Back to home June 2013
Help Your Kids Enjoy a Safe Summer
Summertime and those months away from school mean more freedom for kids, and may increase concerns for parents. Denise Drago, M.D., pediatrician, has tips and information to help children and parents enjoy a safe and healthy summer.
Water Safety and Sun Protection
“During the summer, children spend a lot more time outdoors than usual, so two of the biggest concerns parents should address are water safety and sun protection,” Dr. Drago says.
Some tips include:
- Do not leave a child alone near or in a pool or body of water— always have an adult who can swim within an arm’s length of the child.
- Pools should have a safety fence with a self-locking gate.
- In case of emergency, keep a life preserver and a portable phone by the pool.
- Swimming lessons help children feel comfortable in the water and help them learn to swim, but children should be supervised when in the water.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher that protects against UVA and UVB rays—even if it is cloudy outside.
- Apply one ounce of sunscreen per person about 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun, and reapply every two hours, or more frequently if you are sweating or in the water.
- Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the tops of the ears, scalp, tops of the feet and the back of the neck.
- Hats, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing should be used to protect children from the sun.
- For babies younger than 6 months of age, the best protection is to stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible. If he or she is in the sun, he or she should be dressed in lightweight long-sleeve top, long pants and a hat.
- It is OK to use sunscreen on small areas of baby’s skin—like the backs of the hands and face.
Heat Related Injuries
“It’s also important, when talking about being outdoors, to talk about heat-related injuries,” Dr. Drago says. “To prevent these injuries, teenagers and children should drink plenty of fluids before going outside, and they should continue to drink 4-8 ounces of water or sports drinks for every 15-20 minutes of outdoor exercise or play. If children are involved in sports that have outdoor practices, they should be done in the coolest part of the day and should start with shorter practice times and slowly build up time. If a child starts to feel dizzy, nauseated or has muscle cramps, he or she should immediately stop the activity and find a cool place to rest and rehydrate.”
Dos and Don’ts of Being Home Alone
For parents of teenage children who are home alone while they are at work, Dr. Drago advises reviewing the rules and the dos and don’ts of being home alone.
- Is it OK for the kids to have friends over while you aren’t there?
- Are the kids allowed to leave the house to go out with friends?
- Do you want them to call you at a certain time to check in? It also is helpful to establish a ‘contact person’—someone the teenager can go to if they have questions or if something happens at home.
This person can be a grandparent or a neighbor—someone who can check in on the child during the day.
Dr. Drago also has advice for parents when it comes to sleeping. “Some freedom during the summer to stay up a little later and sleep in a little longer is OK, but you want to make sure that children do not end up spending their whole summer inside,” she says. “Try to keep your child on a sleep schedule that is as normal as possible because disrupting a child’s sleep pattern can make them grumpy and tired during the summer and it makes it much harder to transition back to the ‘school time’ schedule.”
TV, Computer and Cell Phone Time
When it comes to TV, computer and cell phone time, Dr. Drago cites the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of two hours or less of screen time a day—year-round. “Encourage kids to use their extra free time to go outside and do an activity they can’t do as much during the school year,” Dr. Drago says. “Join a sports team or go to the beach instead of spending that time texting or hanging out on Facebook.”
By setting rules and boundaries and keeping an eye on safety, parents can ensure their children have a healthy, active and happy summer break—and an easy transition to the next school year.
“My goal right now is just to get through this, ” Anne says “I attend a support group and that really helps because you realize you’re not the only one.”
Dipping into Swim Safety
Denise Drago, M.D.
Family Medicine - Lee Physician Group
8960 Colonial Center Drive
Fort Myers, FL 33905