Summer is an ideal time to enjoy the outdoors with your kids. But fun can be ruined by injuries, sunburns, bug bites and more. Use this guide to help keep children healthy and safe this summer
Build a First Aid Kit
Keep these items in a first aid kit:
- Broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF 15
- Adhesive bandages, various sizes
- Instant ice pack
- Alcohol wipes
- Elastic bandage wrap (Ace)
- Over-the-counter pain reliever (acetaminophen or ibuprofen)
- Antihistamine (such as Benadryl)
- Antibacterial ointment
Cuts and Scrapes
To prevent infections, clean cuts and scrapes immediately using water and either alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Then use bandages and antibiotic ointment to keep the area clean and dry. Contact your pediatrician if you think your child may need stitches or if there’s spreading redness or discharge.
Twists and Strains
Use RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) to treat and soothe minor ankle, knee or wrist twists or strains – as long as your child isn’t in severe pain or having trouble using the affected extremity. If RICE doesn’t work, call your pediatrician for next steps.
To enjoy the sun safely, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers these suggestions.
- Keep children younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight. Stay in the shade.
- For older children, generously apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outside. Choose a product with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
- For sensitive areas, such as the nose, cheeks, ears and shoulders, use a zinc-oxide or titanium-oxide sunscreen.
- Wear tight-weave clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection.
- Limit time spent in peak sunshine hours, between 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
If a child younger than 1 gets a sunburn, contact your pediatrician; for older kids, call if there’s blistering, pain or fever. To soothe mild sunburn, use cool compresses, calamine lotion or aloe vera-based gels to relieve pain, and give your child plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Fireworks, Stove and Grill Burns
Common sense goes a long way. Never leave a hot stove or grill unattended, and attend community fireworks displays rather than using at-home fireworks.
Clean and cool minor burns with room-temperature water. Immediately seek medical attention if the burn is extensive, there’s severe blistering or your child has extreme pain, fever, headache, nausea or vomiting.
Helmets and other safety gear are always a must when your kids are biking, skateboarding, rollerblading or scooting. The helmet should fit and always be worn correctly. Replace any helmet that’s damaged.
If your child gets a bump to the head – with our without a helmet – watch closely to decide if you need to go to the doctor.
Heat exhaustion is the inability of the body to keep up (most notably, heart function) due to heat and strenuous physical activity. Dehydration is one of the main risk factors. It’s so important to always keep children hydrated, but especially when they are going to be outside and engaging in physical activity.
To help prevent heat exhaustion in children:
- Limit intense outdoor activities in high heat and humidity.
- Have them drink lots of fluids before outdoor physical activities.
- Make them take frequent breaks while active in the heat and drink water during those breaks.
- Dress them in light-colored and lightweight clothing.
Signs of heat exhaustion include fast heart rate, extreme weakness, dizziness, light-headedness, profuse sweating, headache, cramps, nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness. If signs are shown by a child, have them stop physical activity, move to a cool environment, and drink fluids. If the child doesn’t respond well or looks very sick, call 911.
Learn to identify toxic plants like poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Wear protective clothing and stay away from unfamiliar plants, especially those with three leaflets (“leaves of three, let it be”).
If your kids encounter a poisonous plant, remove contaminated clothing and immediately wash skin with mild soap and water. Clean fingernails and family pets, too. If a rash appears (typically one to four days after exposure), soothe with cool water or ice cubes several times a day; let skin air dry. If it keeps your child awake at night, consider an antihistamine or hydrocortisone cream. If the rash gets extremely red, irritated, spreads to the face or groin, or has a discharge, talk to your doctor.
To protect your kids from bug bites:
- Cover up with long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks when outdoors in the evenings.
- Stay away from areas where insects congregate, such as stagnant water and gardens.
- Don’t use scented soaps and perfumes.
- Avoid wearing bright colors or flowery prints.
- Use effective insect repellents.
The Environmental Protection Agency approves DEET as a safe and effective insect repellant. To use DEET safely:
- Don’t use DEET products on kids younger than 2 months.
- For older children, look for repellants with no more than 30% DEET.
- Choose the lowest amount of DEET for the time you expect to be outside; 10% DEET will provide protection for about two hours and 30% provides protection for about five hours.
- Apply DEET to exposed skin only, not under clothes.
- Don’t use combo DEET-sunscreen products. Because sunscreen needs to be reapplied frequently, a combination product can overexpose your child to DEET.
- When your children come inside, wash off the repellant with soap and water.
Found a tick on your child’s skin? Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull straight up gently but firmly with a steady pressure. Clean the area after removal and monitor your child closely for the development of a rash — a bull’s-eye rash could be Lyme disease.
If any bite becomes very red or swollen, there’s pus discharge or your child is in extreme discomfort, call your pediatrician.
Honeybee, Wasp and Yellow Jacket Stings
Scrape out the stinger as quickly as possible with your fingernail or a credit card. Don’t pinch or squeeze the stinger, which will only inject more venom. Use cool compresses, pain medication and an antihistamine to ease pain.
If your child experiences swelling, stomach pain, an itchy throat or a full-body rash, head to the nearest medical facility, or call 911.
After a dog bite, immediately clean the area and find out if the dog is vaccinated and can be observed. Then call your pediatrician.
Swimmer's Ear and Water Safety
Swimmer’s ear is inflammation and infection of the external ear canal. Its signs and symptoms include ear pain, ear discharge and hearing loss. It can also cause pain when your child’s ear is moved.
Swimmer’s ear is usually caused by frequent swimming or water exposure. Symptoms include ear pain, ear discharge and hearing loss. If you suspect swimmer’s ear, make an appointment with your pediatrician. Antibiotic ear drops may be needed. If your child swims frequently, have them shake their ears dry after swimming or wear ear plugs made for swimming.
Increase your children’s safety when they play in pools, rivers, lakes and oceans. Check out 10 Tips for Water Safety to learn more.