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10 Easy Parenting Tricks to Keep Your Kids Out of the ER This Summer


Kathleen M. Berchelmann, MD - published on 06/16/15

Here are some tips for treating sunburn at home

(By the way, never use a tanning bed. One time use of a tanning-bed increases your risk of skin cancer by 75%. You do not decrease your risk of sunburn by pre-tanning with a tanning bed. There is no such thing as a safe tan.)

5) Problem: Swimmers Ear. Swimmers ear is an infection of the outer ear canal that is common in kids who swim, especially if you swim in pools that are not well chemically balanced, or in fresh or salt water.

Solution: The US Navy figured out the trick for preventing swimmers ear.  Even during World War II, navy sailors had to put a few drops of mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide in their ears every time they got out of the water. You can do it, too.

6) Problem: Dog Bites. Dog bites are some of the most stressful injuries that we see in the ER. Kids faces are often permanently scarred and we are obligated to call animal control. Everyone gets upset—no matter who owned the dog.  Often a plastic surgeon has to come in and sew up the wound.  Kids usually require anesthesia/sedation while the wound is repaired, which carries its own risks.

Solution: It’s my controversial medicial opinion that dogs and babies don’t mix. Even the most docile dogs can bite, and kids die every year from dog bites. Please don’t let infants crawl on a floor where a dog is playing. There is also evidence that kissing your dog can alter the bacteria in both your mouth and your dog’s mouth.

7) Problem: Vomiting and diarrhea, all night long. We’ve all lived it. The stomach flu, or gastroenteritis, is common in the summer. Summer picnics can also result in food poisoning. Traveler’s diarrhea can quickly ruin a family vacation.  

Solution: Here are my five tips to staying healthy while on vacation. Remember that hand sanitizer is your best friend, especially if you are without a good means of hand-washing every time you touch a public surface. If you do start with vomiting and diarrhea, be sure to call your physician or seek medical care before it goes on too long. We have good medicine that can stop the misery before dehydration sets in.  

8) Problem: Sports practice in the high heat. Every year I see kids in the ER with severe heat exhaustion and mental status changes/confusion. Usually they are middle and high-school kids coming from a summer soccer or football practice.

Solution: If you aren’t urinating before and after sports practices, you aren’t drinking enough water. Hydrate with both sports drinks and water, especially before sports practices. Dr. Colleen Wallace writes about the best fluids to keep kids hydrated here. Coaches should never limit the amount of water that kids drink, or permit kids to drink only during “water breaks.” Never depend on a water fountain for hydration during a sports practice—use a water bottle.

9) Problem: Hard candy and latex balloons. Summer is often a time for parties with balloons and candy hunts, but don’t forget that these things can kill kids.

Solution: Use mylar balloons instead of latex, and throw away latex balloons the second they pop. Never allow kids to play with ballons that have not been blown up. Don’t allow your kids to run with hard candy in their mouth, and stick with lollypops rather than hard candy in kids under age 5. Dr. Kelly Ross writes about choking hazards and other things you never knew could kill your kids here.

10) Problem: Your kids are very healthy. Why is this a problem?

Solution: Because it’s time for their annual well-child checkup. If you haven’t already scheduled your child’s yearly visit with the pediatrician, summer is a great time to do it. Another good way to keep your child on schedule with the pediatrician is to plan their well-child visit for the week of their birthday each year. Prevention is the best medicine!

Finally, remind your child that they have a guardian angel, and try to say the guardian angel prayer together each morning.  When you are having fun together and avoid the ER, you know who you have to thank!

Kathleen M. Berchelmann, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and a mother of five young children. Connect with Dr. Berchelmann at

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Health and WellnessParenting
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