How to keep kids safe on the playground this summer

The sun is shining, the days are long, and kids have seemingly endless stores of energy.

Summertime at the outdoor playground makes for perfect family memories, but it can also bring up a lot of worries for parents of active, adventurous kids.

Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help keep your children playground-safe all summer, whether at the neighborhood playground, a best friend’s house or a family barbeque at the park.

Look underfoot
A quick inventory of the playground equipment can help tell you whether a playground is kid-safe. Start with what’s under it. A safe playground will have safety-tested mats or loose-fill materials such as shredded rubber mulch, sand, wood chips or bark at least nine inches deep. These materials should extend at least six feet in all directions around the playground equipment—and further around swing sets or slides.

Mind the metal
Keep an eye out for any protruding bolts or open “S” hooks, such as those that fasten to swing set chains or tire swings. These metals can be not only sharp, but also extremely hot on summer days.

Go for soft swings
Swings should be made of soft materials—think rubber, plastic or canvas—rather than rigid materials such as wood.

Test the temp
Take a stroll around the area and test the temperature of all materials before letting your little one dive in. Metals, plastics and even rubber can get extremely hot in the direct heat.

Pick sturdy shoes
Make sure your kid wears sturdy shoes and never goes barefoot. It’s easy to miss something sharp or hazardous on the ground, especially if the ground is covered by sand or wood chips.

Look out for swings
Kids can easily get caught up in the fun and run straight into the path of a high-speed swing. Teach kids to always pay attention to what’s around them and allow a wide berth, especially around swings and slides.

Check what your child brought
Children should take off bike helmets, necklaces and anything else looped around the head or neck. Also, be sure they leave behind any leashes, jump ropes or other long objects that could be a strangulation hazard if caught up in equipment.

Ditch the trampolines
As fun as flying feels, trampolines pose a serious safety threat—and that’s something even supervision and safety netting can’t fix. The safest bet is to avoid home trampolines at all costs, both in your own yard and in yards your child visits.

If you must bounce…
If the thought of giving up trampolines is too much to bear, follow these trampoline safety musts:

  • Supervise: Supervision won’t prevent every trampoline injury, but it can help ensure kids jump as safely as possible.
  • One at a time: 75% of trampoline injuries occur when more than one kid is jumping at a time. Allow only one child at a time—no exceptions.
  • Check your insurance: Ensure your policy covers trampoline-related claims for yourselves and others. Coverage is highly variable, and a rider may need to be obtained.

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    Making the case for sending kids to summer camp

    Choosing the right summer camp for kids and summer camp for teens can be a big decision for parents. A pediatric psychologist weighs in to discuss the social and developmental benefits of summer camp.

    “As children and teens grow up, they’re tasked with developing social skills and maintaining positive relationships,” says Dr. Sabrina Karczewski, a pediatric psychologist at CHOC. “Schooltime may not be able to fully address these needs, since so much time there is focused on academic and life skills. This is where extra-curriculars, including summer camps, come in to add enrichment to children’s lives.”

    Another benefit of summer camp is their tendency to offer a culture based around positivity, where any negative attitudes fizzle because positive participation and upbeat attitudes are positively reinforced.

    Summer camp is also an opportunity for children to explore new or deepen their interest in familiar activities.

    “Camp often provides structured activities with the ability for children to have the freedom of choice to explore what interests them,” Karczewski says. “It’s also a good environment for kids to take healthy risks and try something new, without the influence of pre-existing peer groups or family expectations. This helps them foster independence and hone their decision-making and problem-solving skills.”

    How to find a good summer camp

    Parents should look for high-quality camps that provide a safe space with adult supervisors who are energetic, accepting, supportive and who set appropriate boundaries, she adds.

    A good summer camp provides a supportive social environment that is often dedicated to peer interaction and cooperation.

    “At camp, children are exposed to others who may be similar or different to them, which can be a jarring and initially uncomfortable experience,” Karczewski says. “By sticking with it and developing new relationships, children are required to test-drive their social skills and adapt, thus building social competence and social comfort.”

    Creating new friendships may also broaden a child’s perspective on how they view themselves, she adds. Camp friendships can be long-lasting, despite changes in a child’s day-to-day home or social life.

    The benefits of special interest camps

    Special interest camps – like science camp, outdoor camp, or creative camp – are a different opportunity for youth with a specific interest to take a deep dive into their passions.

