While pediatricians promote and support the benefits of outdoor play and exercise for children, they encourage parents to make safety an important part of the summer routine.
"We love when we hear our young patients say they're playing outside, riding their bikes and swimming during summer break," said Anjali Rao, M.D., a Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group pediatrician on the medical staff at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.
"Keeping just a few safety tips in mind will ensure a fun and safe summer for the whole family."
• Studies have shown that just one sunburn during childhood increases the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Sunscreen is absolutely essential for children and adults when outside.
Select a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and reapply every two hours and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating for optimum protection, even if the bottle says "waterproof."
When applying sunscreen, do not forget to cover your child's entire body, including the ears, tops of the feet and along the scalp where hair is parted.
• Be sure to have your child drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Do not wait for your child to tell you he/she is thirsty, but rather make regular drink breaks a part of playtime. Preschoolers need about 44 ounces of fluid a day, or 5½ glasses. Grade-schoolers need about 64 ounces a day, or eight glasses. Stick to water and avoid sugary sodas or juices.
• Never leave your child unattended in the car, even for a few minutes to run into the dry cleaners or run into the house. Every year dozens of children die from heat stroke from being left in cars. Make sure your car doors and trunk are locked when parked in the driveway or garage so that your child is not tempted to play in the car.
• Never leave your child unattended in or near water, even for a second. This includes when your child is swimming in a small "kiddie" pool with just a few inches of water.
A child can become submerged in seconds, lose consciousness in two minutes, and sustain permanent brain damage in only four minutes -- the time it takes to run inside the house to grab a towel or answer the phone.
At a public pool or the beach, always stay with your child even if he/she is wearing water wings or has taken swim classes. Stay close and supervise your child at all times to ensure the child's safety in the water.
• First, be a good role model and wear a helmet when riding your bike. Have your young child wear a helmet when riding on the back of your bike or while being pulled in the trailer.
Once your child is old enough to ride alone, insist that he/she wear a helmet when on the bicycle, tricycle or scooter. As children get older they may begin to protest against helmets, but establish a rule and don't waver from it.
Make sure that your child's helmet fits properly; it should be centered on the top of the head with the strap buckled and snug enough that it doesn't rock back and forth or from side to side.
For more information about Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, visit lfh.org.