Image by AnneCN
Although it’s not *technically* summer yet (have to wait until the solstice at the end of June), the kids are out of school and the weather’s warm. That means lots of outdoor fun! While that’s great (we’ve really been enjoying it), summer does come with some special safety concerns. Since I want all families to make the most of their summers and enjoy them safely, I want to bring a few of these to your attention today.
Summer safety is incredibly important so that we can all enjoy a happy and safe time! Actually, the whole month of June we’ll be talking about different summer-related topics (and you’ll see the release of my new cookbook, Simply Summer, on June 18th). Safety is up first.
I really feel passionately about safety in general. I don’t compromise on issues of health and safety, so I like to be informed about potential safety risks and I try to make the best choice I can with what’s available to me. I believe most parents try to do the same. So let’s dive in and talk about some summer-specific issues!
Pools and Water
The other week, we were swimming at a local beach (a lake). I was standing at the shore, holding the baby, and talking to a friend. Every minute or so I’d look up and check that my older two were nearby. Everything went well until right before we left. I didn’t see my older son (who is almost 3). I scanned the beach up and down, the blanket, and a nearby playground — no sign of him. Then I looked out in the water. I caught a flash of his bright-red bathing suit and then I heard him say “Mommy, get me out!” He was floating on his back in water over his head and he was stuck. I quickly set the baby down on the shore next to a friend and dashed into the water to grab him and pull him back to shore. The water was calm and only waist-deep to me, and he was floating on his back. I had seen him only one minute earlier. I was standing right at the shore. He said to me, “I was trying to get a baseball.” He thought he saw a toy go out into the water so he went after it — and got himself in too deep.
That’s how fast it can happen.
- Be aware of where your children are at any time you are around or in water.
- Consider purchasing floaties or life jackets for them to wear if they aren’t strong swimmers, so that if they do go out too deep, they won’t go under.
- Keep pools covered (small) or fenced in (large) and don’t allow children to play unsupervised — even if they’re older (use a buddy system).
- Even shallow pools can pose a problem for small ones, so don’t allow young children to go anywhere near water without an adult.
- Be aware of your surroundings as much as possible. You may not know that there is water around (like a neighbor’s or hotel’s pool).
- Watch your children even if you are at a beach or pool that has lifeguards. They have to watch everyone and may not see your child in trouble until it is too late.
Please be safe in the water!
When the weather’s warm, cars quickly get hot. Every year, babies and children (and pets) die because they are left in hot cars. Rolling down the windows doesn’t help. The temperature gets over 100 degrees and can cause dehydration and heatstroke very quickly, especially in young children.
- Never let a baby nap in the car on a hot day (unless the car is in the garage or is turned on with the a/c, but even so — just try to move them to the house).
- Don’t leave cars in your driveway unlocked so that children playing don’t get into them and accidentally lock themselves in (my son did this last summer — luckily the car was in the garage, it was not too hot, and I knew immediately).
- If you have a lot of children, check to make sure everyone is out of the car. It sounds obvious, but there are a few cases every year where a parent thinks the other parent or an older child got the baby out, but no one did…and they don’t realize until it’s too late.
- Make sure to practice car seat safety. Don’t pile a bunch of kids in without seat belts “just to take them to the park nearby” because that’s as long as it takes to get in an accident. Buckle everyone up properly every time!
On the note of car seat safety, children should be in rear-facing car seats until they are a minimum of 2 years old and 30 lbs., OR (ideally) until they reach the maximum height/weight limits of their car seat. They should ride in forward-facing car seats with five-point harnesses until they reach the weight limit of the seat, or around age 6 – 8. They should be in boosters until they are age 12 and/or 4’9″ tall. This is greater than most states’ laws but far safer.
My oldest (4 and 38 lbs.) is forward facing in a 5-point harness; my second (almost 3 and 28 lbs.) is still rear-facing, and of course the baby (10 months and 18 lbs.) is still rear-facing and will be for quite awhile yet.
