Just for Kids: Summer Fun, Summer Health

Tips for keeping children safe and healthy this summer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

The end of the school year is here. That means now may be a good time to start thinking about how to keep your kids healthy and safe this summer.

Sunburns, water-related risks and insect bites — these are just some of the risks that kids may face in the summer.

"Some of the most common and serious health threats of the summer season include: skin cancer, heat stroke and drowning," said Jinju Weiss, DO, of Baylor Medical Center at McKinney in Texas, in an interview with dailyRx News.

Read on to learn how to combat these potential summer problems.

Baby, It’s Hot Outside

Summer means longer, hotter days with more sun exposure — even if kids aren't playing at the pool or the beach. Sunburn and heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke, are the biggest risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

When the body’s temperature system becomes overloaded, it may cause weakness, nausea, vomiting or fainting.

Children and infants under 4 may have a greater risk of heat-related illness.

"Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that can happen during the summer months," Dr. Weiss said. "When a person’s core temperature rises above 104 degrees [Fahrenheit], a person can experience a heat stroke. Some of the signs of heat stroke include: high body temperature, rapid pulse, rapid breathing, and confusion. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not treated."

Staying indoors during the hottest part of the day, staying hydrated and wearing lightweight, loose clothing may minimize these risks.

Never leave children or infants in a parked car, even if the windows are open.

Serious sunburns are not only painful, they may boost the risk of skin cancer later in life.

"According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common cause of all cancers," Dr. Weiss said. "About 3.5 million cases of [skin cancer] are diagnosed in this country each year and melanoma will account for more than 73,000 cases of skin cancer in 2015. You can decrease your chances of skin cancer by wearing sunscreen, covering exposed areas, and/or avoiding the sun."

Melanoma develops in the cells that produce the pigment (melanin) that gives skin its color. It is the most serious type of skin cancer.

Using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or above may prevent sunburns.

The Insects Are Coming

Summertime is all about enjoying the great outdoors, but pesky insects can spoil all the fun. Ouch!

Bee stings can be painful but are not usually dangerous — unless a child has an allergy. According to the CDC, mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus and ticks may carry Lyme disease.

Insect repellents can help keep insects away.

Check kids for ticks immediately after outdoor activities. To remove a tick, grasp it with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers as close to the skin surface as possible. Don’t use remedies such as petroleum jelly and don't wait for ticks to detach on their own.

Water, Water Everywhere

A swim in the ocean, lake or pool is refreshing on a hot summer day but, according to the CDC, kids under 4 are at the highest risk of drowning.

"According to the state of Texas, drowning is the leading cause of accidental deaths for kids under the age of 5 and toddlers are especially at risk," Dr. Weiss said. "Drowning can happen in almost any amount of water indoors or outdoors. Risks for drowning can be minimized with constant adult supervision and pool and water safety awareness."

Always supervise children when they are in the water, and teach them to swim as young as possible. Those with pools should install a fence that completely surrounds the pool area.

Make sure children wear properly fitted life vests when boating, and learn CPR — the life you may save could be your child’s.

Waterborne illness is another possible risk in the summer. Norovirus — recently in the news for causing illness on cruise ships — can be contracted by swimming in contaminated water.

If someone who is sick with norovirus vomits while swimming, the virus can be released into the water. Small children who are still in diapers or who may have diarrhea can also spread the virus. Take children to the bathroom frequently, and don’t allow them to swim if they’re sick.

Stay Focused

Summer has arrived, but where is the sun? According to GoodTherapy.org, certain mental health issues may surface or become worse during summer.

It is especially important for children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) to stick to a set schedule or routine even when school’s out. A summer routine may make the transition back to school less difficult. The key is finding summer activities that provide necessary structure while still being fun. Play dates or day care programs can help younger children with ADHD. Teens may benefit from a summer job, even if it’s part-time.

Some parents and children may also see summer as a time to take a break from ADHD medications. This may make ADHD symptoms worse.

If you think your child may have a mental health issue or if his or her symptoms worsen during the summer, see your doctor.

Food for Thought

When it gets really hot outside, kids may want to retreat inside to the air conditioning. Kids who aren't involved in structured activities — such as summer camp, art classes or other organized fun — may be tempted to spend all day playing computer games or watching TV.

According to the Obesity Action Coalition, kids may be more inclined to reach for sugar-sweetened beverages or quick, unhealthy snacks in the summer. This combination of inactivity and poor diet can contribute to weight gain.

Encourage kids to get plenty of exercise outside during the cool mornings and evenings, and provide healthy snacks like vegetables, nuts, fresh fruit and sugar-free drinks.

Review Date: 
May 19, 2015