Chances are, your house is child-proofed to varying degrees based on your kids’ ages. But come summer, your efforts to protect your children must move outdoors. Though you can’t child-proof Mother Nature and some outdoor activities, there are precautions you can take to keep you and your kiddo(s) safe while taking advantage of the fresh air and warm weather.
Poison ivy and poison oak are common in Missouri; poison sumac is more popular in states to the east and south of Missouri, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most often, people will have an allergic reaction on the skin when the leaves of the plant are touched. However, if the plant is burned, the oil that causes the allergic reaction could be inhaled, thus causing lung irritation, which could be more serious. While over-the-counter topical creams can often alleviate the itchy rash associated with touching these plants, it’s best to just avoid the poisonous culprits.
Supervision: Always supervise children in or near any body of water, be it a pool, creek, lake or pond. The American Red Cross also recommends keeping children within an arm’s reach at all times when close to or in water and keeping gates/barriers up around pools to ensure children don’t accidently fall in.
Education: Consider swimming lessons for all family members, especially younger ones. Many community and recreational centers offer classes at variable costs, often for children as young as six months.
Gear: Life jackets are crucial, especially for activities in larger bodies of water, such as boating on the lake. While many parents also turn to arm floaties and similar devices, none are approved to keep children from drowning.
Sunhat: Some kids love hats; others detest them. If your child is less than excited about wearing a hat, take her or him with you to pick it out. Offer to buy something with a favorite character or sports team.
Sunglasses: In addition to obvious stylish reasons to sport a pair of shades, sunglasses serve a purpose. The lighter pigmented irises are more sensitive to bright lights. If you or your child has blue eyes, sunglasses are crucial. If you or your child has brown eyes, sunglasses are still important under the bright sun’s rays but not as critical. Be sure to find a pair of glasses that block 100 percent of UV (both A and B) rays—these rays may contribute to cataracts in later life. Amber- or copper- toned lenses also help block HEV rays.
Sunblock: Apply sunblock 15–30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every two hours—or sooner if your child has been in the water. Be sure to use at least 30 SPF that blocks both UVA and UVB rays (unfortunately, this means Vitamin D from the sun is also being blocked). If your child’s bathing suit or clothing doesn’t specify that it blocks the sun’s rays, be sure to apply sunblock even on covered areas. Avoid colored or scented sunblock for children with sensitive skin and/or eczema. Of all the chemicals in sunblock, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are some of the least irritating and most effective. Sunblock sticks, rather than lotion, are easier to apply on the face, though the lotion is easier for larger sections of the body.
Sunburn: If, despite your best efforts, a sunburn does occur, slather on plenty of aloe lotion or gel and drink extra fluids. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also be given for the pain, but check with your doctor on the dosage.
Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and stingers (bees, wasps, hornets, etc.) thrive during summer. Mosquitoes are especially common near bodies of water; ticks are found in wooden, leaf-littered or high-grassed areas; and fleas and stingers are just about anywhere. Since it is impossible to avoid all these pesky creatures while playing outside, be sure to use an effective bug repellent. The CDC recommends using a repellent with 20 percent DEET to repel ticks and products that contain either DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to ward off mosquitoes. There are all-natural bug repellent sprays and recipes that use essential oils available online, though neither the CDC nor FDA has advocated for or tested such homemade products.
Biking, roller blading, skateboarding, etc.: Always wear protective gear, such as helmets and knee/elbow pads when partaking in any such activity. Visit safekids.org or helmets.org for more information on choosing the right helmet and protective gear for your kids. Also note that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies be at least 12 months old before using a bike trailer.
Dehydration: Children tend to be more prone to dehydration than adults. When playing outside, especially on hot and humid days, be sure to drink extra water or sports drinks—avoid over-sugary drinks like soda and juice. Once you or your child feels thirsty, dehydration has already begun. If dehydration goes untreated, it can lead to serious illnesses, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Sandboxes: Cover sandboxes to avoid cats turning your child’s play area into a giant litter box. If the kiddy sandbox turns into a kitty potty area, the CDC recommends removing any waste to avoid possible exposure to toxocariasis and toxoplasmosis.
Resources Available Online
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a United States federal agency that has a mission to protect health through education, promotion and preparedness. www.cdc.gov
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross, also known as the American National Red Cross, is a humanitarian organization that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief and education to families and communities in the United States. www.redcross.org
American Academy of Pediatrics
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an American professional association of pediatricians concerned with the health of infants, toddlers, children, teens, and young adults. www.aap.gov