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New York City
April 2001

Preparing For the Summer

by Warren M. Seigel, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Spring is here and summer is coming. After a long winter indoors, parents often start to ask that age-old question: ďWhat am I going to do with the kids this summer?Ē A little advance planning can go a long way towards guaranteeing a fun and safe summer for all.

Sun Safety

Remember that a suntan is not a sign of good health. It is a sign that the skin has been injured. Too much sun causes wrinkles, freckles, dilated blood vessels and leads to skin cancer. Children are particularly prone to bad sunburns and research has shown that most of our lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of 20.

Make sure your child is wearing a sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15 on all exposed skin at least 20 minutes before he or she goes out in the sun. It should also be applied on cloudy days since it is the invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays that are most dangerous. Reapply the sunscreen every three to four hours and when your child comes out of the water. Symptoms of overexposure to the sun include: skin tenderness, pain, swelling and blistering. If your child exhibits fever, chills, upset stomach or confusion, these are signs of serious sunburn and prompt medical attention is warranted.

Try to avoid the sun in the middle of the day. Schedule outdoor activities before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Encourage everyone to wear a hat when outside in the sun. The use of umbrellas and sunglasses is also a wonderful way to protect your child.

Donít forget that parents set an example for their children. Practice safe sun habits yourself and you increase the likelihood that your child will follow the rules of sun safety.

Swimming

Water, whether swimming, boating or just splashing around, is often a childís biggest summer playground. It can also be one of the biggest hazards for children. Drowning is the third most common cause of death in children under the age of five. As soon as possible, usually when your child reaches the age of three and/or is toilet trained, consider swimming lessons. Remember that even a child who knows how to swim needs to be watched constantly.

Stay away from pool diving boards, and at the beach watch out for undertow and stay in lifeguard-supervised area.

Donít forget to remind experienced swimmers that diving into shallow water, a strong undertow or exhaustion pose significant risks to their health. Encourage a good time, but donít forget to review the rules of water safety.

Road Safety

Children often take the opportunity to put a lot of miles on their bicycles, skateboards, scooters or in-line skates during the warm summer months. Make sure that your child knows (and obeys) the rules of the road. Enforce the first rule: Always wear a helmet when on the road. Teach your child to walk his or her bicycle across the street at crosswalks, and to use proper hand signals when making turns. Protect elbows and knees to avoid scrapes and bruises.

Everyone wants to enjoy the summer. Make sure that you know where your children are and what they are doing, and encourage them to keep you informed. Making plans now will help everyone be ready for a safe and enjoyable summer.

Dr. Seigel is Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, Coney Island Hospital, Brooklyn, NY.

 

Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2001.




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