Summer has finally arrived, and the playground is a great way to spend free afternoons with children. But sometimes children get hurt at the park. They may fall and sprain an ankle or need stitches after a bad cut from a piece of play equipment. Here are a few safety points to consider, so you can spend your day at the park injury free:
Scope it out
Before you let your children loose in any outdoor space, take notice of the various play surfaces. Metals will quickly become hot. This includes some slides and rails. If it’s been rainy recently, some surfaces may be slick. Also, look for impact-absorbing surfaces on the ground such as sand, pea gravel, woodchips, mulch and shredded rubber. Hard surfaces such as concrete, asphalt and blacktop will lead to more injury in the event of a fall.
Keep a watchful eye
Children should always be under the supervision of an adult while at the playground. Use the playground as an opportunity to teach your child about safety. Key behaviors that help prevent injuries include not crowding the slide, taking turns, not pushing others and using equipment appropriately.
Check for ticks
Ticks love to hide amid the taller grasses and some may spread infectious diseases such as Lyme. Ticks usually need at least 24 hours of attachment to transmit a potential infection. Thus, a daily tick check is crucial this summer. Check your child under the arms, around the ears and waist, behind the knees, between the legs and in the hair. Consider using a repellent on exposed skin or treating clothing and gear with a permethrin product.
Know the heat index
Unlike the air temperature, the heat index factors in humidity and tells us how it feels outside. Take caution when there is a heat index of greater than 90 degrees. Make playtime short and ensure good hydration. With the heat index higher than 100 degrees, it’s time to find somewhere cool to play.
Protect against the sun
From dawn to dusk, remember sun protection. All children should be dressed in cool, lightweight clothing to protect the body from the sun, and UV protective clothing is even better. Keep children under 6 months old in the shade and out of direct sunlight. For those older than 6 months, apply broad-spectrum sunscreen at least 15-20 minutes before going outside. Use at least 15 SPF. Apply liberally on all exposed skin and rub in well. Having a swim? Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Don’t forget sunglasses or a hat to protect your child’s eyes.
Guard the head
If your child will be cruising around on his or her bike, don’t forget a helmet. Get into the habit early of wearing one for every single ride, even around the driveway. The helmet should cover the top of the forehead and stay snug. Helmets are made with specific activities in mind. Don’t substitute a football or skateboard helmet for a bike helmet.
Now that you’ve considered some important safety tips, enjoy your summer adventure and safe play days ahead and remember your pediatrician is here for injuries, tick bites, sunburns and other child-related concerns.
Dr. Lombardi is a pediatrician in Hopewell Junction and Carmel, NY, who also offers lactation counseling. Nuvance Health offers pediatrics and family medicine in locations close to home and via telemedicine. You can search for a provider near you here or learn more about pediatric services here.