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Dakota Center for Independent Living

Summertime Safety

Whether you have children with disabilities or not, it is starting to warm up outside and that means kids are ready to fill the sidewalks, backyards, pools, parks, and anywhere outside they can think to have fun.  With the outdoors come many safety issues.  Being a parent and pediatrician makes me a little neurotic when it comes to outdoor safety.  My kids could probably recite my entire outside “rules” right back to me.  Well here it goes, this could have been written by my 8 year old.

Sunscreen – You should apply sunscreen anytime you will be outside.  The exception to the rule is that babies younger than 6 months old should be kept in the shade and out of the sun completely.  Don’t forget that you can get sunburned on a cloudy day.  Choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB or what is called broad-spectrum.  What about SPF?  Most children’s brand sunscreen is 15, 30, 45, or 60.  Any of them are good, what matters the most is how you use them.  They should be applied 30 minutes before going outside.  They should be reapplied every 2 hours or more often if getting wet or sweaty (even if they are water proof).   Don’t forget the ears, hands, feet, and for little girls don’t forget the hair part.  Sunglasses, hats and SPF clothing are great combined with good sunscreen application.  Each sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer, so use lots of sunscreen and reapply often.

Helmets – Anytime my kids get on anything with wheels they know that their heads have to be covered with a helmet.  That includes tricycles, scooters, skateboards, bicycles, four wheelers, and motorbikes.  My smart alec 8-year-old has said to me “Well, the car has wheels, do I have to wear my helmet in there?”  Ahh, kids can be so challenging sometimes.  The helmet should fit well with the front sitting down on their forehead not back in their hair.  It should fit snug, not floppy and loose.  The chinstrap should be adjusted so the helmet fits snuggly.  It should be appropriate for the activity, for example a bicycle helmet should not be worn on a four-wheeler.  There are different helmets for different activities so make sure you have the proper head gear.  The most important part is that the helmet is only good if it is on the child’s head, so make sure your children know how important it is to wear their helmet.  You could even reward your children for wearing their helmet without you having to ask them.  If your helmet has been through a fall or crash it should be replaced, it has served its purpose and it might not provide adequate protection in another crash.

Water – Pools, lakes, and rivers are a ton of fun in the summer.  Children of all ages usually love to spend time in or around water.  Once again this is an area that can lead to injury and harm if safety is not kept in the forefront of our minds.  With any age child, adult supervision around water cannot be stressed enough.  The adult supervisor should be able to swim and should not be distracted.  Avoid talking on the cell phone, cruising the Internet, checking Facebook, doing household chores, or any other distraction while you are supervising children in/or around water.  The supervisor of infants and toddlers should be in the water with them and just an arm reach away.  If you are in a boat or raft than the use of a life jacket is very important.  Be sure that each person has a life jacket.  Be sure you have the correct fitting life jacket.  Many are based on your child’s weight.  The jacket should not be loose, make sure you use all necessary straps.  Adults should wear their life jackets for their own safety and also to be a good role model for children.  Life jackets can also be used when in or around water but should never take the place of an adult supervisor.

With these rules in mind, I hope the summer brings many laughs and lots of quality time spent with your children outdoors.  Happy Summer!