Posted on: June 23, 2015
Summer Safety for Tots, Teens and Beyond
By Dr. Jim Dwyer
Pediatric emergencies occur year round, but certain conditions are much more common in summer. Visits to the emergency department for trauma increase significantly in the summer months. When school ends, most children increase the amount of time spent playing outdoors and, as a result, we see numerous cases of broken bones, sprains, strains, lacerations and concussions.
Fortunately, life-threatening trauma is not a common presentation. Parents can help prevent injuries by making sure children wear the proper safety equipment like helmets when bicycling, along with wrist, elbow, and knee pads when inline skating or skateboarding. I recommend visiting www.safekids.org, which has useful tips on numerous child safety issues.
Ticks are a particular concern in Westchester and the surrounding areas. Tick-borne diseases such as lyme disease, babesiosis, and human granulocytic anaplasmosis (formerly known as ehrlichiosis) start showing up in the spring and peak in the summer months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend using repellents with DEET, checking your clothing for ticks and showering after being outdoors.
With the hot weather comes heat-related illness. ER visits for dehydration and heat exhaustion are common in the summer. Staying well-hydrated and avoiding prolonged exertion in the heat are key to avoiding heat related illness.
Many teens may be starting summer jobs this time of year. Teens who work outdoors should stay well hydrated and protect themselves from the sun by wearing sunscreen or keeping skin covered. If they begin to feel overheated, lightheaded, nauseous, or develop a headache or excessive sweating, its time to get indoors to an air-conditioned environment and rehydrate.
There’s a common summer sickness that many parents don’t know about: It comes from enteroviruses, which cause vomiting and diarrhea. Good handwashing is key to avoiding illness and infecting others. When swimming pools open up, pain from otitis externa, commonly known as swimmer’s ear, becomes a common reason for a visit to the emergency room. Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection and can also occur due to an allergic reaction to irritants in the air, like pollen and smoke or chlorine in swimming pools.
However, the biggest concern with swimming pools is drowning. Never let children swim unattended. One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is to invest in swimming lessons. Aside from the safety benefit of helping to prevent drowning, lessons will help the child overcome the fear of the water and safely enjoy swimming for a lifetime.
A final piece of advice, NEVER leave a child unattended in a car for any length of time. The temperature inside a vehicle can rise so quickly that it can kill a child in as little as 15 minutes. Be mindful when there is a change in your morning routine or if you are distracted by other events in your life, because that’s when a moment’s inattention can turn into a life-threatening situation.
Despite the potential for injury, remember that summertime is one of the greatest times in a child’s life. Get those kids off the iPads and video games so they can safely enjoy some outdoor fun!
Editor’s Note: James Dwyer, MD is the Chief of Emergency Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital. Read more of Dr. Dwyer’s blog posts.