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Keeping Kids Safe & Healthy During Summer

*Please refer to your county’s COVID-19 guidelines before taking part in any outdoor/public activities for your safety and the safety of others.

Summer’s long, warm days provide kids many outdoor opportunities for play, relaxation, and recreation. But time spent in the great outdoors requires being mindful of children’s health and safety to prevent and avoid harmful injuries, so you and your family can focus on creating happy, fond memories.

Here are some important tips from your Capital Women’s Care team to help you and your family prevent kid-related injuries and illnesses throughout the summer season.

Tips for a Healthy, Safe Summer

Maintain a routine – Lazy summer days are fun, but a consistent routine of mealtimes, activities and rest that continues through summer greatly benefit kids of all ages, as well as parents.

Plan meals and activities throughout the summer. Have kids choose one or two activities they wish to do and set up a family activity schedule calendar. Maintain consistent family dinnertimes to catch up and share the day’s activities and events.

Keep infants on a nap schedule and older children to planned daily “downtime” of reading, coloring or playing quietly. Limit kids’ screen time with provisions outlined at the onset of the summer season.

Try to maintain consistent bedtimes and limit late nights to special occasions or activities.

Motivate kids to keep moving – The outdoors is a great backdrop for all kinds of physical activities. Gather the family and enjoy these healthy outdoor physical activities together to burn calories and build strength as well as enjoyable family memories:

  • Bike riding
  • Walking, jogging or running
  • Tennis, pickleball, badminton or volleyball
  • Golf or chip-and-putt
  • Frisbee or football toss
  • Catch and bat baseballs
  • Gardening or visiting a pick-your-own produce farm
  • Ladder ball, horseshoes or corn hole

To entice kids, create an activity calendar displaying plans for upcoming family physical activities. Let kids choose activities and healthy snacks to enjoy afterwards.  Hold a family Olympics in the backyard or nearby park. Chronicle your physical activities with photos and achievement posters to build memories and spark continuing fitness habits.

Focus on food – Even though kids are home for summer, you can still pack lunches to instill healthy eating habits. Maintain a pantry filled with healthy choices and minimize junk food. Have a variety of whole fruits and veggies, Greek yogurt, hummus, or nut butters on hand and fill the snack cupboard with portioned raisins, granola, whole grain crackers, among others. Apples, mandarin oranges, grapes and bananas are all healthy and offer self-serve independence even for preschoolers.

Have kids help prep meals, join you on trips to farmers’ markets or pick-your-own produce farms, or grow your own in a backyard garden or grouping of planters. Enjoy fresh whole foods, lean proteins like fish and chicken and turkey and whole grain pastas and rice. Have a leisurely backyard patio dinner while enjoying summertime’s lengthened days.

Wear sunscreen when outdoors – Ultra-violet rays damage skin and this damage can build over time, increasing skin cancer risk later in life. Sunscreen blocks damaging UVA and UVB rays, protecting the skin. Use sunscreen with a minimum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15. Apply sunscreen liberally to exposed skin prior to going outdoors and reapply as directed, especially before and after swimming as water reflection increases damage from the sun’s rays to unprotected skin.

In addition to sunscreen, kids should wear sunglasses, hats, and light-colored protective clothing when not enjoying the water. Provide shade via umbrella and/or canopy or utilize naturally shaded outdoor areas.

Use required safety equipment – Make sure your child has the appropriate safety equipment. If swimming or boating, be sure to have necessary personal flotation devices and safety equipment required by law. Children on bicycles are required to wear helmets, with optional gloves. Research sports and activities thoroughly, know and understand safety laws pertaining to each and acquire safety equipment necessary beforehand. Institute safety rules and stress importance of proper use of safety equipment during activities to avoid injuries.

Practice and teach water safety – Drownings are the leading cause of injury deaths among kids age 1 through 4 years, with 3 children dying daily resulting from drowning. To prevent risk, always supervise young children when around or near water. A responsible adult should always watch and monitor young children.

Register your kids for formal swimming lessons with certified programs. By learning to swim, you lessen a child’s drowning risk. Adults and caregivers should become CPR certified through the American Red Cross. Children should use water safety equipment as required by law. Parents should know safety and protective equipment requirements based on child’s age.

If your family owns a pool, install a locked safety fence around its perimeter.

Understand and know symptoms of recreational water illnesses (RWIs), which derive from germs or chemicals in water where swimming occurs.

Some RWIs are:

  • diarrheal illness
  • rashes
  • ear infections
  • respiratory infections
  • and chemical irritation of eyes and lungs.

Avoid swimming if ill with diarrhea or have an open wound. Infants should wear swimming diapers to contain feces and urine. Have kids use restrooms when necessary. If you suspect germs, don’t allow your child to wade or swim to avoid RWI risks.

