Summer is mostly a time for families to relax, splash and play. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when our Emergency Center often sees an uptick in a variety of common summer injuries. Our expert, Danielle Mercurio, D.O., a Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital emergency medicine physician, says planning ahead could prevent some injuries — and that starts with stocking your first-aid kit.
Pack Your First-Aid Supply Kit
Whether you’re heading off for summer vacation or heading to the beach or park with your family, a first-aid kit is necessary not only at home, but also on-the-go. Think about the basics for small injuries like cuts and scrapes, but also family specific items. For example, if your child has allergies that require an epi-pen or daily antihistamine pill, or if they have asthma, don’t forget their nebulizer and/or inhaler with spacer and mask. Here is a list to get your family started:
- Bandages (in different sizes)
- Antibiotic ointment
- Gauze pads
- Gauze wraps
- Compression bandage for sprains/strains
- Ice pack (particularly for home)
- Pain relievers/anti-inflammatory medication
- Antihistamine (liquid, pill and/or topical cream for rashes, bites and stings)
- Prescription medications (and related medical equipment such as nebulizer/mask or spacer and mask for those with asthma)
- Plastic bag or small container to hold items in your first-aid kit
Prevent Water Accidents
In Florida, we’re surrounded by water and unfortunately lead the nation in child drownings, so it is imperative to take precautions whether you’re at the beach or pool. Here are a few tips to stay safe in and around water:
- Have a clear view of your child and never leave them alone
- Designate a water watcher — to request a water watcher card, email email@example.com
- Childproof doors and use alarms to signal when a door is opened
- Remove toys from pool areas so it’s less tempting for a child
- Teach children swim safety basics and keep up with swim lessons
- Install a fence with self-closing, self-latching gates if you have a pool
- Learn CPR
In addition to water safety, we often see scrapes from rocks or coral, so it is always important to check your surroundings in and out of the water. Even doing the “stingray shuffle” may help avoid stings during this season, which can cause pain and even nausea and fainting in children. Treatment for any exposure to a marine bite/sting includes cleaning and irrigating the wound with large amounts of water to remove foreign bodies, debris, and venom if present.
Embedded material, spines, and coral pieces or barnacles should gently be removed, and local pain measures should be applied, including immersing the affected body part in hot water (up to 104° F degrees) for up to 90 minutes. For children, use the warmest water tolerated on the unaffected limb. Also consider giving acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. When pain is severe, or wounds are deep such as that from a stingray spine, or severe bites/stings causes difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness or severe vomiting and diarrhea, seek emergency care right away. Finally consider antibiotic ointment for any superficial wounds once adequate pain control is reached.
Stay Safe in the Sun
The hottest and sunniest times of the day occur between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Be sure to block the sun's rays using a SPF of 15-30 or higher sunscreen. Use broad spectrum sunscreens that block the greatest amount of UVA and UVB rays. Apply the lotion 30 minutes before going outside and reapply it often during the day.
These warm temperatures could also lead to dehydration or heat stroke so it’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Children should drink their age in 8-ounce glasses of water until they reach the age of 8. For example, kids 8 and older should drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Always look for signs of dehydration such as:
- elevated heart rate
- muscle cramps
- reduced sweating
- urine changes (i.e. dark urine, small amount of urine)
- clammy skin
Prevent Head, Neck Injuries or Fractures and Sprains
Between, biking, skating, skateboarding, and jumping on trampolines, we see a lot of head/neck injuries as well as broken bones and sprains. To prevent some of these injuries, always have adult supervision and have your child use helmets and pads when biking and skating.
If your child is jumping on a trampoline, allow only one person at a time and make sure the trampoline is a safe distance from other potential hazards like trees and water. Also cover the frames and springs and consider a safety net around the equipment.
Other common injuries we see in the summer include burns related to fireworks and grilling accidents. With these, and all injuries mentioned, the key is making sure children are always supervised, and if possible, avoid doing fireworks at home and opt for public fireworks displays instead.