Summer Safety Checklist

With summer in full swing, it’s time for families to head for the hills, the beach, the mountains, and the great outdoors. With those treks come some real risks, as evidenced by recent news reports of a toddler perishing from a tick-borne illness, and another a victim of dry drowning and another with second degree burns from a sunscreen. So I wanted to present some solid tips and advice to get you all through the summer safely!

Ticks

WHAT are they? Ticks are small bugs that thrive in the hot summer months, and with so much rain this year, their season for bugging us is prolonged. Ticks love to hang out in shaded, cool, moist areas like forest floors and also love to pole vault off of blades of grass. There is virtually no place in the continental US that doesn’t have ticks.

WHY the worry? Ticks carry a variety of germs that can cause chronic illnesses like Lyme disease, acute life threatening illness like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and many more. Ticks can also bite certain strains of livestock, then a human, and induce an allergy to beef! So it’s important not to let us be their feeding ground.

HOW to protect yourself? When hiking, out in grassy or forested areas COVER UP! Wear long sleeves, lightweight long pants (tucked into your boots or socks) and put your hair up and wear a hat. Use DEET containing repellant on exposed areas – other preparations that claim efficacy simply do not work. At the end of the day, it’s important to shower up, use a washcloth and rub down your skin (this can also dislodge a tick early), and have a loved one inspect your hair, scalp and backside for embedded ticks.

WHEN to be concerned? If you or your child has a fever, rash, joint aches or flu-like illness following a tick bite by days to a few weeks, get thee to your doctor immediately. Tick borne illnesses are treatable when suspected, diagnosed, and treated early. PS: make sure your animals are up to date on their flea and tick treatments too. A once over after hiking is good for your dog too.

Water Safety

 It goes without saying, but I’ll say it – NEVER turn your back on a child in a pool or near a body of water, even if it’s a wading pool, pond, or bucketful. That means NOT playing on YOUR screens, or spending time on the phone – both are distracting enough as many accidents in and around water happen in a heartbeat, and typically are quiet events.

ALL pools in homes should be gated/covered safely until all children and adults, as well as neighbor’s children, are water safe. Discourage your children from wrestling and dunking each other under water. Accidental aspiration of pool, pond, or ocean water into the lungs can cause “dry drowning” hours later, long after playtime in the pool has finished.

NEVER leave a body of water unattended once your children are out. Lock the pool gate, empty the buckets and kiddy pool. If out in the open water boating, paddle boarding, or tubing, make sure your children have and wear approved safety vests at all times – whether they are good swimmers or not.

Sun Safety

Let’s remember that 2 severe sunburns in childhood double a person’s risk of skin cancer/melanoma and those occurring in young to later adulthood multiply the risk even more. We know we should wear sunscreen daily, BUT not all sunscreens are alike, as their individual active and inactive ingredients all have the potential to cause rashes or reactions. So as with any skin care product, especially if you are using it for the first time, testing a small amount on a patch of skin before anticipated use is a good thing. If your pre-verbal child screams or is irritable, even without a red reaction, wash it off and don’t use it on your child.

Avoid lotions with bergamot (the active ingredient in earl grey tea), or citrus oils in them…it’s not unusual to see blistering reactions on the skin caused by these agents. The condition is called phyto-photo-dermatitis and can also happen if your child is on certain antibiotics or other medications and goes out in the sun. So, if your child is on medications, make sure you ask your pharmacist or pediatrician if playing in the sun is recommended.

Apply sunscreen several minutes before going outside, and if you or your loved ones are wet, sweaty, sandy, or toweling off, reapply at least every 2 hours. At a very minimum re-apply every 3-4 hours and if skin starts reddening, get out of the sun immediately, and stay out to avoid more damage.

Best practice – UPF (UV Protective factor) swimsuits, rash guards, a cool pair of UVA/B blocking shades and a wide brimmed hat. And remember, some of the worst sunburns out there happen on foggy days.

Car Safety

There’s a large bump in motor vehicle accidents and teen fatalities in the summer when teens and young adults hit the road, travel in packs, and have more opportunities to be distracted than ever. That’s why driving with safety in mind is so key. That means putting your kids in approved carseats in the back seat, and once they outgrow their carseats, using booster seats so that their seat belts fall across their upper legs and mid clavicle. Parents, teach by example – wear your seatbelts religiously, and don’t even start the car until everyone is buckled up safely.

Carry water with you in the summer – cars heat up to well over 120 degrees when parked, so just hopping in the car is akin to taking a sauna – you can rapidly dehydrate, as can your children under these circumstances – so before entering your car, turn on the AC, cool off the car for a minute or two, hydrate, hop in and enjoy the rest of your summer. NEVER, NEVER leave a person or a pet in a parked car in the summer, even just dashing into the dry cleaners. Within 2-3 minutes, heatstroke can take the life of a vulnerable child or pet. Find a drive through if you need to run errands with a sleeping child – whether market, for a quick meal or dropping off cleaning, it’s a life saving measure.

 

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About Dr. JJ Levenstein

Dr. JJ Levenstein is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and in 2012 retired from her thriving private pediatric practice in Encino, California. She served on the staff of CHLA and Encino Tarzana Hospitals for 20 years and was consistently voted one of the Best Doctors in America® from 2003 through 2012. Drawing from her experience as a pediatrician and mom, Dr. Levenstein serves as president and co-founder of MD Moms, makers of Baby Silk, the first personal care line for babies developed by pediatrician moms. She serves on the board of United Cerebral Palsy LA, is an active writer and sits on the advisory boards of several child-centered websites. She is an accomplished chef and completed culinary school in 2013! She has had a lifelong interest in child nutrition and all things related to preventive health.

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