Having a Fun – and Safe – Summer

Content brought to you by Henry Ford Health System

Summer generally means relaxing tight school schedules, taking vacations and having outdoor adventures. But the lazy, hazy summer days also hold health hazards. Sunshine, pests and preventable sports injuries can foul-up your summer fun. Don't ruin your family's summer fun by spending hours in the Emergency Room or having to make an unplanned visit to the doctor.

Dr. Flommy Abraham, a board certified pediatrician at Henry Ford Medical Center in Plymouth and Ann Arbor offers a few tips for a healthy summer:

Sun safety

Sun damaged skin may not be evident until adulthood, but the harm cannot be undone. "People with light or fair skin are more susceptible to sun damage," Dr. Abraham says. However, all skin types and colors need sun protection. Dr. Abraham recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF greater than 30, which offers "broad spectrum" protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

"It's very important to apply the sunscreen 15-30 minutes prior to exposure," she says. "This allows time for the protective film to form. Then, continue to reapply every two hours."

Children as young as 6 months may use sunscreen; infants younger than 6 months should not have sunscreen applied, Dr. Abraham says. She recommends that infants wear protective clothing, and stay in the shade whenever possible. If babies must be exposed to sun, Dr. Abraham recommends using zinc oxide or titanium oxide for sun exposed areas, especially faces and the back of hands. 

Finally, don't trust that sunscreen is waterproof. "You still need to reapply sunscreen every two hours to all sun exposed areas," Dr. Abraham says.

Insect repellant

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds us that mosquitoes, ticks and other insects thrive in warm weather. Mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other infections. 

Dr. Abraham recommends using insect repellents with DEET to keep the bugs away. She points out that you need to consider how long you will be outside and where you plan to be when purchasing repellents. "If you are only going to be outside for two hours in the backyard, a 10% DEET repellent is fine," she says. "If you are camping in the woods all day, you need to use a product labeled 30% DEET." After coming indoors, everyone should shower as soon as possible. "Wash well after coming indoors," Dr. Abraham says.

Products combining sunscreen and insect repellent may sound like a good idea, but don't spend your money on them. "Combination products are not as effective," Dr. Abraham says.

Heat stroke and dehydration

Before outdoor physical activities, children should drink freely and should not let themselves get the point of  feeling thirsty. "Kids should always have water or a sport drink available and take a break to drink every 20 minutes while active in the heat," Dr. Abraham says.

Helmet safety

When purchasing a helmet, it's important to buy one that will protect your child. "Look for a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards," Dr. Abraham says.  

A helmet helps protect your child from serious injury, and should always be worn. "It doesn't matter how short the trip is," Dr. Abraham says. "Many accidents happen in the driveway."

To schedule a well-child visit or to make an appointment with Dr. Flommy Abraham or another Henry Ford doctor, call 800-HENRYFORD (800-436-7936) or log onto henryford.com.

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