Warmer weather is finally here, and the kids are ready to have some fun outdoors. Whether it’s swimming, hiking, biking, or just going to the playground, your children want to be on the move as the weather warms up. As they get more active outdoors, they are likely to fall, slip, and stumble. There are important tips parents can follow to keep your children safe as they enjoy the outdoors. You don’t want an unexpected trip to the Emergency Department to ruin a beautiful sunny day.
General Outdoor Safety
No matter what activity you do outside, it is important to stay hydrated in the warmer weather. Remind your children to drink water throughout the day because heat-related illness can be very serious and even life-threatening. To get enough water, your child or teen should drink at least six to eight cups of water a day and eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Also, pay special attention to your child's or teen's water consumption when they are physically active. Before, during and after any physical activity, kids need to drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. The goal is to drink a half cup to two cups of water every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising. Make sure your kids are wearing light-colored, lightweight clothing which allows for evaporation of sweat.
It is also important to protect your child from ticks. Wear a proper repellent and make sure you do a thorough check of your child’s entire body when they come in from playing outdoors, especially their hair. If the tick is removed within 24 hours, the risk of Lyme disease is extremely low.
A helmet is an important part of keeping your kids safe when riding a bicycle. Properly fitted helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 45 percent. Here are some tips to keep your child safe when riding a bike:
· Ride on sidewalks, where permitted.
· When riding in the road, ride in the same direction as traffic on the far right-hand side of the road.
· Obey all traffic laws and stay alert.
· Watch for parked cars.
· Set a good example, adults should wear helmets too.
Water safety is very important when you are around open bodies of water, whether it is the pool, beach, lake, a neighborhood pond, and even a baby pool. Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children ages one to four.
Here are some tips to protect your child around water:
· Teach your children to swim.
· Always supervise children in and around water.
· All supervising adults should know CPR.
· Supervising adults should avoid distractions while watching children in the water.
· Don’t allow children to dive into shallow pools or unknown water.
· Make sure the pool drain has a cover. Suction from a drain can trap an adult or child under water.
The local playground is a popular destination during the summer months. Here are some tips you can follow so your child stays safe while playing with friends:
· Make sure there is a soft surfacing underneath playground equipment. Sand, pea gravel, rubber mulch, and wood chips can help soften a fall. Grass and dirt are not soft enough and can cause injury if a fall occurs.
· If you are building a new playground at home, the soft surface should be six inches deep for playground equipment under four feet high and nine inches deep if the equipment is higher.
· Do not wear a helmet when playing on climbing structures or using a slide. The chin strap can get caught and cause more injury.
· Wear proper footwear, sandals can slip off the foot and cause a fall.
· Only sit on a swing.
· One person should be on a swing at a time.
· One person should be on a slide at a time and slide on your bottom only.
· Use monkey bars for climbing only—not gymnastics.
· Supervise your child at all times.
It is important to get your children outside and moving during the warmer weather but be cautious—you want to enjoy the rest of your spring and summer.
Annalisa Negrea is a registered nurse and injury prevention coordinator with UPMC Susquehanna’s Trauma Program.