Avoiding Summer Scares

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Pool parties and family picnics can be disrupted by unwelcome events. Don't let your guard down!

It’s all to easy to get distracted when crowds of friends and family are around and everyone’s outdoors. Check out these scenarios to know how to handle things that go can go awry in summer heat:

ALWAYS Find the Shade

The Scene: The sun is shining and the kids are playing outside, but there’s no shade in sight and baby is getting all rosy-cheeked.

What to Do: “With babies 6 months and younger, shade is your best protection,” says Jason Kastner, M.D., of VIP Midsouth in Gallatin. “Dress Baby in long pants, a long sleeve shirt and a wide-brimmed hat. A small amount of sunscreen (broad spectrum with a minimum of 15 SPF) can be applied to small, sun exposed areas but isn’t a substitute for sun avoidance in this age. This is very important during the sun’s peak hours of 10 a.m. – 4 p.m,” he adds.

EVERYONE Alert at the Pool

The Scene: Everyone’s splashing around in the pool. You’re having fun with Baby in the water, too, then you decided to get out. Toweling off and chatting with a friend, Baby is already crawling back to the pool’s edge without you …

What to Do: While commotion is natural at pool settings, remember Baby’s there too. Whether you’ve got an above ground or in-ground pool, safety for Baby is top priority! With that said, Kastner shares a few safety reminders:

  1. Distraction is Easy: When taking small ones to the pool, attention to their whereabouts needs to be your number one priority. Always have an adult within arm’s reach of him. Share safety instructions with family or friends if you have to step away, even if only for a brief moment
  2. Set Alarm for Sunscreen Re-Application: Regular and thorough application of a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least 15 SPF (preferably higher) is a must — and reapply every two hours or after swimming. Maybe even set an alarm to remind you.
  3. Arm Floats & a False Sense of Security: While “floaties” are popular, they give parents and toddlers a false sense of security. Approved life jackets or personal flotation devices are best — especially for busy toddlers who can get away from you in just a matter of seconds! An added note on floats: If Baby is in a round float that he can sit in, that doesn’t mean you can swim away even for just a second. His curiosity of the water in front of him can cause him to lean forward and possibly tip his float over with him going face first into the water. So, don’t take your hands off of him.
  4. Pool Germs, Body Temp & Babies: Even well-maintained pools can harbor germs like viruses and bacteria. This can be a problem for infants under 2 months of age who have fragile immune systems. When taking a younger baby into the water, always hold her in your arms and don’t wade into water too deep for you to maintain firm footing. Temperature regulation is more difficult for babies younger than 12 months old; it’s best if the water temperature is around 85˚F. If the water temperature is cooler you may want to limit him to 10 minute intervals to avoid heat loss. If he’s shivering, it’s time to get out! Hot tubs should be off limits to all children younger than 3 years.

Time for Lunch … Not.

The Scene: The entire family is outside for lunch. You’ve got Baby’s milk and food ready to go, only he hardly eats. You set his meal aside for later and start visiting with family, however, that bright sun is beaming down on his food and drink …

What to Do: Remember Baby’s food when you’re outdoors. It’s easy to forget how hot the sun really is and what it can do to food and drinks in just a few minutes. Baby food left sitting out in the sun can spoil quickly, and the milk can sour or even separate (think about how awful a bottle of formula can become if left in a hot car). It’s easy to have a little cooler on hand just for Baby’s foods and drinks.

Baby Cows …

The Scene: You’re outside on the lawn with Baby and he wants to explore on his own. Just like that when you set him down, he grabs a fistful of grass shoves it in his mouth!

What to Do: “While it is not ideal for a baby to eat grass and dirt, the vast majority of the time it is harmless,” says Scott Huitink, M.D., F.A.A.P., of Goodlettsville Pediatrics. “There are potential scenarios that could be harmful if the grass was recently treated with chemicals or manure, but even in those situations urgent care needs are rarely necessary.  Soils are also non-digestible and non-toxic with rare exception.  What goes in, must come out and a grass fed baby will have grass in bowel movements.  It is best to avoid allowing your child to eat grass and soil, but if your back is turned for a second while your child grabs a handful of grass to eat, try to remove as much of the grass or soil from his mouth, make sure he doesn’t choke, and please don’t make things worse by trying to get him to vomit his stomach contents.

Unwanted Guests

The Scene: Everyone’s outside enjoying a family picnic. Meanwhile an unfriendly pest has bitten your unsuspecting baby and he’s started fussing loudly … That’s when you discover a very unusual mark.

What to Do: “Bug bites are rarely harmful, but with the rise of insect born viruses like West Nile and Zika Virus they have definitely become more concerning,” says Huitink. When you see the raised area pop up, know that it’s the body’s response to a bug bite and it is caused by a release of a small amount of histamine at the bite site. Baby may not be aware of how itchy it really is and may not scratch too much — unlike older children — but Huitink says you may apply a small amount of 1% topical hydrocortisone two to three times a day or a cool compress to relieve any itchiness.

RASHES suggest infectio

“If there’s concern for an enlarging rash around the initial bug bite, which is suggestive of an infection, or there’s an unusual appearance at the site of the bite concerning for tissue erosion and/or destruction, it is best to have the bite assessed by a physician,” suggests Huitink. “Sometimes these bug bites are secondarily infected from bacteria on the surface of the skin and require treatment with either topical or oral antibiotics.” But, what could you have done to prevent such a bite from even happening? It’s hard to see those tiny pests coming.

DEET Safe for Kids

Prevent bites outside by using bug sprays. “DEET insect repellent has been shown to be safe and can be applied to an infant as young as 2 months of age,” says Huitink. “Using a product with a DEET concentration of less than 10% may not provide significant protection, while using a product with greater than 30% concentration does not provide additional benefit,” he adds. Simply apply a small concentration of DEET exposed skin and cautiously wipe and not spray the repellent around the eyes, mouth, nose and ears. “There are a number of other products that claim safety and efficacy, however, no product has matched DEET for its studies in young children and infants regarding both the safety or efficacy,” says Huitink. He adds that wristbands, garlic, vitamin B1, ultrasonic devices, bird or bat houses, and bug zappers have not been found to be effective. “In addition to insect repellents, all children benefit from barrier type clothing to keep from getting bit,” adds Huitink. “This is especially true in children under 8 weeks of age when DEET is NOT authorized. Barrier protection can be enhanced by washing clothes in permethrin, but is unlikely necessary for the routine exposure an infant can expect with the exception of families who take their children on camping, hiking, or fishing expeditions.”

Kiera Ashford is associate editor of Nashville Parent and mother of three.

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