Posted: March 2010
And Other Summer Safety Do’s.
Ask most kids to name their favorite season, you’d probably hear them shout, “Summer!” Although lots of things have changed over the years, this is one that hasn’t.
With the longer, sunnier days, summer is the time to be outdoors, play in water, go bicycling and often vacation in really ‘cool’ places.
Kristen Andersen, MD, pediatrician, said, “The injuries we see in summer today are basically the same injuries doctors saw when I was growing up.”
And, Dr. Andersen would be one to know. She was raised by a pediatrician — her mom — Jill Baer, MD.
Dr. Andersen, who is very close to her mom said, “Since age 10, I knew that I wanted to be a pediatrician. Every Saturday before T-ball or soccer practice, my mom would do rounds and I’d see her examining newborn babies and talking to moms.”
“Probably the most important message for parents is that common summer injuries are preventable,” she said.
IT’S SUN BLOCK FOR THE SUN.
What’s the best way to enjoy the sun? With sun block, of course.
“The same rules apply as when I was a child. Avoid direct sunlight from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. Use at least SPF15 sun block and put it on your child 20 minutes before going out, so it can soak in and be effective. If you put sun block on when you get to the pool, your child often is burnt by the time she jumps in, and the water washes it off,” she said.
“The most common error is not using enough sun block,” Dr. Andersen said. “When my mom started her practice, skin cancer was more of an adult disease. Today, 80 percent of sun damage occurs prior to age 18, and we are seeing more skin cancers at younger ages.”
For toddlers, use one ounce of sun block, applying it every two hours. Babies under six months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight totally.
Wear protective clothing, such as hats to help protect the face from the sun, and sunglasses with UV protection for the eyes and face.
If a child gets too much sun exposure, she recommends using a pain reliever such as Motrin or Tylenol, and aloe vera or hydrating moisturizer for the skin.
WATER: SUPERVISION REQUIRED.
One of the top summer activities is playing in the water. While we want our children to have fun and not be afraid of water, adults absolutely must supervise children when it comes to water safety.
“Sadly, one of the most common tragic accidents with children is drowning. What most people don’t realize is that it only takes one inch of water and the time to answer the phone, for a child to drown,” said Dr. Andersen. “Any child, age five and under, should never be more than one arm’s length from an adult.”
All children need to be supervised even if they have taken swimming lessons and/ or wear a floating device.
“Parents often overestimate their child’s ability to swim safely. Most drowning occurs in backyards and happen in less than a minute. Children can drown in baby swim pools or by putting their faces in a bucket of water,” she said.
Dr. Baer echoed her daughter’s comments on water safety. “Everybody thinks its okay for children to be on the steps or sidewalk near a pool. But things happen so fast.”
DRINK FLUIDS FOR HYDRATION.
When kids are out in the sun and going to sports practices and games, they need to drink fluids before and during their events. By the time children realize they are thirsty, they often are very dehydrated. For middle school age kids, Dr. Andersen recommends eight ounces of fluid or sports drinks before going to practice and continuing to hydrate while outside.
“Ideally, it would be best if practices are after 4 p.m., so children aren’t in direct sunlight,” she said.
WHEN ON WHEELS, WEAR HELMETS.
Only about one-fourth of kids wear helmets today, according to Dr. Andersen. “Kids usually think helmets aren’t cool or their helmets don’t fit right,” she said.
Dr. Andersen is adamant that children use bike helmets when they are on skateboards, scooters, roller blades, etc., because head injuries can be very serious.
She cautioned, “Parents may think their child is just playing in their backyard so they don’t need to wear a helmet. But that is where most injuries occur.”
Regarding ATVs, children should not be on them, period. “The most severe head injuries we see are from ATV accidents,” she said.
THE BUZZ ON BUG REPELLENT.
Don’t forget the bug repellent! “Any child two months and up should wear bug repellent with 30% DEET for ticks and mosquitoes,” said Dr. Andersen. “I do not recommend combination products with sun block and bug repellent. One reason is that bug repellent just needs to be applied once and sun block must be reapplied throughout the day.”
It doesn’t matter which you apply first — just use them. Parents should apply it to young children, otherwise it ends up on their hands and ultimately gets rubbed into their eyes.
So, what’s changed between yesterday and today? Dr. Baer said parents today have access to health information via computers and, in emergencies, have cell phones.
For more tips on summer safety precautions, Dr. Andersen recommends visiting the American Academy of Pediatrics website, healthychildren.org.
Andersen closes, “Many medical specialists only see a patient once, so what makes pediatrics special to me is that I get to establish relationships with families. I love children and seeing my patients grow up.”
Kristen Andersen, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician on staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. She earned her medical degree from Saint Louis University and completed her internship and residency in pediatrics at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. She joined her mother’s practice in June 2009. Jill Baer, MD, has been in practice for more than 30 years. Drs. Baer and Andersen believe they are the first mother-daughter practice in pediatrics in