With summer comes lots of fun in the warm sun, but sometimes that fun ends up with someone getting hurt. Short of wrapping your kids in bubble wrap, what can you do to keep them safe from common childhood injuries while still letting them have a good time?
Dr. Kelly Levasseur, a physician in the Pediatric Emergency Center at Beaumont Children’s Hospital, says ER visits for certain injuries spike in the summer. Most common are broken bones and other injuries from falls in the warm weather. “Monkey bars are the worst,” she says. “They fall, put their hands out to catch themselves and break their lower or upper arm.”
When parents are choosing a playground to enjoy with their child, they should look for age-appropriate structures and a cushioning ground covering. “Stay away from concrete or grass,” she says. “Rubber surfaces and even woodchips are better. Parents should also look for broken or rusty equipment. If something is already broken and they play on it, that could have some bad outcomes.”
Bike-related injuries, such as bad scrapes, also spike in the ER in the summer, Levasseur says. Children should wear bike helmets every time they are on a bike or scooter – even if they’re just riding in the driveway.
A new – and alarming – trend the last two years is bug bites that produce an allergic reaction, or get infected. “I have seen kids having these bad allergic reactions to bites that are 4 to 5 inches in diameter, with redness around the bug bite itself,” Levasseur says. Those nasty reactions can often be mistaken for infections, which can be very serious. “If it hurts to touch it, it’s most likely a skin infection; if it’s just itchy and they can press it and it doesn’t hurt, it’s likely an allergic reaction.” If it is infected, Levasseur recommends parents take their child to the doctor for possible antibiotic treatment.
Water-related injuries are a serious problem they frequently see in Beaumont’s dedicated pediatric emergency units in both Royal Oak and Troy . This includes everything from kids running around the pool who slip and fall, to drowning accidents. Parents need to be vigilant around water, even if their child has a flotation device or is a strong swimmer. Appointing one or two adults as the “designated swimmers” can avoid tragedy. “Often, when you’re at a party and there are so many adults, everyone sort of thinks someone else is watching the kids, and no one seems to be watching the kids,” Levasseur warns.
While parents need to be on alert, common sense goes a long way toward ensuring kids stay safe during the summer. Along with making sure they are always wearing helmets when riding their bikes or scooters, make sure they have sunscreen and a hat, especially during the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s also important to make sure they get plenty of water, especially when they are running around in the hot sun. Kids are prone to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke, so keep an eye out for early symptoms, such as sweating and dizziness, and get them out of the sun.
In the end, it can be hard for parents to determine if an injury is bad enough to take a child to the emergency room. Beaumont Children’s Hospital offers several criteria, but Levasseur says, “We’re there to help. I always say to parents, ‘If an exam will help you be able to sleep tonight then it was worth it.’”