By Dr. Jay D'Orso, Pediatrics and Internal Medicine, Western Connecticut Medical Group Ridgefield Primary Care
Summer weather makes it easier to motivate your kids to get off the couch and away from their screens. However, COVID-19 may make this summer look a bit different, with certain favorite activities being restricted or unavailable in your area.
This summer, in addition to taking precautions to keep your kids safe from accidents and injuries, it’s also important to follow social distancing and COVID-19 safety recommendations to limit the spread of the virus in your community.
When you and your kids are enjoying the summer weather — by biking, hiking, swimming, or just in the backyard — be sure to follow these guidelines to keep your family safe.
Wear A Helmet!
When biking, skating, or riding a scooter, make sure your kids are always wearing a helmet. Helmets can help absorb and cushion blows to the head and reduce the risk of serious head and brain injury by 85 percent.
When choosing the right helmet to wear, make sure it’s snug (the helmet does not slide side-to-side, forward, or backward), level (the helmet does not tilt, fully covers the top of the forehead, and sits squarely), and stable (the chinstrap fixes the helmet in place and it does not rock back and forth). Get a helmet your kids like, as this will make them much more likely to wear it. Lead by example and wear a helmet yourself.
It’s important to always ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, and wear high visibility gear. Avoid riding at night. You may also want to avoid crowded areas and trails to promote proper social distancing.
Heat and Sun Safety
If your kids are going to be spending time in the hot summer sun, take proper steps to avoid conditions such as heatstroke, dehydration, and sunburn. Supervise your kids and make sure they get enough to drink — water is the best choice — especially if they are running around in the sun or sweating in the heat.
Always apply sunscreen on your kids’ skin before they go outside. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using SPF 15 or greater and reapplying at least every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
One of the hazards of the outdoors is insect bites or stings. These can be painful, cause allergic reactions, contain toxins, or even transmit illnesses such as Lyme disease. There are several ways to protect kids against insect bites and stings, including:
Use an insect repellent that contains 10 percent to 30 percent of the active ingredient DEET. Always check that you are using the appropriate amount of insect repellent based on age, and reapply it after swimming according to instructions. Do not use insect repellent with DEET for infants younger than two months old.
Avoid wearing flowery clothing, bright colors, and perfumes as these can attract insects.
Many experts think that ticks need attach for at least 24 to 48 hours to cause tick-related illnesses such as Lyme disease. So check your kids for ticks every night to reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses.
Playing in the water can be a lot of fun for kids and families, but it’s also one of the most dangerous activities for children. Drowning is one of the leading causes of injury deaths in the U.S., and kids — particularly age five and younger — can be especially vulnerable. To keep your kids safe around water, follow these guidelines:
- If you have any type of water near your house, make sure kids cannot get outside on their own. Keep pools fenced in and make sure doors and gates are self-locking.
- Do not leave kids near water unsupervised. If your child is five years old or younger, practice “touch supervision” around water, always keeping your child within arm's reach.
- Adult supervisors should have CPR training.
- Be careful around inflatable pools because kids may lean on the sides and fall in.
- Avoid stagnant water. Mosquitoes and water-borne diseases thrive in and around stagnant water. Contact your healthcare provider and local health authority if you think you or your child may have contracted a water-borne disease.
- When boating, the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that kids wear life jackets. In Connecticut, all children 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times on a boat.
- Always seek emergency medical attention after a near-drowning, especially if your child was submerged for more than five minutes; life support (e.g., CPR, rescue breathing) was administered 10 minutes or more from the time of the event; or resuscitation took more than 25 minutes from the time of the event.
When it comes to COVID-19, swimming is considered a low-risk activity because there’s currently no evidence that the virus is transmitted through water. However, spending time at a crowded pool, lake, or beach could make it challenging to follow social distancing and public health recommendations, which could raise your level of COVID-19 risk.
As communities reopen after the COVID-19 surge, parents should follow hygiene recommendations and public health guidelines regarding participation in playdates and neighborhood events. It’s important to make sure that these events and locations are safe for your children.
Playgrounds: As social distancing restrictions ease, parents may need to make decisions about whether it’s safe for their children to return to the neighborhood playground. If you choose to allow your children to use a playground, it’s important that they follow all public health recommendations, such as avoiding touching their face, keeping their distance from non-household members, using hand sanitizer before they eat and when they leave, and washing their hands thoroughly after returning home.
You should also take precautions to reduce your child’s risk of injury. Make sure that the ground underneath and around the play area is a soft material such as rubber, mulch, sand, or wood chips. Make sure the playground is clear of tripping hazards, like tree stumps, and has guardrails that are in good condition. Supervise your child, particularly when on swings, monkey bars, or climbing sets.
Fireworks: Kids and adults alike love watching fireworks. It can be tempting to go to your neighbor’s home to watch them set off a display, or even purchase fireworks yourself. However, fireworks — even “safe” fireworks such as sparklers — can reach temperatures exceeding 1,800 degrees and cause serious burns.
One-quarter of fireworks injuries to kids occur when they are bystanders, and many of the rest occur while they are playing with fireworks under adult supervision. If you and your family are going to enjoy fireworks, the safest way to do so is by attending an event managed by trained professionals — just be sure to practice social distancing, wear a face covering, and avoid crowds as much as possible. Avoid buying fireworks for home use.
Trampolines: Bouncing on a trampoline may be your child’s dream, but trampolines are one of the most common causes of serious injury. According to the latest data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2014 alone, more than 100,000 trampoline-related injuries were treated in an emergency department.
The AAP does not recommend trampolines in any setting. However many kids use them anyway. While I also don’t endorse trampoline use, the following information might be useful to lower injury risk:
- Make sure the trampoline has a net and shock-absorbing pads covering the springs, hooks, and frames.
- Always supervise your kids on a trampoline.
- Allow only one person on at a time.
- Don’t allow kids under age six to use a full-size trampoline.
- Prohibit your kids from doing somersaults or flips.
- Keep kids from going under the trampoline where someone could injure them bouncing above.
If you own a trampoline, verify your insurance covers trampoline-related injury.
The bottom line: Although this summer may be a little different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, do your best to put down the devices, enjoy the great weather, and spend family time outdoors. Have a safe, healthy, and fun summer!
Did you know that Nuvance Health offers Virtual Visits for primary and specialty care so our patients can have a remote consultation with healthcare clinicians from the comfort of their home? For more information, to schedule an appointment, or to find a healthcare clinician, visit nuvancehealth.org/virtualvisits.
Amy Forni, Manager, Public Relations