Last summer, my daughter Penny, then 11 months old, lost her appetite and was having a fussy spell when small, flat, blisters appeared on the soles of her feet. That's when I realized she had the summer baby virus I'd been warned about: Coxsackie, also known (less appealingly) as hand, foot, and mouth disease. Her doctor confirmed it and explained that the blisters were also in Penny's mouth and throat, so no wonder she was off meals. The virus would take about five days to run its course, and infant pain reliever would help soothe her.
While grown-up bugs typically don't circulate in summer, baby-centric germs do. "There are certain viruses that thrive in the late spring and summer that young children are most vulnerable to," says Alicia Brennan, M.D., a pediatrician at the CHOP Pediatric Care Program at the University Medical Center of Princeton, in Plainsboro, New Jersey.
Illness isn't the only seasonal killjoy. "We tend to see more injuries in warmer weather -- families plan more outdoor activities, and babies are around water or try to play with older children outside," says Amy Barton, M.D. a pediatrician in Boise, Idaho, who specializes in children's injuries.
But don't let the risks rain on your summer plans. Follow these steps to avoid top warm-weather traps.
Watch that water
"Portable pools can be as deadly as regular pools. A child drowns in one every five days in summer, and those younger than 5 are most at risk."
--Gary Smith, M.D., director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio.
What to do No phone calls. No texts. No status updates. Taking your eyes off your baby can have deadly consequences. "We found in our study that in nearly 20 percent of drownings, an adult was supervising the child but became distracted," Dr. Smith says. "When a child slips under the water, there is often no splash or cry too quiet that if you're engrossed in texting, looking at Facebook, or reading, you may not even notice." Always practice "touch supervision," Dr. Smith says. You should be close enough to your child that you can touch her and easily grab her. Reinforce this diligence with all babysitters and family members who care for your child. Finally, empty a water table, bucket, or cooler when you're done with it. Your toddler could crawl back to it when you're not looking, fall in, and drown.
Be sure to check your car's backseat
"A baby should never be left in the car -- not for a moment. Even in mild weather, temperatures inside a parked car can become dangerously hot in just minutes."
--Amy Barton, M.D.
What to do Bring Baby with you when you leave the car, even to pay the gas attendant. Most parents already do that -- so the biggest danger is forgetting a quiet, slumbering infant in the backseat, which then becomes deadly hot. "This happens multiple times per year, usually when parents deviate from their normal routine," Dr. Barton says. For example, a sleep-deprived mom who usually doesn't do day-care drop-off drives straight to work and forgets that the baby is with her instead of dad that morning. When driving with your peanut, always leave something in the backseat next to him that you'll need when you reach your destination, such as your wallet, phone, or work files.
Let your kiddo slide solo
--John Gaffney, D.O., chief of pediatric orthopedic surgery at Winthrop-University Hospital, in Mineola, New York
What to do Never ride down the slide with your child. "I kept seeing the same injury happen over and over," says Dr. Gaffney, who did a study on slide injuries in small kids. "Toddlers would go down the slide on an adult's lap, get their shoe stuck on the slide, which then caused their leg to be pulled backward," he says. "But because of the weight of the adult, they would both continue to slide down, and this made the child's tibia break." Fortunately, the prognosis in such cases is very good, but your child might still wear a cast for four to six weeks, he says. Try walking alongside your tot as he goes down, or nudge him toward a smaller slide or the swings.