Kessler Institue for Rehabilitation Offers Hot Tips to Keep Kids Safe and Cool this Summer
West Orange, N.J. – As summer unfolds, more and more children are playing outdoors, and taking to the streets on bicycles, scooter, skates and skateboards. While these activities provide important exercise, they also bring an increased risk of injury.
"Children are at greater risk for accidents and injuries over the summer months, in part because they're spending more time at play," said Elinor Anan, M.D., Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, West Orange, N.J. "Most injuries are minor – scrapes, sprains and bruises – but alarming numbers of children experience serious injuries, including broken bones, internal injuries, and concussions."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 200,000 children wind up in the emergency room due to playground injuries, and nearly half of these injuries are considered serious – fractures, dislocations and head injuries. In fact, more than 26,000 children and adolescents sustain a traumatic brain injury annually as the result of summer sports and bicycling. Most injuries are the result of falls from playground equipment, bikes, scooters, skates, skateboards and trampolines, as well as slips on wet surfaces around a pool or trips when running.
"Accidents will happen, but as parents, coaches and camp counselors, we need to do everything we can to try to keep our children safe. That includes educating ourselves and our children about basic safety guidelines, and encouraging them to ‘think first' to avoid taking any unnecessary risks," said Dr. Anan.
As a leader in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation, Kessler Institute offers these "3-H" guidelines to help keep children safe and avoid injury in the hazy, hot and humid days ahead:
- Protect children from the sun's harmful rays by applying sunscreen throughout the day. Have them wear hats, sunglasses and loose-fitting, light colored clothing. Also try to keep them in shaded areas or indoors when the sun is at its peak.
- Children should wear sneakers or other closed-toe, rubber-sole shoes when playing. Make sure laces are tied and tucked to avoid them catching on bicycles and other equipment. Avoid flip-flops and sandals.
- Make sure bicycles are in good working condition and fit the child properly. Check to see that tires are properly inflated, and seats, handlebars, brakes and pedals are secure. If children have not been on their bikes in while, have them take a practice ride to check both the bike and their skill set.
- Check swings and other equipment at playgrounds or in the backyard to ensure that there are no sharp edges, loose parts, or hot surfaces that could cause injury. Play areas should also be soft and free from debris. In addition, set strict safety rules for backyard swing sets, jungle gyms and trampolines.
- Review basic safety rules for crossing the street, observing traffic signals, being aware of cars in the neighborhood -- and never approaching or getting into a car with strangers.
- Helmets should always be worn when riding bikes, scooters, skates and skateboards, as well as playing or practicing sports like lacrosse and football. Check to ensure the helmet and chin strap fit properly and are in good condition.
- Similarly, protective equipment such as wrist guards and knee and elbow pads should be worn when riding, skating or playing certain sports.
- Because children are at higher risks for heat-related illnesses, it is important that they stay hydrated in the summer heat. They should drink more fluids regardless of the level of their activities.
- Avoid giving children icy drinks as they can cause stomach cramps, and stay away from sugary beverages, too. Water is always your best option.
"Helping your children develop safe-play habits, making sure that they wear the appropriate protective helmets and gear, and keeping them well-hydrated can make the difference in enjoying summer's outdoor activities or spending it on the sidelines," noted Dr. Anan.