The longer, sunnier days of summer allow families to enjoy many outdoor activities together such as beach trips, hiking and camping excursions, bike rides, swimming, boating and more. It’s important for families to educate themselves about these activities, which all require a heightened sense of awareness to maximize fun while minimizing the risk of injury.
Swimming, whether in a backyard pool, a lake or the ocean, is an activity that requires supervision at all times. Two-thirds of drowning deaths in the U.S. occur between May and August, health officials report. Small children can drown in as little as one inch of water. Children can benefit greatly from receiving swimming lessons from a certified instructor. Teach children to never swim alone and always pair with a friend or adult who is an experienced swimmer. Discourage horseplay in and around the water. Adults and children should always wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on a boat, in open bodies of water or when participating in water sports.
Bike riding, scootering and skateboarding are fun ways for kids to get around their neighborhoods. Make sure that children are wearing essential protective gear such as a snug-fitting helmet, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards. Adults engaging in these activities should lead by example and always wear a helmet.
Fun in the sun can quickly turn into a big bummer if children aren’t protected from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher is recommended. Reapply sunscreen liberally when swimming or spending time outside for an extended period of time and don’t miss the ears, feet, back of the neck and the backs of legs. Staying in the shade, wearing a hat and a long-sleeve shirt or rash guard can reduce the risk of too much sun. Don’t forget to protect the eyes by wearing sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Other musts for summer include proper hydration. Make sure kids always bring a water bottle when engaging in outdoor activities and drink plenty of water before, during and after playing. Bare feet are at risk of injury, so always make sure to wear shoes or sandals in public areas.
Insects such as mosquitos, ticks and bees are more active in the summer months. Make your backyard a tick-safe zone by clearing tall grasses and brush around the home and mowing the lawn frequently. Keep your yard free of standing water, where mosquitos are likely to breed. When hiking or spending time in densely wooded areas, wear long-sleeve shirts, long pants and hats and apply a repellant containing DEET or other EPA-approved ingredients. Bees are attracted to flowers, so it’s best to avoid wearing fragrances or floral-patterned clothing. Open containers of food and drink also attract bees. Should a bee land next to you or your child, remain calm and gently blow it away.
Armed with knowledge and safety precautions, may you and your family have the best summer yet.
Helen Arbogast, DrPH, MPH, CHES, is Injury Prevention Manager at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.