Kids often experience some of their most memorable moments of summer on the Fourth of July holiday. They become immersed in outdoor activities involving water, sun and heat. To be sure that the memories created are happy ones, it’s a good idea for parents to reacquaint themselves with some of the hazards we might overlook as we, too, become engrossed in the celebrations. Here are five safety tips to keep in mind.
The state of Illinois has very specific laws on which non-professional grade fireworks can be used legally. According to keepcool.illinois.gov, firecrackers, bottle rockets and Roman candles are not permitted in the state. Novelty fireworks, such as sparklers, are permitted, yet they still present danger. They burn at temperatures of up to 1,200 degree Fahrenheit and their wires remain extremely hot long after sparks have stopped. I advise parents not to permit their children to use novelty fireworks, which also include snakes and party-poppers. If they do permit it, they must, at a minimum, supervise their children closely to reduce the chance for injury.
There are many pleasures our kids derive from being in the water, not to mention it cools them down and provides great exercise. While your child may be a great swimmer, they may not be capable of saving themselves if they get in harm’s way. There is a common misperception that drowning is easily heard, through cries for help, or spotted, when a child’s head bobs, their arms flail in the air and there is splashing. The truth is, drowning is silent and can happen right in front of you. I instruct parents that they should be the ones who should watch, not just listen for, their children when they are on or near water. Lifeguards are not a substitute for parental vigilance.
I also suggest parents establish family rules when it comes to being around water:
Never swim alone.
When a child goes missing, check the water first.
Designate an adult to be within arm’s-length of any child in the water under the age of four.
On the flipside of your child’s safety in the water, it is important to stay safe in terms of water in your child. Stay hydrated! If you’re thirsty, there’s a good chance that your child is, too. Take extra water when you’re out and about.
At times, I see burns on children who have been placed in seats heated by the sun. When preparing to enter a hot vehicle with your child, first open the windows and doors, turn on the air-conditioning and let the car cool down for two to three minutes. If your car seat is in the car, keep a light colored towel or blanket over it throughout the summer to reflect the sun and keep it cooler. The buckles, in particular, can get very hot. Outside of your vehicle, check the temperature of swings, slides, outdoor furniture and park benches before placing your child on them.
The sun is sneaky. Don’t be fooled into thinking that cooler temperatures mean the sun is not as strong. As a pediatrician, I see many serious sunburns in the spring and early summer when the weather is relatively cool. Despite the temperatures, begin with at least a SPF 30 sunscreen. Apply it 15 to 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply if the exposure lasts more than two to three hours. Lastly, children's chubby cheeks can catch an abundance of sun, so have them wear a hat and sunglasses, too.
There are two insects in particular to prepare to combat – mosquitoes and ticks. While there is debate on the right age to use mosquito repellant, I recommend that children aged two and older apply spray that contains 20 percent DEET, which also repels ticks. It’s important to be aware that mosquitoes tend to be most active at dusk and that mosquito repellent should be washed off each night before bed. If your child spends a good amount of time playing outside, make it a point to do daily tick checks. If you find one, it should be removed with tweezers and antibiotic ointment should be applied to the wound site.
Wishing you a happy and safe Fourth of July from the PediaTrust team!
Dr. Saltzman is an outdoor enthusiast. When not competing in triathlons, you can find him canoeing, hiking or fishing in a nearby lake or pond. Dr. Saltzman also participates in medical mission trips to Panama to serve in temporary clinics and see children from Colon and a local orphanage. He is a pediatrician in Chicago’s northern suburbs and, while he treats most pediatric issues, he is passionate about the topics of post concussion care, fitness, ADD/ADHD and mental health. He currently treats patients for PediaTrust/Lake Shore Pediatrics, a new private partnership of seven pediatric practices located in the north and northwest suburbs of Chicago.
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