Accidents happen—and in the summer, the risk jumps. A lot.
Emergency rooms report 18 percent more traffic in May through August, when children are outside running, kicking, riding, and swimming. So America's top ER and pediatric doctors want to give you advice about what lands kids in the hospital—and how you can help them avoid the trip.
Tune Up Old Bikes
A dusty old bike may up your kid's accident risk.
Young cyclists—along with inline skaters and skateboarders—should always wear helmets, period. "But it's not just head injuries that send kids to our doorstep," says Dr. Barbara Gaines, surgical director of the pediatric ICU at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "We see a lot of abdominal injuries that occur when bikers stop short and fly into the handlebars. And if the protective foam covering has worn off the handles, exposed metal edges can cut into skin." At the beginning of each summer, give family bikes a good once-over. Make sure the brakes work, and look for worn parts.
Know the Signs of Concussion
Between 1.8 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions go undiagnosed every year in the United States, reports the CDC.
Although treatment usually involves only a few days of rest, more serious damage can result if a child suffers a concussion and then reinjures his head before it heals—and this can lead to permanent problems with coordination, speech, and even memory.
If your child receives a blow to the head, watch for concussion symptoms: confusion, memory loss, headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, slurred speech, nausea, or vomiting. Some can be subtle, so if there's any doubt, play it safe: Take him out of the game, and call his doctor. "Contrary to what people think, you don't always lose consciousness, and often there's no bump or visible sign," explains Shannon. Finally, don't be fooled if your child insists that he feels fine—pain isn't a good guide in this case, since his motivation to get back in the game may make him downplay his symptoms.
Make Your Kids Drink
They should guzzle water at least every half hour to prevent dehydration. "Kids will play outside until they drop, so you need to be sure they stay hydrated in order to prevent heatstroke and exhaustion," says Gaines. Even thirsty children need nudging: They tend to relax and socialize during game breaks rather than refuel with water, found University of Connecticut researchers who studied the habits of kids at sports camp.
If you're supervising an activity, call a time-out every 20 to 30 minutes, and encourage players to drink up at least 4 to 5 ounces each time. "If you're not there to enforce the rule, pack water bottles and remind kids to sip and refill frequently," says Gaines.
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