Image by Keith Williamson
Sun and Sunscreen
Sun exposure is one of the great parts of summer. Most people are deficient in vitamin D, and sun exposure is the best way to get enough of it. Most people do not get enough sun exposure.
Sun exposure is best midday — between 11 and 2. This is when the UVB rays that make vitamin D are the strongest, and the UVA rays that cause skin damage are the least. It’s also necessary to expose as much skin as (modestly) possible, and not to shower for several hours after sun exposure. The vitamin D is produced in the oils on the skin’s surface and this oil needs to be absorbed. Showering immediately, especially with soap, washes away this oil — and your vitamin D.
Some are concerned about prolonged sun exposure and want to use sunscreen. Be careful, though: many popular brands of sunscreen actually increase your risk of skin cancer! We’ll be talking more about safe sun exposure later this month, but for now:
- Skip the sunscreen. Whenever possible (if you’ll be out less than a couple hours), just don’t.
- Choose a safer brand. Check EWG’s database to find safer options.
- Opt for other covers. Try hats, long and loose clothing, etc. instead of chemical sunscreens.
It’s fun to walk around in bare feet in the summer time — we do it a lot, in our own yard. However, walking in bare feet can be dangerous. There can be broken glass or sharp rocks on which feet can be cut. The sidewalk can also get very hot and can burn your feet. Instead, try these:
- Wear flip-flop sandals
- Wear crocs
Try a lightweight shoe so that you “feel” bare, and can slip it off easily if you wish to be bare foot temporarily, but you have shoes in case you need them. Always wear shoes in public areas because you never know what might be on the ground.
Bugs, Bees, and Bites
The insects are flying! And this means the possibility of stings and bites. We think my baby was bitten a couple weeks ago, probably by a spider. His upper thigh had two large, deep red ovals on it. At their worst, the ovals were hard and hot to the touch and bumpy under the skin. He cried quite a bit, scratched at it, and slept very fitfully. We still don’t know exactly what happened. The week before, my older son got stung by a wasp. He came in the house saying, “Look, it’s red.” Surprisingly he didn’t cry.
And these things can happen at any time. They’re not usually serious (unless there’s an allergy), but they can be painful. And if there is an allergy, they can be deadly.
- If you have an allergy, avoid areas near known bee’s nests or wasp’s nests and always carry an epi-pen
- Carry homeopathic apis to administer immediately upon a sting or bite
- Carry prepared bentonite clay to spread on the bite/sting (using apis + clay, my son’s sting was invisible within an hour and he never complained of any pain)
- Be aware if there are any poisonous spiders or other dangerous “creatures” in your area, and learn to identify them and their normal habitats (and avoid them if possible)
- Wear long clothing and heavy shoes in order to cover your legs if you’ll be hiking or in an area where bugs or snakes are common, to reduce the chances of a bite
- Don’t disturb (and teach your kids not to disturb) any nests or webs
With a little safety and preparation, we can all enjoy a wonderful summer! Make sure to carry with you some basic remedies to combat bites, stings, scrapes, cuts, and other little injuries that can crop up while you’re out. If you don’t want to take the time to assemble your own (we’ll talk about that in the coming weeks in our Homemade Medicine Kit series, but that’s going to take some time, as will finding and gathering the materials), think about purchasing a Naturokit. We’ve owned one for a year and I pull it out all the time. In the summer especially I try to carry it with me, just in case something happens — which, with small children, it often does!
The Naturokit contains several homeopathic remedies, as well as salves and activated charcoal to aid the typical bumps, bruises, and stings that are so common. It also comes with a little paper explaining how you can use each remedy, as well as what to do for common issues. Consider purchasing one if you’re new to the world of alternative remedies and would like some help finding good ones, plus a neat little cheat sheet.
**Disclaimer: I am affiliate of Naturokits, and I will receive a small commission if you purchase through that link. Thanks!