How to Keep Your Kids Out of the ER This Summer

Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by Children’s Hospital.

It’s that time of year … school is out; the kids are restless and need to release all of that pent up energy. The warm weather is upon us and the outdoors are calling. There is plenty to do, but with so many things out there, how do you keep them safe? Well, as I’ve learned both as a pediatrician and as a parent, no one is perfect. No matter how hard you try to prevent them, accidents do and will happen – that’s just how kids are! The physicians and staff at the West Jefferson Medical Center Pediatric ER in partnership with Children’s Hospital are here if you need us, but here are a few basic summer safety tips that will hopefully help keep your kids out of the ER this summer.

Water Safety

In case you haven’t noticed, Louisiana summers are HOT! Not just a little hot – miserable, sweltering, smothering hot. So that means that a lot of people are going to head to the pool. Pools are a great way to get in some exercise and cool off at the same time, but if not utilized correctly can also be very dangerous. Here is how you can take some of the potential hazards out of a fun filled water day:

  • Make sure that the pool is properly maintained and in good working order. Do not use any pool or spa if there are broken or missing drain covers, as this is a risk for entrapment.
  • An adult should actively watch children at all times while they are in a pool.
  • For infants and toddlers, an adult should be in the water and within arm’s reach, providing “touch supervision.”
  • For older children, an adult should be paying constant attention and free from distractions, such as talking on the phone, socializing, tending to household chores or drinking alcohol.
  • The supervising adult must know how to swim!

Pool rules should include …

  • No running on the pool deck.
  • No diving in a pool that is not deep enough.
  • No tricycles or riding toys at pool side.
  • Keeping toys away from the pool when the pool is not in use.
  • If you are using a large inflatable pool, empty and deflate the pool after each use.
  • Any in-ground pools should have a fence or barrier completely surrounding it with a locking mechanism on the door.

Playground Safety

We get it – kids like to run, and jump, and spin, and do a number of other active things that sometimes we just can’t put into words. All while laughing, squealing and screaming at ear rattling decibels. For days like this, it’s off to the playground. This will allow kids to expend a ton of energy, while getting them and you out of the house for some physical activity. Here is what you need to watch out for:

  • Make sure that the playground has safety-tested mats or loose-fill materials (shredded rubber, sand, wood chips or bark) maintained to a depth of at least 9 inches.
  • The protective surface should be installed at least 6 feet in all directions from the equipment.
  • Equipment should be carefully maintained.
  • Swing seats should be made of soft materials such as rubber, plastic or canvas. Make sure that children cannot reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap any body part.
  • Open “S” hooks or protruding bolt ends can be hazardous, so be careful!
  • Never attach any ropes, jump ropes, leashes or similar items to play equipment. Children can be strangled by these.
  • Make sure children remove helmets or anything looped around their necks.
  • Make sure slides are cool to prevent children’s legs from getting burned.
  • Do not allow children to play barefoot on the playground.
  • Be sure to supervise your children.

Bicycle Safety

Sometimes kids just want to go. Now that it’s warm outside and they want to be independent, they may want to take their bike. Here’s what you need to know regarding bicycle safety:

  • Make sure that you know where they are riding. Stick to bike friendly areas. A driveway, sidewalk, bike path or park is usually best.
  • Helmet, helmet, helmet! No matter what a person’s age, from toddler to adult, a helmet can help protect a bicyclist from serious injury.
  • Set the example! Wear a helmet when you ride in order to help get your children into the helmet habit! You and your child should wear a helmet on every bike ride, no matter how short or close to home.
  • When purchasing a helmet, look for a label or sticker that meets the CPSC safety standard.
  • Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike without training wheels until he or she is ready.
  • Stick with foot brakes until your child is older and more experienced for hand brakes.
  • Take your child with you when you shop for the bike and helmet, so that he or she can try it out. Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to “grow into.” Oversized bikes are especially dangerous.

