Safety First

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All year long kids look forward to summer. It’s a time for them to have fun, make memories and forget about homework for a while. However, a recess from school does not mean their learning has to be put on pause.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, spending time outside boosts a child’s physical health, increases their engagement, reduces stress, and is beneficial for their overall development. As the world is emerging from a pandemic that limited peer interactions, it is essential for parents to encourage their children to spend time outdoors.

But first comes safety. South Texas Health System Children’s Pediatric Critical Care Specialist Dr. Alvaro Donaire-Garcia said, there are some major dangers kids can face this season, and it’s best for parents and guardians to start with preventative measures.

To combat dehydration, kids should stay inside when the heat index reaches 100 degrees, wear light colors and breathable fabrics and drink plenty of water. If a child suffers from seasonal allergies, stick to indoor activities on days with elevated levels of airborne pollen. Keep your grass trimmed, which makes it less likely to release pollen. Also, encourage a child to shower and change clothes when they finish playing because their clothing may be covered in allergens. Remind a child to be mindful of where they roam to avoid a snake encounter or bug bites.

Still, accidents happen. It’s important from an early age that parents begin to equip their children with basic first aid skills so they may effectively respond and get the right help in an emergency.

“As soon as kids are able to identify that someone is in danger or distress is a great time to start,” he said. “Kids should be aware that things can get bad in no time. So, when they are able to intervene when someone is in trouble, those few minutes — even few seconds — can really change that individual’s outcome of recovery.”

Dr. Donaire-Garcia recommends parents and guardians begin by teaching the warning signs of a medical emergency — difficulty breathing, chest pain, nonstop bleeding, choking, dizziness and seizure.

“Those things can be easily taught and tested by visual aids,” Dr. Donaire-Garcia said. “Sit down with the child and explain that hands to the neck could mean someone is choking, how it may look when someone is about to faint.

“Animated videos also go very far with kids. If they see a cartoon of what it looks like when someone is about to faint and then come across a real-life scenario, they know how to help because they saw their favorite superhero or some character do it.”

Kids do save lives. Dr. Donaire-Garcia shared he’s familiar with multiple cases in which a child has recognized another child that was drowning and gotten them help. While there are certain activities in which children may not require supervision or older children can be trusted, swimming is one of the most accident-prone activities.

“Teens can lose their attention very quickly,” he warned. “Even a minute underwater can be lethal for a kid, so I would strongly recommend an adult or lifeguard over a kid. But if a teen is able to identify the warning signs and stay off their phone, this can be helpful.”

While it may not be until kids are a little older that they can themselves perform a lifesaving action, they are at least able to call 911.

Cuts and scrapes from bicycle riding or playground play are also among the most common summertime injuries, which for the most part, Dr. Donaire-Garcia said, can be treated with a basic first aid kit that includes bandages, gauze, hydrogen peroxide, antiseptic wipes, and a hot and cold pack.

“If it’s something more serious, they can at least help to control the damage in the meanwhile until the hurt individual may be evaluated in an emergency room,” he said.

Beyond the skills children can learn at home, Dr. Donaire-Garcia also encourages they enroll in professional training, such as a CPR course, Heimlich Heroes, and Stop the Bleed.

“Early identification of when someone is in trouble can really save their life,” he said. “Always try to find opportunities to teach a kid from early on, and as they reach maturity, they can be even more active in potential resuscitation opportunities.”

Local schools, community centers, and hospitals commonly offer free trainings to the public. For additional resources to help keep your child safe this summer and teach them independence, Dr. Donaire-Garcia recommends visiting the CDC, the American Red Cross, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Rocio Villalobos