Drink plenty of water – Dehydration can lead to serious illness like heat exhaustion or heat stroke and hospitalization. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water before and during activity when outdoors in hot, sunny weather – even if they aren’t thirsty — and monitor physical activity. Signs of dehydration include:

Mild to moderate dehydration symptoms

  • dry tongue
  • few or no tears when crying
  • fussiness in infants
  • no wet diapers for 6 hours in infants
  • no urination for 8 hours in children

Severe dehydration symptoms

  • very dry mouth that looks “sticky” inside
  • dry or wrinkly skin, especially on belly and upper arms and legs
  • inactivity or decreased alertness and excessive sleepiness
  • sunken eyes
  • sunken soft spot on top of infant’s head
  • no urination for 8-plus hours for infants
  • no urination for 10-plus hours for kids
  • deep, rapid breathing
  • fast or weakened pulse

To avoid heat stroke and heat exhaustion risks, have kids wear light-colored, loose clothing. Make sure shade is available and have kids rest often when outdoors. Have kids avoid strenuous outdoor activities during hottest hours and come indoors immediately if they feel overheated.

Keep up to date with shots – Maintain your child’s immunizations and follow recommended schedules. Also maintain recommended tetanus shots to prevent risk of complications or illnesses due to puncture-type wounds or injuries should they occur.

Safety & Health Risks

Prevention is key to avoiding risks to a child’s health and safety. Mindfulness and planning before enjoying the great outdoors are especially important to avoid injuries and illnesses as well as create positive memories of fun outdoor family adventures and activities.

Here we examine common safety and health risks pertaining to kids and what you can do to avoid them.

Avoid animal, insect and tick related injuries – Exercise caution around all types of animals, including all wildlife, stray domestic animals like dogs and cats, even pets, plus insects and ticks.

When around animals, keep a close eye on young kids, as scratches and bites may become infected and may lead to rabies, a life-threatening infection. Animals most likely to be rabid include bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes. Additionally, teach children to handle pet animals gently and avoid teasing; also teach them to stay away from all wild animals.

Be mindful of insect nests or areas where they gather. Do not go barefoot to avoid bites from spiders, bees or other insects. Avoid having or leaving open sugary beverages outside that attract yellow jackets, wasps and other stinging insects.

If sting or bite occurs, monitor your child’s reaction. Mild reactions include minor swelling, red bumps and itchiness. Severe insect bite reactions include face or mouth swelling; trouble swallowing or speaking; chest tightness, wheezing, or breathing difficulties; dizziness or fainting. If your child has known severe bite reaction diagnosis with an Epi-Pen¬Æ prescription, administer it and call 911. If your child doesn’t have an Epi-Pen, administer diphenhydramine (Benadryl¬Æ) before calling 911.

If no reaction occurs, examine sting/bite area. If stinger is present, remove it quickly by scraping the skin horizontally with your fingernail or edge of a credit card, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water and apply ice in a towel or cool wet cloth to relieve pain and swelling.

Enlist immediate medical care if the sting or bite is near or inside the mouth, your child has known severe allergy to a stinging or biting insect, an injectable Epi-Pen was used, or the site looks infected (increased redness, warmth, swelling, pain or pus several hours afterwards.)

Minimize contact with ticks, as some species carry germs causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Avoid tall, grassy fields and wooded areas and wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants tucked into socks and shoes if venturing into these areas. Always thoroughly check your child’s clothing and exposed skin, including hair and scalp, behind ears, underarms, around neck, and eyebrows and eyelashes.

While most tick bites are harmless and don’t require medical treatment, it’s important to remove the tick as soon as possible.

Steps for tick removal:

  • Use tweezers to grasp the tick firmly at its head or mouth, next to the skin.
  • Pull firmly and steadily until the tick lets go of the skin. Do not twist the tick or rock it from side to side. Parts of the tick might stay in the skin, but eventually will come out on their own.
  • Wash your hands and the site of the bite with soap and water.
  • Swab bite site with alcohol.

Do not use petroleum jelly or hot match to kill and remove ticks, as these methods may cause them to burrow deeper and release more saliva, which increases likelihood of tick-related disease transmission.

If your child gets a tick bite, monitor the site after tick removal for signs of tick-related disease:

  • a red bump ringed by an expanding red rash, which looks like a bull’s-eye (indicative of Lyme disease)
  • red dots on the ankles and wrists (indicative of Rocky Mountain spotted fever)
  • flu-like symptoms – fever, headache, tiredness, vomiting, muscle and joint aches

Call your child’s doctor if:

  • the tick remains on skin for 24-plus hours
  • part of tick remains in the skin
  • a rash of any kind develops, especially a red-ringed bull’s-eye rash or red dots on wrists and ankles
  • bite area looks infected (increasing warmth, swelling, pain, or oozing pus)
  • fever, headache, tiredness, stiff neck or back, muscle or joint ache symptoms occur.

Protect against ticks using an insect repellent with at least 10% to 30% DEET for protection against bites and stings in kids older than 2 years. Follow label application directions and avoid tick-infested areas.

Use an effective, child-friendly insect repellent spray or bracelet to avoid mosquito bites, which may cause Zika or West Nile virus.

And lastly, most spider bites cause severe reaction in rare instances, with exception of brown recluse or black widow species, which cause serious health consequences.

