Melissa Arca: Ways to keep kids safe over summer

06/06/2013 12:00 AM

06/07/2013 9:38 AM

For many of us, today (or maybe tomorrow) marks the first day of summer even though technically summer doesn't arrive for two weeks. But school is out, and the kids are screaming, "It's summer!" I guess if we're being honest with ourselves, their brains have been on summer vacation for the past three weeks.

Who can blame them? The weather is gorgeous, and we all just want to go outside and play.

But when you and your family head for the pool, the beach, to grandma's house or hit the road for a much-needed family vacation, take these 10 safety tips with you. That way, you'll enjoy a safe kickoff to a fabulous summer.

When near a body of water, stay within arm's reach of kids under the age of 4 or any child who can't swim. Remember that toddlers are top heavy and can easily topple face-first and be in trouble in mere inches of water.

Don't be tempted to leave your toddler alone in a "wading" or "toddler" pool. They can still drown by not being able to right themselves should they fall over.

Make sure to obey the rules at public pools. If it says "No Diving," do not allow your child to dive into the pool. Children and parents may be unaware of the shallowness of the pool at certain areas; this could cause your child to hit his face at the bottom of the pool if he dives in.

Drowning is silent, so vigilance is key. Always assign a "watcher" or two at swim parties and keep in mind that all children need to be supervised while swimming no matter how good a swimmer they are.

Don't forget the sunscreen, even on cloudy or overcast days.

Remember that sun damage is additive and that people receive 80 percent of their sun exposure during childhood. Use sunscreen (of at least SPF 15 – aim for SPF 30) and reapply every two hours.

Keep babies in the shade as much as possible when out on a sunny day.

Use sun-protective clothing and hats, but don't forget to use sunscreen on exposed areas of skin such as the nose, cheeks and hands.

When you're ready to hit the vacation road, use the car seat or booster you normally use at home. Don't suddenly transition to a booster because it will be easier for travel. Keep your child in a five-point harness as long as possible and don't ditch the booster just because your child is 8 years old. If that seat belt still hits his neck, he needs a booster.

Check and double check that car seats are firmly attached before each trek out on the road. I was shocked to find the other day that my 5-year-old daughter had unbuckled her harnessed car seat by accident. Always do a safety check with car seats and boosters before backing out of the driveway.

Do daily tick checks. These are particularly important during summer when kids are out for much of the day and may be hiking in wooded areas. Remember it's the deer tick that has the potential of spreading lyme disease, and these ticks are tiny (think poppy seed size).

If you see a tick on your child's body, remove it with tweezers. Grab the head of the tick and pull straight up off the skin. Gently clean the area and monitor for any signs of a flat, red rash with central clearing in the area of the tick bite. Do not try to burn the tick or smother with Vaseline.

Keep all medicines and vitamins safely stored when traveling and packing. Toddlers will no doubt find them in suitcases, purses, and at grandma and grandpa's house if left unattended. Just as you would do at home, keep them up, away and out of sight of young, curious hands.

Now go, explore and get the summer started off right. After all, summer is meant for making some pretty great memories.

Dr. Melissa Arca is a pediatrician and mother of two. Her blog, www.confessionsofadrmom.com, is featured on The Bee's blog and community news network, sacramentoconnect.sacbee. com.

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