The ER Doctor's Guide to a Safer Summer

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Always Designate a Lifeguard

Even if your kid's the next Michael Phelps, don't assume he's safe alone in the pool.

"One misconception I've seen is parents' belief that once their child is 6 to 8 years old, they can reduce their vigilance at the pool," says Dr. Michael Shannon, emergency medicine chief at Children's Hospital Boston. "But even if they've been swimming for years, young children can tire suddenly—to the point where they can't make it to the pool's edge." And don't think it's okay to simply keep an ear tuned in to pool activity, warns Gaines: "People think that a child who falls into the water will splash and make a lot of noise, but the truth is that drowning tends to be silent."

Choose the Right Shoes

Your little soccer star may experience leg pain if she doesn't take the proper exercise precautions. If your child wears her cleats during team workouts or for extended runs, the stiff soles and poor support may cause kneecap pain or shin splits, says Dr. Rebecca Demorest, an assistant attending physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery and assistant professor of pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. Make sure kids do warm-up or cool-down laps in running shoes, which are much gentler on the body. And tell them to test the ground before a game; in late summer (depending on where you live), it's often hard and dry enough that cleats aren't necessary.

Have Young Athletes Cross-Train

Even with proper footwear, child athletes who pound the same pavement every day can quickly develop repetitive-motion injuries.

Watch for signs of soreness or inflammation lasting more than a day. "If kids want to exercise daily, make sure they mix things up," says Dr. Ted Ganley, orthopaedic director of the Sports Medicine and Performance Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "If basketball is their preferred sport, reserve 2 days a week for activities like swimming or biking, which don't put all their weight on their legs."

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More from Prevention:

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