If your child gets a spider bite, wash site with soap and water and place an ice pack or a cool wet cloth on the bite area to relieve pain and swelling.

Get immediate medical help if your child:

  • has any signs of an allergic reaction.
  • develops any kind of rash.
  • has severe pain or cramping.
  • has signs of infection, including increasing redness, pain, swelling, warmth, or pus.
  • was bitten by a brown recluse or black widow spider.

To minimize spiders, limit children from playing in attics and garages (or have them wear long sleeves and pants when doing so) as well as on woodpiles. Keep woodpiles outdoors and away from your home plus sweep spider webs from it to discourage nests and bringing spiders inside the house.

Teach children to respect fire – Summer brings outdoor campfires, grilling, and barbecuing, as well as fireworks, sparklers plus outdoor tiki torches and candles. Supervise children around campfires, keep hot beverages and lighter fluids and chemicals out of children’s reach and monitor kids closely while they enjoy sparklers, toasting marshmallows or sitting near a campfire. Discourage play near hot, active grills, barbecues and campfires.

In event of severe burns, call 911 immediately. Begin the following treatments while awaiting medical personnel:

  • Remove clothing from the burned areas, except clothing stuck to the skin.
  • Run cool (not cold) water over the burn until pain eases.
  • Lightly apply gauze bandage or clean, soft cloth or towel.
  • If your child is awake and alert, offer ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain.
  • Do not apply any ointments, butter, or other treatments on the burn as these can make it worse.
  • Do not break any formed blisters.

Get emergency medical care if:

  • burned area is large (cover the area with a clean, soft cloth or towel.)
  • burns derived from a fire, an electrical wire or socket, or chemicals.
  • burn is on the face, hands, feet, joints or genitals.
  • burn looks infected while healing. Signs of infection include swelling, pus, or increasing redness or red streaking of skin near burn area.

Maintain child-safe outdoor areas – Have kids wear shoes when outdoors. Keep sharp objects like axes, knives, scissors, matches, lighters and tools out of sight and away from children’s reach. Watch placement of items to avoid kids from falling or hitting sharp corners. Go through the area carefully and childproof it properly before any kids are present.

Many kids do get cuts if they fall or use sharp objects. Large, open and deep cuts or those that don’t stop bleeding require medical treatment.

If cut is severe and you can’t get your child medical treatment immediately or are awaiting medical personnel, do the following:

  • Rinse the cut or wound with water and apply pressure with sterile gauze, a bandage, or a clean cloth.
  • If blood permeates bandage, place another on top of the first while applying pressure.
  • Raise injured body part to slow bleeding.
  • When bleeding stops, cover the wound with new, clean bandage.
  • Do not use a tourniquet.

Call your child’s doctor if:

  • it is a deep cut or edges are widely separated
  • the cut continues to ooze and bleed even after applying pressure
  • the injury was caused by an animal or human bite, burn, electrical injury, or puncture wound such as a nail.

Call 911 immediately if your child:

  • has a body part, such as a fingertip, that is cut off. Put the part that was cut off in a sealed plastic bag right away. Put the bag in a container with ice water.
  • has a cut and blood is spurting and hard to control
  • is bleeding so much that bandages become blood-soaked.

Teach kids to avoid poison ivy, oak and sumac – Show your kids what poison ivy, oak and sumac plants look like and tell them the importance of avoiding them, as the urushiol oil found in each may cause an allergic skin rash. Have them wear long pants and sleeves if outside near these plant types and wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after outdoor play. Outdoor clothing should be removed and washed before wearing again as plant oils linger causing subsequent rashes.

Mild rashes accompanied by itching, burning or blistering discomfort can be treated at home, using calamine lotion to sooth irritated skin, except on face or genital region.

Signs and symptoms of urushiol oil exposure include:

  • an itchy red rash appearing within 4 hours to 4 days after touching the plant oil
  • blisters oozing clear fluid
  • skin bumps and blisters that may be different sizes and look like streaks
  • rash may begin to look crusty as it heals

If your child touches any of these plants, gently wash skin (including scrubbing under fingernails) to avoid spread. Trim child’s nails short to avoid skin breakage when scratching. Use cool compresses to ease itchiness and discomfort. Add oatmeal to bathwater and administer diphenhydramine to calm itchy skin.

Seek medical treatment if:

  • rash is severe and widespread, covering a large part of the body or appears on face or genitals
  • rash is worsening despite home treatment
  • skin looks infected, with increasing redness, warmth, pain, swelling, or pus

Immediate emergency medical care is necessary if a child:

  • has a known severe allergy to poison ivy/oak/sumac
  • develops swelling of tongue or throat
  • complains of chest tightness or trouble breathing
  • develops large areas of redness or swelling
  • or was given a shot of epinephrine (EpiPen.)

Your Capital Women’s Care team is here for you and your family to help your child stay safe and healthy throughout the summer season and beyond. We wish you and your family a summer season filled with fun, safe activities that create enjoyable memories.