According the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger are involved with playground-related injuries. Many common injuries consist of bumps, bruises and sprains, but regulating your exposure to hot weather is also a big factor. Sam Zhao, M.D., in the division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Children’s National Health System, offers his top tips for parents to ensure their children can stay safe and have fun in the sun.
Many of the injuries that doctors in the Children’s National emergency department see are due to prolonged exposure to hot weather. According to Dr. Zhao, sweating is your body’s normal method of regulating your temperature when you get too hot. However, heat-related illnesses can occur if these cooling mechanisms are overcome.
“Heat related injuries can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion and most dangerously, heat stroke,” Dr. Zhao says. He recommends that the best way to prevent this problem is by staying hydrated. If your child develops a cramp, it’s important he or she take a break and cool off in a shaded area.
Condition Your Body
Often times, children and teens attend sports camps during the summer in preparation for fall sports. However, if they haven’t been involved in spring sports, their body may have become deconditioned for certain physical activities. Going from no physical activity to several hours of physical activity in one day can lead to overuse injuries, such as stress fractures in the foot and legs. It’s important to ramp up activity slowly over the course of a few weeks before kicking it into full gear.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Properly warming up prepares your body for physical activity. By slowly increasing your body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles, children can significantly reduce their risk of injury. Conversely, during the cool-down period after a strenuous workout, stretching your muscles after they’re already warmed up can improve a child’s range of motion and flexibility, which can ultimately help prevent soreness and further injury.
Proper Safety Equipment
One of the easiest ways that children can protect themselves this summer is by wearing the proper protective gear when engaging in physical activities. Depending on the type of activities your child may be participating in, it may require them to wear a helmet, pads or guards for their eyes and mouths.
“Wearing protective gear is especially critical for sports that occur at a high velocity,” Dr. Zhao says. “It’s vital that parents understand how the equipment is supposed to fit in order to take advantage of its full protective effects.”
Consult Your Doctor
Before your child decides to try out for a sports team, it’s important that they have a checkup with their pediatrician for a physical examination. It’s essential to make sure that your child’s physical ability matches up with their mental drive. This provides the doctor with the opportunity to ensure your child’s heart and lungs are working properly and that they don’t have any lingering injuries that could put them at risk. However, if they do find issues, you can make sure you child is treated before making an existing problem worst.
Sam Zhao, M.D., is the co-director of Resident and Medical Student Education within the division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Children’s National Health System. He is certified through the American Board of Pediatrics.