If you have kids, you know: Accidents happen. Over a summer, our active kids can round up a decent number of bruised elbows and scraped knees.
But some childhood injuries can be life-changing and, with an ounce of prevention, hopefully avoidable. We talked with OhioHealth emergency medicine physician Ryan Squier, MD for tips on preventing childhood injuries this summer. It’s good advice for parents, too.
Part of learning how to ride a bike can involve falling from time to time, but a head injury from a bike fall can cause permanent damage. “I tell my own kids, ‘You only have one head, so protect it.’ Make sure your kids are wearing a helmet anytime they’re on a bike; There’s no amount of riding that’s safe without one,” says Squier. “A properly fitted helmet absorbs the crash impact, which can significantly reduce injury to your head and brain.”
- A helmet should sit level on your child’s head, no more than two finger widths above their eyebrows.
- The helmets V-shaped strap should pass underneath their ears.
- The chin strap should be snug; only one finger should fit between the strap and chin.
“Kids should also be aware of their surroundings,” says Squier. “Teach them to watch for vehicles in the road and in driveways, improve their visibility with lights and bright clothing, and make sure they understand the rules of the road when it comes to bikes.”
“Sunburns increase the chance of developing skin cancer later in life,” says Squier, “and of course they’re very uncomfortable. A child’s skin is more sensitive and susceptible to sunburn, so parent’s need to be mindful of protection.”
- Make sure all exposed skin is well covered with sunscreen. “Don’t forget ears, neck, feet and hands,” says Squier.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours.
- Reapply after kids play in water.
- Limit extended exposure when the sunlight is strongest: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Summer is a prime time for heatstroke and dehydration in children,” says Squier. “Kids have lower fluid reserves than adults, so when it’s getting hot, there’s a risk of severe dehydration.”
- Keep water close by, and make sure kids have plenty to drink.
- Watch out for sugared beverages; They can actually contribute to dehydration.
- Make sure kids take breaks. Have them sit in the shade for a little bit and relax!
“Fireworks are explosives; It’s important not to forget that,” says Squier, “I would prefer people leave the fireworks to the professionals, but if they’re going to be part of your family barbecue, parents need to demonstrate responsible use.”
- Ideally, only one adult would light fireworks from a designated area.
- Do not hold any type of firework while setting it off.
- Have buckets of water nearby — one to pour on duds and one to collect finished fireworks.
- Sparklers are one of the most significant sources of emergency-department treated fireworks injuries. They can burn at 2,000 degrees, more than hot enough to burn skin, ignite clothing and even melt some metals. Consider skipping them this summer.
“Whether you’re at the pool, on the beach or in a boat, keep your focus on your kids,” says Squier. “It’s a good idea for kids to swim in pairs, regardless of your confidence in their swimming abilities.”
- The old adage of waiting 30 minutes after eating to swim still holds water. It can help kids avoid any cramping that may hinder their ability to swim properly.
- Make kids take adequate breaks from swimming, just as if they were at the community pool. A 10- to 15-minute rest every hour gives them an opportunity to recover from activity.