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Summer Safety for Kids

by Alexa Styliadis

Keep your kids safe this summer!

With school out for summer and summer camps beginning, families always have questions about the best ways to protect their children when they play outside. Dr. Karina Vattana, Medical Director of Pathway Pediatrics, shares her recommendations for how to keep little ones safe this summer.

Water Safety
Drowning is the leading cause of death for toddlers between the ages of 1-4 in the United States. We know that kids can drown just playing in 1-2 inches of water, so it’s important that kids playing in puddles, in bathtubs, and in pools are always watched by an adult.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons as one of the best mechanisms of protection against drowning, and swim lessons can start as early as 12 months old. Although swim lessons can be protective against drowning, the most important thing that families can do to prevent drowning is to restrict child and adolescent access to pools when there isn’t constant adult supervision present. A recent study showed that 69% of drowning deaths under the age of 5 happened when children weren’t expected to be in water during the time of the drowning. Please ensure that all pools (including inflatable, above-ground pools) are surrounded by fencing on all four sides and have self-closing and self-latching gates that open away from the pool. Additionally, always double check that hot tubs and pools are closed and locked directly after use.

Insect Bites
Insect repellants that are endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for kids ages two years and older to prevent insect bites. Insect repellants that contain active ingredients like DEET and Picaridin are safe for kids starting at 2 years old, and insect repellants containing oil of lemon eucalyptus are safe for kids ages three and up. Apply these repellants on exposed skin and on top of (never underneath) clothing. Insect repellants are NOT recommended for infants under the age of two years old.

If they occur, insect bites can be the bane of existence for many parents who dread having to remind children at all hours of the night not to scratch the affected areas. Families can use hydrocortisone 1% (“Cortisone 10” over the counter) on the skin to improve itching associated with insect bites. Pediatricians commonly see kids who come into the office with insect bites that, after days of scratching, have become large, red, swollen, and warm to touch. These are usually infected insect bites which can require antibiotics for treatment from a doctor. However, some children have an allergy to mosquito bites where they develop similar large, angry-looking, swollen rashes in places where they were bitten by mosquitos. Although these rashes can look like infected insect bites, they’re actually mild allergic reactions that typically don’t require antibiotics. It can be hard to tell which insect bites are allergic reaction versus infections, so always contact your pediatrician if you are unsure on how to manage an insect bite.

Tick Bites
Make sure to check children from top to bottom before or after baths daily to ensure that they don’t have any ticks attached. Rochester is an endemic city for Lyme disease, so we recommend daily “tick checks” for all kids, even those who live in the suburbs or urban areas. If you find a tick on your child, don’t try to remove it at home (typically, they can be difficult to remove without specific instruments). Instead, call your pediatrician or go to an Urgent Care facility so that a medical provider can remove the tick and prescribe preventive medications if needed. If a tick has been attached for less than 36 hours, the risk of transmission of Lyme disease is very low and your child typically doesn’t need preventative antibiotics in this case. Insect repellants can lower the risk of your child obtaining a tick bite, but use them as directed above for children ages 2 and older.

Sun Safety
Summer is the perfect time for your family to have fun in the sun, but it’s important to remember key safety tips to ensure that everyone remains healthy outdoors.

For infants less than 6 months old, please avoid exposing them to direct sunlight. Sunscreen and insect repellants are not safe for this age group.

For older children, remember that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM during the day, so try to limit sun exposure during this time. (Hint: this is a great time for a family nap!) To choose an appropriate sunscreen, use a product that advertises as “broad spectrum;” this means that it blocks out harmful UVA and UVB sun rays. A product with SPF of 30 or higher works well for most children but should be applied 15 minutes before sun exposure and should be reapplied every two hours. Zinc oxide-based sunscreens are great choices for infants 6 months or older or kids with sensitive skin.

Written by Dr. Karina Vattana, Medical Director of Pathway Pediatrics


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