Summertime Safety

June 08, 2015

Summertime is a great opportunity for children to explore and challenge their growing bodies to reach new heights. I is also a time when safety is of great importance. June is National Safety Month and the greatest concern parents have in the summertime is heat exposure. There are numerous articles that discuss hot car and water safety as well as the need for sunscreen and insect repellant when temperatures rise.  Many parents, however, are not aware that high temperatures and humidity indirectly can lead to accidents, the number one cause of childhood injury. According to a 2000 journal article in the American Academy of Pediatrics, “exercising children do not adapt as effectively as adults when exposed to a high climatic heat stress. This may affect their performance and well-being, as well as increase the risk for heat-related illness.”

Recognizing Symptoms

With very hot weather and humidity, the body’s natural cooling system can fail and lead to issues like muscle cramps, exhaustion, and dehydration. Because children tend to ignore symptoms when they are having fun, they need reminders from caretakers. This helps to prevent injuries and accidents that can occur when their bodies are not functioning normally and are inclined to take more risks. In addition, time spent with water play and on outdoor equipment such as slides, swings, and obstacles courses can also affect the child’s vestibular system. This is located in the inner ear and provides a sense of balance and spatial orientation. With excessive movement or excessive water in the ear canals, this system can cause dizziness, loss of balance, and nausea.

What can you do to help?

Step 1. Identify Symptoms. These can include: irritability, headaches, increased thirst or sweating, weakness, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, frequent falls, or cool/clammy skin.

Step 2.  Provide Reminders. These can include: rest, removal of excess clothing, drinking water or sports drinks, and seeking cooler areas in shady or indoor, air-conditioned areas.

Remember to consult with your child’s physician if symptoms appear to last for long periods of time. You can also see an occupational therapist if symptoms of an abnormal vestibular system appear regularly. I hope you find these tips helpful. Have a playful day!

Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L

Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and Founder of Playapy. For more information about Playapy’s publications, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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