Summer-proof your family against injury
The season of fun, mischief and mayhem.
After months of being cooped up inside, playing outdoors is a tonic for all ages.
But there's also a dark side: Cuts. Burns. Bug bites. Heat stroke. Dehydration.
It's enough to make your head swim with worry.
Start by summer-proofing your kids and yourself.
"In general, the most common injuries tend to be involved around water. Either not drinking enough water or water recreation," said Dr. Douglas Pepple, family and sports medicine physician at the Lake Stevens Everett Clinic.
Keep a survival kit in the car with water, sports drinks and other essentials, such as antiseptic, bandages, sunscreen, bug spray, tweezers and adult pain relievers (parents get more headaches in the summer).
This preparation saves a last-minute trip to the store, where you might be tempted to leave the kids in the car while you just "run in" for a few things.
Never leave children unsupervised in a car, Pepple said. Cars heat up quickly, and so do kids.
"They have an increased risk of heat stroke compared to adults," he said.
Sure, taking children inside the store has its perils. It's harrowing just walking through the parking lot swarming with distracted drivers amped up by the sunshine.
Once inside the store, the kids beg for candy that they can choke on and plastic swords to swing with reckless abandon.
So stash that bag of essentials in the car before heading to the park, playground or beach.
The beach is a land mine in itself. Wear shoes to shield tootsies from broken glass and bottle caps hidden in sand and rocks.
Going in the water? Use common sense. Really, it's that simple. Don't drink while driving a boat. Wear life jackets that fit properly.
"An arm floatie or inner tube is never a substitute for a life jacket," Pepple said.
Be wary of the weather. Head inside if you see a lightning flash or hear thunder.
Slather on the sunscreen. Repeat often. Wear a hat, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing.
Dress the kids in bright colors to make them visible.
Drink up. Take frequent water breaks. "If you're thirsty, you're already behind," Pepple said.
Mukilteo mom Marla Tam-Hoy Barhoum makes safety a family affair.
She gets her daughters, Hana, 4, and Leila, 2, in the act by letting them choose the designs and colors of items such as water bottles and bandages.
"It makes it special," she said.
Barhoum has all the safety bases covered with the dynamic duo. The girls wear helmets on scooters, rubber-soled shoes on the beach and fitted flotation devices in the pool.
Still, things happen, even on routine romps at the playground.
Hana's joy of mastering the monkey bars quickly changed to woe when her hands started stinging with blisters.
It wasn't anything that a princess Band-Aid couldn't fix.
Summer safety tips
1. Maintain adequate hydration before, during and after exercise. If you wait to drink until you are thirsty, you're already dehydrated. For hikes of four or more hours, use hiking shoes or boots, and take a daypack with lunch and plenty of fluids and electrolytes. Wear light synthetic trousers if you anticipate overgrowth.
2. When swimming, keep your child in sight. In open water, use the buddy system.
3. When boating, and when children are swimming in open water, use a life vest. In your vest, do the "touchdown" test: If it touches your ears or chin, it's too loose or too big.
4. Don't mix boating and alcohol. Most boating-related accidents are alcohol-related.
5. If someone overheats, provide generous cool drinks and get the person indoors. If the person cannot drink, give an ice bath immediately, then seek medical attention.
6. Head indoors if you count 30 seconds or less between lightning and thunder. Don't head back out until it's been 30 minutes since the lightning and thunder have passed.
7. Get a tetanus shot at least every 10 years.
8. Make sure summer toys are age-appropriate, with no small parts or choking hazards for small children. For any riding toy, people-powered or motorized, always use a helmet.
Source: Dr. Douglas Pepple, Everett Clinic family and sports medicine physician
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