    “Meeting other youth with similar drives and abilities can help to push a child who may be used to being at the top of their class or help them develop new levels of mastery they may not have thought they could reach,” Karczewski says. “Developing new creative, academic or outdoor skills can broaden a child’s horizons and change their perceptions of their own limits.”

    The benefits of special population camps

    Special population camps – like camps for kids with chronic illnesses, autism, learning differences, or behavioral challenges—are another opportunity for kids and teens to meet others and normalize their unique experiences.

    In these environments, a child’s special needs are supported, and campers have the chance to just be kids, all while reaping the same benefits of a traditional summer camp environment. These camps may offer special sessions for family members and siblings to foster connection and social support among those encountering similar challenges.

    “Many families have told me that their experiences at these special needs camps were life-changing, and that they found lifelong friendships,” Karczewski says.

    Regardless of the type of camp, length of program, or location, many skills that children and teens develop at camp can be sustained even after they return home or after the program ends.

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    Quiz: Snakebites First-Aid

    Summer temperatures and an increase of rain can mean increased snake encounters in Orange County. More rain means more flash floods, which destroy snakes’ homes, forcing them to seek shade and water elsewhere. Rain allows for more vegetation, which allows for more rodents, and – you guessed it- more rodents mean more food for the snakes! We encourage parents to learn how to prevent or treat a snakebite.

    For each question, choose the best answer. Then, click through to download the answer key.

    1. Which of the following is a good way to avoid a snakebite?
    1. If you see a snake, make sure to look at it in the eye and display dominance. Stand over it and appear threatening. This will scare it away.
    2. Be aware of your surroundings! Snakes may be swimming in the water or hiding under debris or rocks.
    3. If a snake bites someone, be sure to trap, catch, or kill the snake to prevent it from biting other people.
    4. If you see a snake, ignore it and leave it alone.

    2. Which of the following non-venomous (non-poisonous) snakes live(s) in Orange County?

    1. California striped racer
    2. California kingsnake
    3. San Diego gopher snake
    4. All of the above.

    3. All of the following are venomous (poisonous) snakes EXCEPT:

    1. Red coachwhip

    red coachwhip

    b. Southern Pacific rattlesnake

    southern pacific rattlesnake

    c. Red Diamond rattlesnake

    red diamond rattlesnake

    d. Southwestern Speckled rattlesnake

    southwestern speckled rattlesnake

    4. Which of the following are good first-aid techniques for snakebites?

    1. Keep the person still and calm.
    2. Call 911 and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
    3. Remove jewelry or restrictive clothing from the affected limb.
    4. Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
    5. Give the person a Coke or Pepsi. Apply a tourniquet, then slash the wound with a knife, suck out the venom, and apply ice.
    6. A, B, C, and D
    7. All of the above.

    5. How should you position the bite wound in relation to the person’s body?

    1. Elevate the bitten area above the heart.
    2. Keep the bitten area at the same level as the heart.
    3. Lower the bitten area below the level of the heart.

    6. What are some helpful details to remember about the snake?

    1. The color of the snake.
    2. The shape of its head.
    3. Whether or not it had a rattle.
    4. All of the above.
    Download the answer key

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    A Parent’s Guide to Treating Snakebites

    By Sandra Merino, clinical pharmacist and Jennifer Nguyen, clinical pharmacy resident at CHOC Children’s

    Summer is here! That means more time for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. With the amount of rain we’ve received this year, Orange County experts are predicting an increase in snake encounters this summer. Part of the reason is flash floods have destroyed many snakes’ homes, forcing them out to look for new homes, shade, and water. The other reason is rain allows for more vegetation, and more vegetation allows for more rodents, and – you guessed it – more rodents mean more food for the snakes! With all this in mind, we encourage parents to learn how to prevent or treat a snakebite, just in case you encounter one on your adventures.

    If you or someone you know is bitten by a snake:

    • Step One: Seek medical attention as soon as possible or call local Emergency Medical Services (EMS). First aid is important, but only to hold you over until you can get medical attention. Do not treat the bite by yourself, since the anti-venin is only available at medical centers.
    • Step Two: Keep the person still and calm. This prevents the venom from spreading, whereas moving around would allow the venom to spread to other parts of the body. Although it may seem strange, it’s best for the venom to stay in one place if possible.
    • Step Three: Try to remember the color, patterns, shape and sounds of the snake. These details can sometimes help emergency responders determine whether the snake is poisonous, which may impact treatment. Not all snakes have venom!
    • Step Four: While you wait for medical attention to arrive, practice these first-aid techniques:
      • Lay or sit the person down with the bite below the level of the heart
      • Keep him/her calm and still
      • Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing
    • Step Five: Don’t overthink it. You might start remembering all sorts of crazy techniques that your neighbor, uncle, or childhood friend told you; but remember: the list of good first aid techniques is short. It’s better to do minimal first aid than bad first aid.
      • Do NOT suck out the venom
      • Do NOT slash the wound with a knife
      • Do NOT pick up the snake or try to trap it
      • Do NOT apply a tourniquet
      • Do NOT apply ice or immerse in cold water
      • Do NOT drink alcohol to ease the pain
      • Do NOT drink caffeinated beverages

    What if you’re alone on a remote trail? What if there’s no cell service?

