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Safe At Home!

Safe at Home!

Warm-Weather Health and Wellness for Kids

Injuries in children are greatly influenced by weather and season.Most of us in the medical field know that pediatric urgent care and emergency room visits for injuries peak in the active summer months.

At some point, many pediatricians and emergency doctors have considered trying to influence legislators to get rid of recreational items like trampolines, scooters, and monkey bars. Some of us have said that we would never let our children near these. The truth of the matter is that this equipment is part of many enjoyable childhood activities and accidents are going to happen. If parents are aware of ways to decrease some of the common injuries and know when and where to seek help, the inevitable injuries could be less scary for all involved.

So let’s take a closer look at some of the culprits behind a possible trip to a pediatric urgent care center, your pediatrician, or the emergency department this summer: Bugs – An unfortunate component of spring and summer, pesky bites and the illnesses and infections related to them can be minimized by taking a few precautions.For starters, do not use scented soaps, perfumes, or hairspray on children. You’ll also want to eliminate standing water around your home, and avoid stagnant pools of water where insects nest or congregate.Insect repellent is recommended and can significantly decrease many bites and illnesses associated with bites. The current American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations for children older than two months of age are to use ten percent DEET to attain protection for two hours, and 30 percent DEET for five hours of protection.Any time there is concern about swelling and/or redness around a bite or any fever, it is appropriate to contact a physician.

Trampolines – Some of the most common injuries related to trampolines are fractures of the ankles, wrists, and elbows, as well as more serious concussions and spinal injuries. Sadly, trampoline accidents have also resulted in death. The majority of these occur on the trampoline mat itself, not from falling off the unit as many may have thought. This means if parents think children are no longer in danger once a safety net is installed around the trampoline, they are mistaken. Predominantly the injuries occur when there is more than one jumper at a time on the trampoline.The AAP advocates against the use of home trampolines, but states that if your children are going to use one, there should be parental supervision, only one jumper on it at a time, and adequate padding to all supporting bars and springs. Another safety recommendation is to prohibit your child from using balls or other play items while on the trampoline.

Bicycles – DO not encourage your child to ride a two-wheeled bike without training wheels until he or she is ready. Stick with foot brakes until your child is older, more experienced, and ready for hand brakes.Ensure that the bike is properly fitted for your child’s height and weight. A good way to do this is to take the child with you to pick out the bike and let the child try it out for size. Your child needs to wear a helmet on every bike ride, no matter how short a distance or how close to home. Set an example by always wearing your helmet when you ride.

Fireworks – We all enjoy a great fireworks show in the summer, but fireworks can result in severe burns, scars, and disfigurement that can last a lifetime. Even sparklers can cause significant injuries. The AAP recommends prohibiting public sale of all fireworks, and encourages families to attend community firework displays run by professionals rather than using fireworks at home. If your child sustains a burn related to a firework, you should seek medical advice or evaluation, as there are complications such as infection and scarring from burns that often require treatment.

Lawn Mowers – Children under age 16 should not be allowed to use riding mowers, and children younger than twelve should not operate push mowers.Be aware of flying objects such as stones or small toys (not frisbees or UFOs) and make a point to pick up objects from the lawn before mowing. Wear safety glasses and closed-toed shoes, not sandals, while mowing and do not allow children to ride as passengers on riding mowers. Ensure that the mower has cooled off after use before children are allowed around it to prevent contact burns.

There are many other weather-related injuries, but it is important to plan ahead and remember that prevention is the key to avoiding many of these injuries. No matter how careful we are, accidents do happen, and any time you are concerned about an injury, you should seek medical advice from your pediatrician, a pediatric urgent care center, or an emergency department as needed. Most children under five do not have the developmental capability to fake an injury so if they complain, these injuries should definitely be evaluated.

Summer is a wonderful time for outdoor activities and for all of us to enjoy our time with our children, but we should be educated and aware of the risks. Talk to children about safety and have a plan to appropriately manage any injuries that do occur.

Lisa Chestnut
Lisa Chestnut, MD, is a board certified pediatrician and has 14 years of pediatric and adult emergency medicine experience. In 2009, she co-founded KidMed, an after-hours pediatric urgent care enter that provides acute care to infants and children, ages newborn to 21. KidMed has two Richmond-area locations.
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