Posted by Divya Sathyanarayanan

Summer means fun in the pool, beach, or lake and enjoying outdoor activities like hiking and camping with your family. With increased outdoor activities, there is a higher risk of injuries. Dr. Thomas Horowitz, Family Medicine Specialist at CHA HPMC, shares tips for kids and families to enjoy summer activities while helping everyone stay safe and healthy.

Keep Children Safe around Water

The first rule of water safety is supervision. At the beach, stay near a guard tower and get advice from the life guard on the safest area to be in. At a pool, there should be an adult observing the kids at all times and that person MUST be capable to do a rescue—not distracted by phone or looking away on this job—in case of an emergency. Water safety gear, such as a ring or a rescue tube, is a must and should always be within arm’s reach. Non-swimmers must wear a float that will keep them head up. Swimmers and surf boards do not mix well—always swim in safe areas and do not dive into water unless you can see it is deep enough. In case of a water safety accident, any injury to the head or neck must be evaluated by a medical professional. Any mental change or any misadventure with a sea creature should be evaluated as well.

Prevent Tick Bites and Tick-Borne Illness

Tick-borne diseases are growing health concern in the United States during summer, and it is important to take steps to prevent these diseases.

A tick bite can cause a viral or bacterial infection. The wound should be cleaned and observed. Normal itch and redness should resolve with a cortisone cream, but if it does not quickly respond or get worse, it may be an infection that needs medical treatment. Report any chills or fever, and any “bull’s eye” (light center with red ring) rash needs immediate evaluation. It is important not to crush the tick. You need to remove it with a device that will separate the tick’s head from the skin. There are special tools available at outdoors stores or pharmacies. Using a fine-tipped tweezer, grasp as close to the skin as possible and pull steadily outward. Make sure that the tick’s head is removed. A just extinguished match or a chemical irritant can help loosen the bite. Alcohol or gasoline will work, but do not bring a lit match near any flammable solvent. The bite area should be disinfected by rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Those with anaphylactic risk should always carry an Epi-pen or Auvi-Q. A good antihistamine should be in your family’s first aid kit. Any reaction that persists with the antihistamine should be evaluated.

Be aware of tick-infested areas when going outdoors and use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents before entering tick-infested areas. Read insect repellent labels to use the child safe options. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), insect repellents used for children (2 months of age and older) should contain no more than 30% DEET (usually listed on labels as N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide).

You can check with the local health department to understand if the local ticks carry any disease.

Beat the Heat with Hydration

Summer is the dehydration season. You may require a water break every hour or even sooner. Use water or low sugar-flavored options to keep kids hydrated and make it a part of the periodic safety break. Hydrate, snack, and reapply sun screen at regular intervals. Urine color is an indicator of an individual’s hydration levels. The normal urine color must be pale yellow. If it is darker, it indicates dehydration. Any change in vision, headaches, or weakness indicate the need to cool down and hydrate. Seek help at any sign of heat exhaustion or stroke.

Watch Out for Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion happens when there is excessive loss of water and salt from the body. Some of the signs include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, cramps and/or vomiting. It may start as irritability and there will be sweating. Some may also experience mild fever, and blood pressure may drop when standing up. An electrolyte drink, cooling in the shade, and fanning may help to relieve exhaustion. In certain cases, a blood test may be needed to check electrolyte level. Severe cases of exhaustion or dehydration may need medical intervention with administration of IV fluids. Fever and lack of sweating can indicate heat stroke—time to call 911.

Prevent Sun Damage with Good Sunscreen

Sunscreens need to be picked carefully. First and foremost, it is important to read labels to use a sunscreen approved and safe for children. The level of protection is rated in SPF units. Don’t use a sunscreen under SPF 30—the more intense the sun, the higher the rating you need. Apply regularly as they do not last all day. Also remember that the sun rays reflect, so even if you have shade from above, you may be exposed to reflected rays. Lastly, if near water, it is important to use a water-resistant sunscreen.

Swimming, hiking, and other outdoor activities are excellent ways to get physical activity and maintain a healthy life. Follow these helpful tips enjoy a fun, healthy, and safe summer with your loved ones!
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