Kids will be kids, but there are ways to play safe
Do your kids love crocs and flip flops and forget to wear their bike helmets and sun screen? These common kid problems account for most of what I see in the ER all summer. With a few parenting tricks, you can keep your kids safe and be done with the mommy nagging. Here are my real-life summer ER stories, and how to avoid making them your family stories. Your child’s guardian angel will thank you.
1) Problem:Where are your shoes? Crocs and flip-flops are my job security. All summer I see kids with broken bones and scraped knees and elbows who fell while wearing crocs or flip flops. It’s especially dangerous to ride a bike or a scooter in crocs or flip-flops. I know kids love them because they slip right on without socks, and parents love them because they last a long time and are inexpensive.
Solution: Wear “bump-toe sandals” instead of crocs or flip-flops. They’re available affordably at places like PayLess Shoes. You don’t have to wear socks, they slip right on, and they dry quickly when wet.
2) Problem:Where’s your helmet? Although most kids own bike helmets, they often don’t put them on when they go running out the door to play. Sadly, I take care of tons of kids who fall off bikes, scooters, rip sticks, and even ATVs who were not wearing helmets. If they are conscious, they are lucky. Most suffer concussions. Many need CAT scans, which increases their lifetime cancer risk. So here’s the rule: without a helmet there is no riding bike, scooter, ATV or anything with wheels. So how do you get your kid to actually wear his or her helmet?
Solution: Store your helmet on the handlebars of your bike, scooter, ATV, or favorite wheeled toy. That way your child cannot ride it without having to look at (and move) their helmet.
(If your child does suffer a head injury, how long should they stay out of sports? Here are some answers to this complicated question.)
3) Problem: Drowning. Some of the saddest cases I see in the ER are drownings or near-drownings. In just seconds a normal child can die or become permanently neurologically impaired. I still relive the nightmare of my own 2-year-old falling into a pool while I was chatting with a cousin. Fortunately, my husband jumped in fully clothed and pulled him out. Any child who is pulled from a pool and inhaled water needs to be evaluated by a physician. Kids can seem OK at first, but hours later can develop severe respiratory distress, often while they are sleeping.
Solution: My colleague, Dr. Sarah Lenhardt, answers all your pool safety questions here, from swimming lessons to flotation devices to when it’s OK to leave kids unattended at the pool.
4) Problem: Sunburn and skin cancer. Kids come to the ER with severe sunburn, and we are diagnosing skin cancer in kids in growing numbers. I see boys without shirts all the time—not only at the pool, but while mowing the lawn, washing cars, or playing sports. One of the worst sunburns I’ve seen recently was a teen who spent all day roofing in a tank-top.
Solution: Shirts are cool. Literally. Wear an SPF-protective shirt at all times while in the sun, both while playing and swimming. According to the CDC, a white T-shirt has an SPF of about 7, and most t-shirts are about SPF 15. Consider UV-protective clothing which can have an SPF of up to 50. Cover all unprotected skin areas with SPF 20-50 sunscreen. There is no benefit to sunscreen with SPF over 50, so save your money!
Don’t forget that UV protective bathing suits are available for both boys and girls! My kids wear very cute “rash guard” long sleeve swim tops with long swim shorts for boys or a swim skirt for girls. They are available from lots of retailers if you do a google search. There are also a lot of “surfer” style wetsuit bathing suits. For me, this is the ultimate happy-mom bathing suit solution. I have less space to cover with sunscreen, and when the kids dry out they are already dressed for a restaurant or tennis lesson.