Summertime: Having fun while staying safe

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Playgrounds, swimming pools, playing at the park -- summer comes with many outdoor activities for kids.

While it's important to encourage kids to live an active lifestyle outside, it's equally important for parents to understand how to keep their children safe and avoid injuries. The same places where children have fun can pose risks if children are not supervised properly. Understanding where these risks are will help parents take the proper steps to keep their child safe.

Swimming is a summer favorite. Unfortunately, 800 children die each year from drowning. Therefore, it's imperative that proper safety precautions are taken around the pool. Children should always be supervised by an adult when they're swimming. The adult should be within arm's length of young children and non-swimmers to reach them quickly, and should always give their full attention to the child in the pool.

Playgrounds are another great place for children to play. Most injuries at playgrounds are the result of falls; the most common injuries are broken bones, bruises, cuts and sprains. Parents should avoid playground equipment that is installed on hard surfaces such as concrete, blacktop or grass. Instead, play equipment should be installed on softer surfaces like wood chips, rubber surfacing or sand. Parents also should fix areas where children might trip, like tree roots, and check for spaces where a child's head could get stuck. Spaces should be smaller than 3.5 inches, or larger than 9 inches in width and length.

Here also are a few home safety tips that parents can learn to keep their child safe in his or her own backyard:

Parents should not mow lawns while children are outside. Objects like rocks or sticks can be ejected from the mower, causing injuries. Children should be older than 12 before they are allowed to mow lawns, and they should be supervised.

Children should not be allowed near barbecue grills. An adult should always stand by the grill while cooking.

Summer is an enjoyable season that brings opportunities for many fun activities. Families can enjoy the outdoors while reducing the risk of potential injury -- ensuring the summer season is both fun and safe.

Nichole Hodges, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., is the coordinator for the Home Safety Program at the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She is a certified health education specialist and has a master's degree in public health from The Ohio State University.

Skin protection

As the weather warms up, most of us are spending more time outside. And although some people enjoy soaking up the sun's rays for a summer glow, a tan actually means the skin has cellular damage. Long-term effects of tanning include wrinkles, leathery skin, brown age spots and skin cancer. It's important for parents to understand the damage that tanning can cause and teach their children proper skin care practices early.

  • Sunscreen should not be applied to infants younger than 6 months. Babies must be kept out of the sun whenever possible.
  • For children 6 months and older, use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Sunscreen should be applied about 30 minutes before a child goes outside to ensure that a layer of protection forms over the skin.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours. Also reapply after a child has been swimming or sweating.
  • Sunscreen should be applied even on cool, cloudy days. UV rays can travel through clouds and cause unexpected sunburns.

Dealing with a sunburn

When kids get sunburned, they may seem fine during the day, but develop an "after-burn" later. They usually experience pain and may even feel sick. The skin may begin to peel a few days after the sunburn. Remember, sunburns can and should be avoided, but in the event of a sunburn, here are a few tips:

  • Do not scratch or peel off loose skin or pop blisters - the skin underneath a sunburn is vulnerable to infection.
  • A child should be kept in the shade until the sunburn is healed. Additional sun exposure will only make the burn worse.
  • Apply pure aloe vera gel to the areas that are sunburned. It relieves pain, cools the skin and helps it heal more quickly.
  • A topical moisturizing cream can be applied to the skin to rehydrate it and help reduce swelling.
  • If the sunburn is severe and blisters develop, call your doctor.

Watch Pediatric HealthSource at 5 p.m. Thursdays on 10TV News HD.

Each month, Pediatric HealthSource shares the latest treatment and research advancements from Nationwide Children's Hospital. This column is part of an ongoing community education project brought to you by: Discount Drug Mart.