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A Pediatrician's Tips for a Safe and Active Summer

June 21, 2024

A group of children enjoying a safe summer bike ride.

The summer months are the perfect time for your kids to explore the world around them. Whether splashing around in the water, soaking up the sun, or just running around with friends, summer gives kids the freedom to engage with the outdoors, play and hang out with their peers, and simply be kids.

Rachel Gwertzman, DO, a pediatrician with Atlantic Health System, explains it’s great when you consider the health benefits of active play for kids, which go beyond just the physical and include reduced anxiety and depression, and increased social and emotional wellness.

Still, if you’re a parent, summertime can present some safety concerns you may not be as dialed into the rest of the year. To set your parenting mind at ease — and get your kids out and about — let’s address a few of the most common concerns and give you tips for a safe and active summer.

Sun Safety

“The sun’s rays are more intense during the dog days of summer, so protecting your child’s skin from their harmful effects is especially important right now,” warns Dr. Gwertzman.

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to sun safety. First, you shouldn’t use sunscreen on babies under 6 months old. Instead, you should keep them out of direct sunlight, and dress them in lightweight clothes and brimmed hats when they’re outside.

For babies and children older than 6 months old:

  • Apply sunscreen to areas of your child’s skin that aren’t covered by clothing 15 to 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Dress your child in lightweight clothes and a hat.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
  • Use sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or greater, and that contains the mineral ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Pool Safety

So, you bought a home with a pool in the backyard. Now what? The first step you should take to protect your kids is to make sure the entire pool area is fenced off. While products like automatic pool covers, door alarms, self-latching doors, window guards and pool alarms can all help, they’re not adequate substitutes for a fence that will keep small children from entering the pool on their own.

Second, always watch your child or children while they’re in the pool. Babies and toddlers should always have an adult in the pool with them — and within arm’s reach. Older children also always need a supervising adult nearby who knows how to swim.

Third, get your child or children swimming lessons. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports swimming lessons for most kids 4 years and older, and for kids ages 1 to 4 who are ready to learn. Just remember that swim lessons aren’t fail-safe protections against drowning, and that there isn’t evidence to support some swim programs’ claims that teaching water survival skills to children who are younger than 12 months old can prevent drowning.

Here are some other pool-safety tips:

  • Don’t dive in the pool if it’s not deep enough.
  • Don’t keep electrical appliances near the pool.
  • Don’t leave a blown-up pool filled with water when you’re not using it.
  • Don’t leave bikes, scooters, skateboards, etc., near the pool.
  • Don’t leave rafts and other toys in or near the pool when you’re not using it.
  • Don’t run near the pool.

Skate and Bike Safety

If your child likes to ride a skateboard, scooter, bike or trike — or cruise around the neighborhood on rollerblades — the No. 1 way you can protect their safety is by making sure they always wear a helmet. (And wearing a helmet yourself to set an example.)

Other ways to protect your child include ensuring they:

  • Wear protective pads on the wrists, elbows and knees.
  • Never ride, skate or bike alone, at night or near traffic.
  • Ride, skate or bike on the right side of the sidewalk and obey all stop signs and other traffic signals.

Insect Safety

Your child wants to stroll through the woods with you looking for wildflowers? Great. Have at it. Just protect them from insects (and the sun) first.

“Ticks and bug bites are common concerns in areas like the woods, high grasses and bushes. But if you dress your child in a hat and long sleeves, you can help avoid these potential pitfalls,” explains Dr. Gwertzman.

Also, grab a bottle of insect repellent on your way out the door. Repellents containing DEET (a man-made chemical that’s the active ingredient in many insect repellents) are typically the most effective. Just remember to use a repellent with the lowest DEET concentration necessary to meet your needs. Also remember that the AAP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children younger than 2 months old shouldn’t use products that contain DEET. And they recommend that children older than 2 months only use products that are only 10% to 30% DEET.

Finally, avoid scented soaps, perfumes or hairsprays, and areas where insects congregate — like stagnant bodies of water, uncovered foods, and gardens with blooming flowers.

Trampoline Safety

Unfortunately, backyard trampolines just aren’t safe. They carry a risk of serious injury even when kids are supervised. And you can’t let netting lull you into a false sense of security, either. Most injuries happen on the trampoline itself, not from a fall.

Also, 75% of injuries happen when more than one person is jumping at a time, so, if you do have a trampoline, limit jumping to one child at a time. And watch them, always.

Summer can be a blast, but keeping your kids safe is an important key. “Make sure to always use your sunscreen, seek shade during peak hours and keep a watchful eye around water,” explains Dr. Gwertzman. By following these simple tips, you can help your kids have a fun-filled and safe summer adventure.

Be Proactive About Your Health

To stay safe and healthy, it's good to have a primary care provider who knows and understands your health history and wellness goals.