    • Stay calm. Slowly move yourself 20-30 feet from the snake and find a safe place to sit down. Sitting down can reduce the chances of fainting within the first couple minutes.
    • Remove any rings, jewelry, or restrictive clothing from the area of the bite.
    • Try calling 9-1-1. If you don’t have cell service, yell out loud for help. If someone is within earshot, they may be able to help you.
    • Take a minute or two to come up with a plan.
    • If you truly find yourself alone on the trails with no cell phone service, start walking to the nearest place where you can get help. This may be the trailhead, a park ranger station, or the last place you had cell phone service. The risk of spreading the venom while walking is less than the risks of staying in one place without medical help.

    Signs and Symptoms of a Venomous Snake Bite:

    • Extreme pain
    • Ulceration, redness and swelling at the bite site
    • Excessive bleeding or bruising
    • Blood clots
    • Low blood pressure
    • Increased sweating
    • Disturbed vision
    • Nausea and vomiting

    If you have a marker or pen, mark the area of swelling with the time noted. This can help emergency providers calculate how fast the venom is spreading.

    Other dangers of snakebites:

    Snake venom can cause bleeding problems. Do not take ibuprofen, naproxen, Aleve, Advil, Motrin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve the pain from a snake bite. These medications increase risk of over-bleeding. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is usually fine.

    There is an antidote available at healthcare facilities called CroFab (crotalidae polyvalent immune fab, ovine). This is an antivenin specifically for some venomous snakebites. In the rare situation where you may find yourself needing this antidote, it is important to let your healthcare provider know if you have an allergy to sheep, papaya, papain, or pineapple enzymes. Having these allergies increases your risk of having an allergic reaction to the antidote, which your health care provider needs to take into account to manage treatment.

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    Skin reactions to the sun

    By Ara Jamasbi, pediatric resident at CHOC Children’s

    Living in Southern California, we are lucky to experience beautiful sunny weather practically year round. While we’re all aware of the dangers of sunburns, there are other skin reactions to the sun to be mindful of as well.

    Photosensitivity is abnormal or adverse skin reactions to the sun. and If your child develops a sunburn reaction, swelling, or intense itching after limited exposure to sunlight or shows a rash or scarring in a sun exposed area (ie. face, V of neck), they may actually have photosensitivity.

    Polymorphous light eruption, also known as “sun allergy” or “sun poisoning” is the most common photosensitivity. It occurs 1-2 days after intense sun exposure. It may range from small red dots to clear fluid-filled dots (vesicles), eczema-looking dry patches, large plaques/papules, or target-like lesions. The commonly involved areas include the face, neck, arms and hands where there was sun exposure. In children, it starts as dry patches on the face with red small dots, with severe itching. Lesions disappear in 1-2 weeks spontaneously if no further sun exposure occurs.

    Solar urticaria is another type photosensitivity characterized by itching and redness usually after about 30 min or less of sun exposure. After several hours, the skin returns to normal. The cause is unclear, but antihistamines, corticosteroids and limited sun exposure have all been beneficial.

    Phytophotodermatitis occurs when UV light reacts with certain chemicals on the skin. These chemicals can come from common foods such as limes, carrots, parsley and celery. The rash typically appears 24 hours after the exposure, and can take weeks to months to completely resolve. It may appear as a red itchy rash, but sometimes may even blister. It is usually in the pattern of exposure to the food causing the reaction, such as spattering or drips from a squeezed lemon

    Don’t forget basic sunscreen practices. It is important to use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen (protecting against both UVA and UVB rays) with SPF 30 or higher. The higher the SPF, the more protection, with SPF 50 giving maximal protection. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before going outside and re-applied every two hours, but more often if the child is swimming or sweating. Throw away sunscreen that is older than three years or passed the expiration date. Don’t forget to put sunscreen on often-forgotten areas such as the tops of the feet, ears and back of the neck and scalp.

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