Keep Your Kids Safe This Summer
By Dr. Erica Peterson, MD, Pediatrician, Bluestem Health
As the bitter cold of Nebraska winter comes to an end, many kids and families start to dream of summer fun. Outdoor activity and exercise are beneficial for physical and emotional well-being. Now is the ideal time to review and prepare to keep kids safe and healthy over summer break.
Every year, approximately 26 ,000 children are seen in emergency rooms for head injuries related to bicycling, so it is critical to ensure your child has a properly-fitted helmet.1 Helmets should be snug but not tight, allowing approximately two fingers to pass between the strap and the chin, and the helmet should meet safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC.gov website has an abundance of information on choosing safe helmets for different activities and other safety tips in general.
A recent review showed that helmets decreased the risk of head and severe brain injury by 63% to 88% for all ages of bicyclists1. However, even the most technologically-advanced helmet will only prevent head injury if it is worn at the time of an accident. Many accidents happen close to home; it is necessary for your child to wear a helmet every single time a bicycle or scooter is used. It is easiest to instill this habit by setting this expectation from a young age and modeling helmet use yourself.
For teens and tweens, it is important to stress the protective value of helmet use even if they themselves are skilled riders. For some teenagers, focusing on the prevention of facial injuries may resonate more than sharing the data on head injury prevention alone. Some parents have found it effective to compare using a bike helmet to using a protective cell phone case. Additionally, allowing tweens or teens to express their individuality by picking out their own helmet style or decorative helmet stickers can improve adherence when financially feasible.
Swimming is another form of exercise synonymous with summer fun for many families, but it is important to follow some simple safety tips around water.
- Never leave a child unattended in or near water, including small backyard pools.
- Ensure that the supervising adult avoids distractions such as texting, reading, and other interruptions.
- Teach children how to swim, and advise them to stay away from pool drains and suction outlets.
- Ensure all pools your family swims in have compliant drain covers to avoid accidental entrapment. For those with home pools or spas, ensure pools are surrounded on all four sides by fences that are at least 4 feet high and that gates are self-closing.
- Consider alarms to alert an adult if gates are opened or the pool is entered.
- Take a class to learn CPR and keep a phone nearby to call for help if needed.
Additional tips on pool safety can be found at poolsafety.gov.
While outside, it is important to protect your skin from sunburn and skin cancer. Apply a generous amount of broad-spectrum sunscreen, that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, from 15 to 30 minutes prior to exposure. Most recommend SPF 15-30, and many recommend avoiding sunscreen that contains oxybenzone because of concerns about hormonal properties. It is important to reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or drying off.
Avoid peak sun hours between 10:00 a.m. and
2:00 p.m., and seek shade when possible. Consider sun-protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses (with 99% UV protection) to minimize exposure.
Arm your family now with well-fitted helmets, a water safety review, SPF 30 sunscreen, and enjoy the best summer in Lincoln. Additional tips to keep your kids safe can be found on
healthychildren.org and CPSC.gov websites.
1 From The American Academy of Pediatrics,Technical Report. August 15 2022. “Helmet Use In Preventing Head Injuries in Bicycling, Snow Sports, and Other Recreational activities And Sports.” Lois K. Lee, Md, Mph, Faap; Michael R. Flaherty, Do; Ashley M. Blanchard, Md, Msc, Faap; Maneesha Agarwal, Md, Faap; The Council on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention.