When school doors close this summer, let the fun begin! Frolicking on the playground, spending lazy days by the pool, getting together with friends -- it doesn't get much better than this. Of course, all of these activities come with hazards, too. So we've talked with pediatrician Mark Widome, MD, of Hershey, Pennsylvania, to get some tips on how you can prevent injuries and protect your family this summer at the playground, at a playmate's, and at the pool.
Pack wisely. Before heading out the door, fill a backpack with a few essentials:
* Sunscreen: choose a children's product with an SPF of 30 or higher that shields against both UVA and UVB rays.
* Sunglasses, a hat, or visor to protect sensitive eyes against the sun.
* Some first-aid basics, such as Band-Aids and antibiotic ointment.
* A water bottle: kids need a drink every two to three hours -- more often if they're physically active or thirsty -- to prevent dehydration.
* Your cell phone, in case of an emergency.
Eyeball the equipment. Once you get to the playground, make sure swing sets, jungle gyms, and other playthings are anchored securely in the ground and are in good repair -- exposed sharp edges or open "S" hooks are a no-no. Look for a cushioned surface beneath and around play spaces that consists of sand, rubber mats, pea gravel, or wood chips. Also, check the surfaces on metal slides; if they're too hot, they could burn your child's bare legs.
Give (and get) the lowdown. Before dropping your child off for a play date, tell the host parent if your child has any physical limitations, dietary restrictions, or allergies. Has your child had a recent injury or illness, for instance? Is he a vegetarian or allergic to peanut butter? Or does he have asthma that is triggered by cats? (If your child has severe allergies or asthma, send along emergency medication.) Find out, too, whether a parent will be home and supervising kids, particularly if they'll be using a pool.
Leave a number. Let the host parent know how you can be reached, whether at home, at work, or on a cell phone. Set a time that you'll pick up your child, or (if he's old enough) that he'll ride his bike or walk home.
Set some ground rules. Remind your kids not to dive or jump into shallow water, run on wet surfaces, or roughhouse by the pool. Make sure an adult is always supervising kids, even if they know how to swim. The designated "water watcher" should be able to see and hear children and be close enough to intervene in an emergency. Also, remember to reapply sunscreen -- even if it claims to be waterproof -- if your child has been swimming for more than an hour.
Put up a fence. If you have a pool at home, make sure it's surrounded by a four-sided fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate. The fence should separate the pool area from your house so that a child can't walk directly out a back door and into the pool. To be on the safe side, enroll your child in swimming lessons. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children can begin formal instruction after their fourth birthday.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.