7 Summer Safety Tips from Johns Hopkins

Children look forward to the summer months when a break from school gives them a chance to enjoy the outdoors, travel, and relax with friends and family. However, it’s important to ensure children’s safety while they’re having fun in the sun. Specialists from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Johns Hopkins Children’s Center offer seven recommendations for keeping kids safe this summer season.

1. Keep children away from burn hazards. Fireworks can be extremely dangerous when not handled properly. As many gear up to celebrate occasions throughout the summer with fireworks and sparklers, Erica Hodgman, director of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center’s Pediatric Burn Center, explains the risks. “They can explode and cause significant tissue damage, or light clothes and nearby structures on fire,” she says. “A lot of people don’t realize how hot sparklers can get, and give them to young children to play with. They can get as hot or hotter than a welding torch.” Grills and bonfires can also pose serious danger to children, who can fall near them and get seriously burned. “There should be a 5-foot, child-free zone around them at all times,” says Hodgman. “It is also important to never pour anything flammable onto a fire, like gasoline or lighter fluid. All fires should be thoroughly extinguished with water since embers can stay hot, even overnight.”

2. Avoid trampolines. Kids may love bouncing on a trampoline, but the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages the home use of trampolines. Wassam Rahman, medical director of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Pediatric Emergency Center, says that some of the common injuries seen year-round in the emergency center are related to trampolines, including sprains, broken bones, head and neck injuries, and in rare cases, severe neurological injuries.

3. Dress children in sun protective clothing and apply sunscreen. Although feeling the summer sun on your skin is pleasant, sunburn is not. During the summer, ultraviolet rays are at their strongest, and children under the age of 18 are the most at risk for skin damage. “I would never let my child go outside without sun protective clothing and sunscreen,” says Anna Grossberg, the director of pediatric dermatology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

4. Ensure children wear a helmet while on wheels. Wearing a helmet during activities such as riding a bicycle, skateboard, or electric scooter can prevent head and brain injuries in children. A helmet should be worn properly and should only be used if it meets the bicycle helmet safety standards of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Studies show that properly fitted helmets are proven to reduce the risk of head injuries. Leticia Ryan, director of pediatric emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, suggests parents can play a role in getting their children to wear a helmet by wearing helmets themselves to set an example of safe practices.

5. Be mindful of bugs that thrive during the summer. Summer is often the peak season for ticks and insects such as mosquitoes, which can carry diseases. To prevent bites, wear long sleeves and pants tucked into socks when in wooded or grassy areas, along with close-toed shoes. Use Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents and follow instructions for use and age limits. “Once inside, check your child for ticks and remove them using tweezers and pulling firmly upward,” says Erica Prochaska, M.D., pediatric infectious diseases specialist with Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. “Kids should also bathe or shower within a few hours of coming inside, which could prevent ticks from latching on.”

6. Encourage water safety. In the summer temperatures, children may want to escape the heat by dipping in a lake or pond. But those areas can be breeding grounds for dangerous bacteria and other organisms. For instance, “brain-eating amoeba” (Naegleria fowleri) can infect a person by entering through the nose while under a contaminated fresh water source. Patrick Mularoni, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, suggests safety in these and other water areas. “Be careful entering water if you have open wounds or cuts, as bacteria can enter the body and potentially cause an infection if the water is contaminated with bacteria,” he says. “No matter the water source, it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings and practice water safety.”

7. Stay hydrated and watch for signs of heat exhaustion. Summer is the time for hot temperatures and outdoor play, but when those are added together, it could also mean dehydration and heat exhaustion or heat stroke. This is especially true for children because their bodies don’t cool down as fast as adults. “Make sure children always have a filled water bottle with them,” says Brandon Smith, associate medical director of the Harriet Lane Clinic at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. “Allow your child to choose a fun water bottle and/or straw, and stick to water — not soda or juice.” Danielle Hirsch, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, agrees. “No matter if you are in the backyard, at the beach or taking a walk outside, you need water to avoid dehydration,” she says. “When out in the heat, your body loses fluids and electrolytes through sweat, and if you lose too much fluid and salt, you can become dehydrated.”

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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