Guest Author - Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, M.D, F.A.A.P
What tells you that Spring is approaching? Is it the melting snow? The chirping of birds? The growth of flowers and grass? The playful sound of children outdoors? Or, the “smell” of Spring? One thing is for sure, after such a long and snowy Winter, Spring will be welcomed with open arms!!
For us doctors, Spring marks the disappearance of the rigorous flu season but brings with it a dramatic increase in visits for injury: broken bones, scrapes, lacerations, and head injuries. Spring also has a few undesirable attributes: bugs, stinging insects, and rising pollen counts and allergies. Allergies are a topic to itself but are usually at play when a child has cold symptoms that vary with the season and seem to never go away. Your pediatrician can assist you with medication strategies if you have concerns.
What can we do to help keep our kids injury-free? Old-fashioned supervision and proper equipment are at the top of the list but a few other considerations do to help keep the Spring fun and injury-free.
• Does your child play a sport (including dancing and cheerleading)? Preseason conditioning and appropriate stretching before and after a practice are instrumental to reducing your child’s risk of injury. Discuss the sport with your pediatrician or local gym teacher to be sure your child is old enough to play the sport. Many injuries are caused by overuse and strain on bodies not quite mature or strong enough for what they are being asked to do.
• Is your child going to be riding a bike, scooter or skateboard? Please don’t allow your child to ride anything motorized – including lawnmowers. Speed plus poor judgment are major players in injury when motor vehicles are involved. For old-fashioned bikes, scooters and skateboards, I’d encourage a strict policy of no helmet/no pads, no ride. Be sure to have the equipment tuned if needed and sized correctly for your child. Remember that young children should not ride scooters – they simply lack the coordination required, even if supervised. Reinforce to your kids that a cut or broken bone can heal and be fixed but a brain can not – we only have one brain and it does not heal well after major injury. If you catch your child riding without a helmet or pads, don’t hesitate to ground him or her from riding for a while. Lectures won’t alter this behavior but not allowing the activity to occur often does.
• How’s your stash of simple first aid supplies? Spring is a great time to restock on bandaids, antiseptic swipes, sunblock, and insect repellent with DEET. Also, if your child is allergic to bees or spiders, have some benadryl on hand as well as an epinephrine pen if given to you in the past. Murphy’s Law is likely to kick in otherwise.
• Going to camp in the Summer? Avoid the rush and get your camp physicals early. Many kids each year are disappointed to start camp a few days late because they did not get their required physical and immunization update.
• Do you have a pool? As it gets warmer, make sure that kids are not unsupervised when swimming. Consider an alarm or other warning devise just in case a child falls into a pool without an adult around.
No preventative tip is foolproof and injuries do often occur with even the best planning. All we can do is help our children be as safe as possible and hope for the best. Here’s to hours of safe outdoor fun!