Summer is prime time for outdoor fun, but it also poses some outdoor health threats, particularly for children. Playground bumps and scrapes are the least of parental worries, given that some of summer’s most dangerous health hazards come courtesy of Mother Nature.
Here are some outdoor safety tips to help keep your children healthy this summer:
“Deer” ticks: Tick-borne illnesses are a serious public health threat, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deer, field mice and other creatures can be tick carriers. In turn, ticks can carry Lyme disease and other illnesses that can have major health consequences. The CDC advises taking the following outdoor safety precautions to avoid tick bites, particularly April through September when ticks are most active: Keep away from areas with tall grass and leaves. Clothing should cover as much skin as is comfortable. On exposed skin, use insect repellants that contain 20 percent to 30 percent DEET. DEET is approved for use on children, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but an adult should apply the repellant to the child, avoiding the child’s hands, eyes and mouth.
Mosquitos: A mosquito bite can bring more than itchy, swollen skin. Mosquito-borne illnesses found in the United States include West Nile virus and encephalitis, according to the Mayo Clinic. The organization advises keeping houses and yards free of pooling water where mosquitoes can breed. Unclog roof gutters and get rid of old tires in the yard. Frequently change the water in kids’ wading pools. Drain water from empty garbage cans and flowerpots, or turn them upside down. Kids may love jumping in puddles, but it may be best to keep them away from such mosquito breeding grounds.
Murky waters: Puddles are not the only waters to worry about in summer. Lakes, streams, springs and ponds can contain the parasite known as giardia. This microscopic beastie causes the diarrheal illness known as giardiasis. A child’s summer swim can turn into a nightmare if the water has been tainted by feces from humans or animals infected with giardia. An outdoor safety tip from the Mayo Clinic: Avoid bodies of water that may be contaminated. Also, parents should keep children with diarrhea out of swimming pools and other recreational waters, since the children might spread illness to others.
“Poison” plants: A hike in the woods is a terrific way for kids to learn about the great outdoors. Unfortunately, they also might learn a thing or two about rashes. A blistery, red rash is caused by sensitivity to an oily resin known as urushiol, which is found in the leaves, stems and roots of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 50 percent of the people who come in contact with these plants will develop the rash. Precautions include learning how to identify the plants and staying on cleared paths while hiking. Keep pets away from the offending greenery, too.
Snakes: When we warn our kids to be careful while playing outdoors, snakes may not usually be top of mind. However, certain outdoor activities such as camping and hiking may bring kids into contact with dangerous, venomous snakes. Wildlife experts advise these simple precautions if kids (or any of us) head to areas where snakes may lurk: Wear closed-toe shoes, for sure. Boots that cover feet and ankles are best. Also, stay alert in order to see and avoid snakes. Presume that a snake is venomous, since it is often hard to tell species apart. For your children’s safety, warn them not to pick up or harass a snake.
Allergies: Seasonal allergies can make some kids just plain miserable. Pollen from summer grasses and weeds can cause allergy symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, red eyes. To keep your children safe and healthy while outside this summer, talk to your doctor about treatments for your child’s allergy symptoms. If you send a child with food allergies off to camp, make sure that the camp’s operators know about any dietary restrictions.
By following these outdoor safety tips, your children – and family – can take in all of the pleasures of the great outdoors this summer.