Skateboard, Scooter, In-line Skates, Hover board and Heely Safety

Not to date myself, but when I was growing up the only thing that existed on this list was a skateboard. Primarily made of wood with rubber wheels, they were far from in vogue, and only a handful of people were interested in riding them. Now, these things are light weight and specialized. Kids can go to skate parks or use just about anything they can imagine as a ramp (not always successfully). Recently, I even saw an “electric skateboard” – whatever that is. And if I am going to be completely transparent, I had to use Google to find out exactly what a Heely was. For those of you who are wondering, it’s those sneakers with wheels on the bottom of them – also known as a “roller shoe.” So, I am going to call this section “Small things with wheels that kids can fall off and go boom with” Safety. Here’s what we can do to minimize those spills.

  • Once again … Helmet, Helmet, Helmet!
  • Most injuries occur due to falls, so in addition to a helmet, all skateboarders, skaters and hover board and scooter riders should strongly consider other protective gear including knee and elbow pads.
  • Skate on designated paths or at parks rather than in the street. Children should never ride in or near moving traffic.
  • Riders should never skate alone. Children under the age of 8 should be supervised at all times.
  • Don’t forget the sunscreen and keep kids hydrated!

Sun Safety

Probably the most important things to remember this summer is that sunscreen and hydration are vital. Although we tend to see many more injuries coming through the Pediatric ER during the warmer months, the patients that have been overexposed to the sun and/or are dehydrated tend to be the sickest of the bunch.

Sunburns are painful and can last for days. Unfortunately, they can also happen very quickly. Just a short time out exposed to the sun’s UV rays without the proper coverage is enough time to cause your child to burn. If your child is heading out to play, then sunscreen should be applied – even if it is cloudy outside. Use at least SPF 15 or greater. Protection against UVA and UVB rays is recommended and sunscreen should be reapplied about every two hours (more frequently if swimming or sweating). Another option would be to put your child in sun protective clothing/hats which provides SPF protection within the fabric.

Children are much more prone to dehydration, because their bodies don’t cool down as efficiently as adults, making the summer’s heat potentially dangerous. The best way to keep your child hydrated is to get him/her used to drinking liquids regularly. Offer healthy beverages at every meal and with snacks. If you know that a busy or strenuous day is coming up in your child’s schedule then add some extra fluids before they participate. When they are active in the heat, don’t wait until a child is thirsty to offer refreshments. Children should have frequent beverage breaks during activity, about every 15 – 20 minutes in hot weather.

Now that you have the basics, remember to have fun! Enjoy this time with your children and form those memories that will last a lifetime – preferably without me standing next to you in the ER!

About Mitchell Rubin, MD

Dr. Rubin has served as both a Pediatric Hospitalist and Pediatric ER physician at West Jefferson Medical Center for 15 years, where he also served as the Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics for eight years and the Medical Director of Pediatric Services for five years.  In 2016, he joined the West Jefferson Pediatric Emergency Department in partnership with Children’s Hospital, where he now serves as the Medical Director.

Children's Hospital New Orleans
Children’s Hospital New Orleans is a 229-bed, non-profit academic pediatric medical center that offers comprehensive healthcare services, including over 40 pediatric specialties, delivered just for children. With more than 400 physicians trained in more than 40 pediatric subspecialties, Children’s offers a comprehensive array of pediatric healthcare services in Louisiana and the Gulf South. In addition to its main campus located in New Orleans, the hospital operates a network of specialty clinics across Louisiana and in Southern Mississippi, including in Covington, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette. Children’s Hospital offers primary care services at 15 convenient locations throughout Southeast Louisiana and remotely via its Virtual Care app. Children’s Hospital is a proud member of LCMC Health, a Louisiana-based, not-for-profit hospital system which also includes New Orleans East Hospital, Touro, University Medical Center New Orleans and West Jefferson Medical Center. Learn more at chnola.org.

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