My middle school science teacher used to preach: “Safety first, safety second, safety always.” Over the years I have realized how right she was; that was one of the most important lessons that I ever learned. Summer is the time of year we all look forward to: long days filled with swimming, outside adventures, vacation – and no homework. What could be better? Perhaps the better questions to ask are what could go wrong, and what we can do to prevent it.
Create a Safety Aid Kit
Too often we think about accidents only after they occur, rather than before they occur. Many of us carry a first aid kit in our car, but the more useful bag to carry is the one that can prevent what the first aid kit was made to treat. So, before we begin our summertime adventures, let’s ensure that we have packed our “safety aid” kit, and that it has everything we need to make this the best (and safest) summer ever.
The first thing to add to our safety aid kit is sunblock. Sunblock is safe to use starting at 2 months of age. Your sunblock should be SPF 30 or greater, although a higher SPF does not offer significantly more sun protection than SPF 30. In addition, sunblock should be applied to the entire body (ideally 30 minutes before going outside) and reapplied every 2 hours (and after swimming). Learn more about an effective sun protection plan for your child.
Keep Bugs Away
The next thing to add to our kit is bug spray to deter the pesky mosquito from treating our skin like a drive-through restaurant. Use insect repellant with DEET, as this has been found to be the most effective deterrent and is safe on children as young as 2 months old. DEET of 10% will be fine for most activities (giving 2 hours of protection); 30% DEET offers 5-6 hours of insect protection. Do not use greater than 30% DEET on children. Lemon of eucalyptus has shown to be effective, but less so than DEET-containing products.
The insect repellant should be applied to all exposed areas after your child is dressed. To offer even more protection, Permethrin-containing products can be applied over the clothing. There are some products sold that contain both the sunblock and the insect repellant in one; these are not recommended as they have been shown to not be effective. However, you can apply both products at the same time: apply the sunblock first, then after 15-30 minutes, the insect repellant can be applied.
Protect from Head Injuries
The third thing to add to our safety kit is a helmet to be worn each and every time your child is on wheels (bike, scooter, skateboard, etc.)—no excuses! Head injury and concussions are one of the biggest safety threats to your child’s health and long-term well-being. To encourage your child to wear a helmet, explain the important reasons for wearing one. Remember to model good habits for your child by wearing a helmet of your own.
Stay Safe in the Water
Finally, it is important to remember that a child’s biggest summertime risk (and in Florida, a year-round risk) is drowning. It is important that we never allow our children to swim (or even have access to a pool) without direct adult supervision, no matter how strong of a swimmer we think they are. And although this may surprise you, a common time of drowning is at pool parties, when a single child can get lost in the crowd of other children. It is important to make sure there is always an adult that is assigned the job of watching the children; the parents can take turns watching so they are still able to enjoy the party.
In summary, our safety aid kit needs sunblock, insect repellant, and a helmet along with the “rules of the pool.” Add in your child’s energy and imagination, and we are all set for an awesome summer. And remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Dr. Lee Edelstein is a proud member of the TopLine MD Alliance practicing medicine in Palm Beach County, Florida.