Houston has seen its fair share of rain this spring, leading to a lot of time spent indoors. Naturally, kids and adults alike are excited to spend some long overdue time outside and have some fun in the sun. In order to help everyone enjoy their summer to the fullest, experts affiliated with Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital have plenty of tips for a safe summer:
Summer is a great time to soak up some rays, but too much sun exposure can be harmful to your health. Here are several precautions you can take to protect yourself and your children from the sun:
- Even just a few serious sunburns can increase a child’s risk of developing skin cancer later in life. Teach children how to take precautions during sun exposure to reduce their chance of injury – seek shade, cover up, wear a hat, wear sunglasses and apply sunscreen.
- Avoid being in the sun for prolonged times when the sun is strongest, which is typically mid-day from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. If kids are in the sun between these hours, be sure to apply and frequently re-apply protective sunscreen.
- The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that all children, regardless of their skin tone, wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
- Wear sunglasses when outdoors. Even one day in the sun can result in a painful burned cornea (the outermost, clear membrane layer of the eye). Cumulative exposure can lead to cataracts later in life (clouding of the eye lens, which results in blindness). According to WebMD, sunglasses that say they block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays are appropriate. If they don’t have that stat on the label, then they won’t be properly protecting your eyes.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very real dangers during Houston summers. Adults who work or exercise outdoors, and children who like to play outside, are at risk for both. There are a few things you can do to protect yourself when outdoors:
- Wear light-colored clothing. This can help prevent overheating during outdoor activities.
- Similar to sun protection, make sure to limit your time outside between the hottest hours of the day – typically between 10 a.m. through 4 p.m.
- Drink plenty of fluids before and during activities in the hot weather. Parents need to make sure to encourage their children to stay hydrated before they become thirsty. Thirst is a sign that you may already by dehydrated.
- If playing or working outside, take frequent breaks to cool down and hydrate.
Parents should never leave kids in unattended vehicles during hot summer days. Temperatures inside your vehicle can rise 20 degrees within the first 10 minutes of turning the vehicle off. Even if it’s only a 70-degree day, the interior of a vehicle can exceed 100 degrees in a matter of minutes. On average, 38 children die each year from heat-related deaths after being left inside motor vehicles.
According to Robert Lapus, M.D., Director of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, there are four common situations where children are left in cars:
- When a parent or caretaker is doing something or going somewhere outside his or her normal routine
- When a parent or caretaker is distracted while driving
- When a child finds his or her way into a parked car while playing
- And when a parent or caretaker intentionally leaves a child in the car, cracks the windows and thinks they “will only be a minute”
“Children can overheat four times faster than adults,” said Dr. Lapus. “And these risks don’t only apply to children; they can apply to your pets as well. This is why we always advise to ‘look before you lock.’ It’s a reminder to drivers to always check the backseat before leaving their cars.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2005 and 2014 there were 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings annually, which averages to about 10 deaths a day. One in five people who die from drowning are children aged 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for non-fatal drowning instances.
Some additional statistics from the Memorial Hermann Red Duke Trauma Institute injury prevention team include:
- On average, 75 percent of all pediatric drownings occur during the summer months.
- In 2015, 90 percent of all drowning patients were children; nearly 75 percent were under the age of five.
- In 2015, eight out of every 10 drownings occurred in a swimming pool. Other locations include bayous, creeks, lakes, oceans and bathtubs.
Remember these tips when going for a swim:
- Designate an adult whose responsibility is to watch kids in or around the water.
- Stay within arm’s length of toddlers and children who can’t swim well. Many tragic pool accidents can happen in just a few minutes when these children are unsupervised.
- Put a safety gate around your pool with a lock for when it isn’t in use. Remove any toys from the pool that children may be tempted to reach for.
- Note and obey when diving is not permitted. Diving into a pool that is not deep enough can have permanent consequences.
Summer is one of the most popular times for grilling, but there are some important injury prevention tips to keep in mind while prepping those burgers and hot dogs:
- Avoid cleaning your grill with a wire brush. The bristles can break off and get cooked into the food. If ingested, the bristles can cause serious internal injury.
- Use grilling gloves and long utensils to avoid getting your hands too close to the heat.
- Keep children and pets a safe distance from the grill at all times. Keep in mind that the grill remains hot for a long time after cooking.
Other Safety Tips
- Biking: Family bike rides are a popular and fun activity during the summer. Always wear a helmet and replace helmets that have any cracks or damage to them. If riding your bike in the dark, wear light or reflective clothing so motorists can see you.
- Golf Carts: Golf can be a popular way to spend extracurricular time during the summer. Many people don’t realize that golf carts can pose many of the same risks as other motor vehicles. Make sure to only carry as many passengers as there are seats, and don’t allow standing on the back platform. Reduce speed when making turns – turning a golf cart at 11 mph is fast enough to throw a passenger out of the moving cart. Never operate a golf cart under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Wildlife: Snake and insect bites are more common during the summer months. A lot of families will be going camping or spending time in areas with more wildlife. Watch where you place your hands and feet when near high grass where snakes could be hiding. Avoid any contact with wild or stray animals. Wear long pants or sleeves to avoid biting or stinging insects. Use repellents to protect against mosquito bites. It’s best to treat your clothing AND any exposed skin, and to reapply per the manufacturer’s recommendations. In addition to using mosquito repellents, you should make sure your windows and door screens are closed and repaired.
- Road Trips: As always, safe driving is important during any time of year. Make sure all passengers are wearing their seat belts and you should set the example by wearing yours. Make stops during trips in order to take a group stretch, eat a snack or change drivers in case you’re feeling drowsy. Check your phone during the breaks so you can resist the urge to check the phone while driving. And of course, never drink and drive.