Spring Smarts

As the weather warms up, parents and children seek the enjoyment of long-awaited outdoor activities. With the newfound pleasure of sunshine comes the potential for injuries and even potentially serious health problems. Moms and Dads need to be prepared for everything spring brings and take a proactive role in putting safety and wellness for their children first.

Safety and Wellness Tips for the Season

By Natalie Counts

Trampolines

In 2004, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported more than 89,000 people sent to emergency rooms with trampoline-related injuries. Common trampoline injuries include fractures of the ankles, wrists, and elbows, concussions, and spinal injuries.

• Monitor play on trampolines and limit the number of children jumping at a time.

• Make sure edges are sufficiently padded.

• Have people available to stand on the ground to spot any falls.

Outdoor Sports and Safety

From bicycles to sports, children participate in a number of spring activities that require being prepared and attentive to detail. Make sure children always wear properly fitting helmets when biking, skating or skateboarding. This is the single most effective safety device available to reduce head injury and death from these activities. Check the brakes on bicycles before kids begin riding them again. Be sure to have bicycles tuned and sized correctly for your child.

Discuss sports with your pediatrician, gym teacher or coach to be sure your child is old enough to play. Many injuries are caused by overuse and strain on bodies not quite mature or strong enough for what’s required. Preseason conditioning and stretching before and after practice are key to reducing your child’s risk of injury. Always make sure that your child is wearing appropriate protective gear for practice as well as games, and make sure it’s the right size.

Spring Allergies

Allergies are caused by a variety of tree, grass or weed pollens. The most common symptoms include a stuffy or runny nose, repeated sneezing, itchy eyes and nose, sore throat, throat clearing, and a cough that may be worse at night and in the morning. Children may also breathe through their mouths frequently and have dark circles under their eyes (allergic shiners). If your child has asthma, protecting against allergens is extremely important.

• Be aware of allergy symptoms and consult with a medical professional if needed.

• Keep the windows closed in the car and at home and limit outdoor activities on days when the pollen count will be high.

• Hanging clothes out to dry may not be the best idea, as pollen may attach to the clothes.

• Clean the air filters in your home often and dust bookcases and furniture where pollen could collect.

• Have your child take a bath at night to wash off allergens in their hair or on their skin.

• If recommended by your doctor, have your child take preventive allergy medications such as an antihistamine and/or nasal spray.

• If your child is allergic to insects like bees or spiders, have some Benadryl on hand as well as an epinephrine pen if given to you by your physician.

Poisonous Plants

The most common and well-known irritating plant in this area is poison ivy. It can grow as a groundcover or as a vine climbing up the bark of trees. An allergic reaction can cause itching red spots and blistering. Poison oak is a similar species with the same effects. Be sure to wash thoroughly with warm soapy water to reduce the likeliness of a reaction if your child touches the plant. For mild reactions, you can use calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream, an oral antihistamine, oatmeal baths and cool soaks. More severe reactions should be evaluated by your doctor, who can prescribe an oral steroid or a stronger topical steroid cream. Make sure your child can identify these plants.

Playground Precautions

Emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries with children age 5–9 being at the highest risk.

• Inspect equipment for dangerous “S” hooks and be sure all equipment pieces are in working order.

• Check for sharp objects, poisonous plants and tripping hazards. Check sandboxes for sharp sticks, broken glass, bugs, ants, and animal droppings.

• At home, space play equipment at least six feet apart in all directions for a safe “fall zone.”

• Use a shock-absorbing surface like mulch, wood chips or sand in a backyard play space. Concrete, asphalt, blacktop, grass, soil and packed-earth surfaces are unsafe for cushioning a fall.

• Slides and climbing equipment should be no higher than six feet for school age children and four feet for preschoolers.

• Make sure kids understand and follow the rules for appropriate playground behavior.

Heat and Sun

Fact: Regular use of sunscreen in children can lower their risk of skin cancer by almost 78 percent.

Fact: DEET lowers the effectiveness of sunscreens, so use a higher SPF if you are using a combination product that has both a sunscreen and an insect repellant.

• Even before it feels hot outside, apply sunscreen to kids if they’ll be playing outside for long periods of time.

• Use sunscreen even if it is cloudy, since most of the sun’s radiation penetrates clouds and can still cause sunburn.

• Have kids wear protective clothing and sunglasses if necessary to protect against UVA and UVB rays.

From sunscreen to knee scrapes, parents have much to tend to in warmer weather. By being prepared and aware, spring will be a fun and safe time for the whole family. This spring, put safety first and enjoy the sunshine with your kids.