Dr. Sandra Cunningham is Associate Director of the Pediatric Emergency Department of Jacobi Medical Center, where 45,000 children are seen every year. HHC TODAY spoke with Dr. Cunningham to get advice on how to keep kids safe from common hazards and ailments of the warm months.
With children more active in the summer, what are some of the most common injuries you see, and how can they be avoided?
We see a lot of injuries that can be prevented if children wear safety helmets. Bicycles, scooters, skateboards and roller-blades -- if you ride any of these for any distance, even around the block or right in the driveway of your house -- put on that protective gear. Roller-bladers and skateboard riders should also wear knee pads and wrist protectors. It's instinctual to extend your hands to block a fall, and that can lead to serious injuries. A child under six shouldn't ride a two-wheeled bicycle. Children at this age are too small and are at risk for possibly serious injury.
Anything to look for in a helmet?
A helmet needs to be the right size and be properly fitted; it shouldn't rock on your head. Parents should look for a tag that indicates the helmet meets CPSC standards -- the federal safety requirements set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Do you have any tips for pool safety?
Fortunately, we don't see many pool accident injuries at Jacobi. But there are safety tips parents should keep in mind. Young children should never be left unsupervised in or near the water, even for a moment. Even though children love floating devices, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages their use because they give children and their care-givers a false sense of security. Children should not be taught to swim until they reach age four when they're developmentally ready to learn that skill.
How about those bug bites?
This is going to be a problem year for mosquito bites because of the heavy rains this spring. In addition to being painful and annoying, insects carry many diseases that can become serious, like Lyme disease carried by ticks, and West Nile Virus from mosquitoes. Bug repellent should always be used, especially in wooded areas. The repellent should contain a 30% concentration of DEET, which has been approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC for use on children over two months. It should be washed off after a child has come back indoors.
Anything to keep in mind when children are in the sun?
Children should always use sunscreen at a concentration of SPF 15. Babies under six months should be protected from the sun completely, wear loose clothing that covers their body and a hat. And it's important to keep children well-hydrated by making them drink water and non-sugared drinks frequently -- even when they don't want to!