.