Summer is synonymous with fun for many kids. A break from school means more time for swimming, sports and other activities. Unfortunately, summer is also a time of heightened injuries among children. Parents play an important role in helping children avoid injury by providing supervision and teaching kids safe ways to enjoy swimming, cookouts, hot days and everything else summer is known for. As our July expert, Lisa Petty, a family nurse practitioner with Mary Washington Urgent Care in King George County, offers tips and insights on how to keep kids safe this summer.
Q: What are some of the most common injuries you see kids coming in for in the summer months?
Lisa Petty: We see a lot of everything, and of course, cuts, scrapes and broken bones are common. But this year we are seeing a lot of kids come in with dermatitis caused by poison ivy, as well as bug bites.
Q: With bug bites and poison ivy, what are some signs that a parent may need to seek medical attention for their child, versus just treating the reaction at home?
Lisa Petty: You are looking for any signs of infection. These can include increased redness, weeping, the bite or bump being warm to the touch. Or the child might have a fever, chills, fatigue or body aches. All of those symptoms are signs you need to seek help, and it’s important to remember that if you notice these symptoms after a tick bite, these can correlate with Lyme disease, so you’ll definitely want to come see us so that we can get you started on an antibiotic.
Q: That’s a good point. The Virginia Department of Health reports that Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in Virginia. If a parent finds a tick on their child, what should they do?
Lisa Petty: Remove the tick as soon as possible, because the risk of Lyme disease transmission increases with the amount of time a tick has been attached. This is why it is so important to check yourself and your children as soon as you get in from being outside. The best way to remove the tick is to grab it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible, to ensure that you get the head as well as the body out of the skin, because the toxins are located in the head.
Once the tick is out, watch for increased redness around the site of the bite. A circular “bullseye” rash with a clear center is a common sign of Lyme disease—especially if this rash expands beyond two inches in diameter. Other symptoms of possible Lyme disease infection include fatigue, muscle soreness, stiffness of the neck and a low-grade fever. It’s important to seek medical care if you experience any of these after a tick bite.
Q: What are some useful things to stash in a bag or kit to keep in the car for summer adventures on the go?
Lisa Petty: It really varies based on the activities you plan to take part in. But some good basics would include:
- Adhesive bandages and gauze bandages for cuts and scrapes,
- Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
- Tweezers for removing ticks and splinters.
- A triangular bandage or bandana can be used as a sling if someone experiences an arm injury.
- Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and antihistamines can all be helpful for pain, fevers or allergic reactions.
- A cold pack.
- Antiseptic, such as hydrogen peroxide, or just plain soap, for cleaning out wounds.
- Bug repellant spray.
Q: What should parents keep in mind when it comes to sun exposure?
Lisa Petty: Sunscreen, as well as seeking shade and wearing sun-protective clothing, are all important sun-protection tools. Parents should look for sunscreens with a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 30, and studies have shown that SPF numbers above 50 really don’t make a measurable difference. Zinc oxide is an important ingredient to look for, as it is a non-chemical ingredient that is very effective at blocking harmful ultraviolet rays. However, any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen. You’ll want to apply sunscreen a couple times a day. If you’re in the water, you’ll want to apply more often, and make sure to use a waterproof sunscreen.
While it’s important to protect children’s skin from UV damage, parents should also remember that we all need some sun exposure each day to boost vitamin D production. And being active outside is important for combatting childhood obesity, which has risen as children have adopted more sedentary lifestyles.
Q: For many kids, being active outside in the summer means hanging out at a pool or beach. What should parents remember about water safety with kids?
Lisa Petty: The most important advice is never swim alone. But big groups of kids at a pool bring their own challenges, and in this situation, parents should always make sure that at least one adult is actively watching the pool and counting the kids at all times. It’s helpful to take 15-minute shifts, so that the person watching the children can maintain focus.
One of the best things you can do for water safety is to get your child swimming lessons, which are available at many YMCAs, public pools and swim schools in our area. At a pool, always make sure your children are aware of the depth at different areas of the pool. In open water, kids should wear a life jacket and protective footwear. So many childhood drownings occur due to ocean currents, such as undertows and rip tides. It’s important to be aware of the currents whenever you are swimming at a beach, and to teach your children about how an undertow or a rip tide can quickly pull them out to sea.
The Mary Washington Urgent Care team is here for you this summer. Urgent Care provides comfortable, convenient, quick care with no appointment needed, with locations in South Stafford and King George County. Urgent care can provide healthcare services for non-life-threatening conditions for patients two and older. For more information or to let us know you’re on your way, visit Urgent.mwhc.com.
Mary Washington Urgent Care – King George
11131 Journal Parkway, Suite A
King George, VA 22485
South Stafford (Route 17)
10 Stafford Lakes Parkway, Suite 102
Fredericksburg, VA 22406