Kids will be kids, and that means lots of running, jumping, biking and playing. Little ones often feel invincible, but, injuries are the leading cause of death in children ages 19 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Parents and caregivers can play a lifesaving role in protecting children from injuries. Dr. Sara Steelman, medical director for Novant Health Hemby Children’s Emergency Department, discussed common pediatric injuries and how to avoid them.
From bicycles to bug bites
Why is it that sprains and broken bones seem to be more common during this time of year? Steelman attributed the uptick in these types of injuries to warm weather and children playing outdoors.
“During this season, we see a lot of biking injuries, falls from being outside and running around and sports-related injuries,” Steelman said. “Broken bones, strains and sprains are a lot more common.”
To reduce your child’s chance of injury, make sure he or she is using the appropriate sports safety equipment. “Children should always wear a helmet while biking and the appropriate pads when playing sports,” Steelman said.
Another tip: “Always follow the rules of wherever you’re playing,” she added.
More time spent outside means an increased risk for bug bites. “We see a lot of insect bites and reactions to insect bites,” she said. “Insect repellant with DEET is an easy way to protect against some of those bites and prevent insect-related diseases.” Avoid areas where insects congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and areas where plants are in bloom, she said.
Be careful, too, of those insects that lurk on the ground. “Be vigilant where your child is playing, especially if you’re in unfamiliar territory,” Steelman said. “You can usually spot a fire ant nest before your child runs into one.”
When a bite becomes worrisome
“Many parents bring their child in because they’re worried about an allergic reaction,” Steelman said. “If the bite is really red and swollen, it can be hard to differentiate between a localized allergic reaction and something that’s getting infected.”
Insect bites can be treated at home with over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl. For more painful bites like those from fire ants, Steelman suggested at-home treatments with analgesics such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. A cool compress over the affected area can also decrease itching and ease the pain.
“If your child develops a fever, he or she definitely needs to be seen,” Steelman said. “If the redness and swelling increase after 24 to 48 hours, it would be appropriate to seek medical care.”
Fun in the sun
Ultraviolet rays from the sun can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Practicing sun safety is the best way to protect against sunburn and long-lasting skin damage.
“Wearing sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 is recommended any time you’re outdoors,” Steelman said. “The higher the SPF, the better. And whenever possible, wear protective clothing.”
Extreme heat can be risky for anyone, but for children especially. Too much sun and a lack of proper hydration can put a child at risk for heat exhaustion.
“Children are less able to regulate their body temperatures, so adequate water and frequent breaks from the sun are extra important during these hot summer months,” Steelman said.
Always have water on hand and a shady spot to retreat to when you need a break from the sun. Steelman recommended wearing a hat and cool, loose-fitting clothing.
When it comes to water safety, never let your child swim without proper supervision. “Even if there’s a lifeguard on duty, parents are always the first line of defense,” Steelman said. “Floatation devices aren’t enough – make sure your child has been adequately taught how to swim.”
If you hear thunder while swimming, it’s time to get out of the pool. If there is lightning in the area, get your child to a safe place and out of the weather.
According to the CDC, emergency rooms across the United States treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries.
Many children sustain injuries from unintentional falls, often on the playground. Steelman stressed it’s crucial to keep a close eye on children while they’re playing to prevent injury.
Intense solar rays heat up playground equipment to temperatures that can cause second-degree burns. Plastics, rubbers and metal all have the potential to burn a child’s skin.
“Monkey bars, slides and merry-go-rounds can be hot spots for burns,” Steelman said. “Be sure to check the temperature of the playground equipment before allowing your child to play on it.”