Keeping Your Family Safe Outdoors

Summertime means more time outside, and that’s a good thing for both kids and adults. It also means making sure your family is safe from concerns that aren’t a problem other times of the year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have tips to keep your family safe outdoors dealing with:

Sun Safety

When it comes to sun safety, the primary concern is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, which causes most cases of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. Excessive exposure to UV light as a child can show up as skin cancer as an adult, so early precautions to protect your child’s skin now can pay off in the future. The CDC recommends protecting skin by:

  • Seeking shade, especially during late morning through mid-afternoon.
  • Wearing clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wearing a hat with a wide brim that shades your face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wearing sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection.
  • Remember to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.

The CDC has additional information on each of these points.

Mosquito and Tick Bites

Mosquito and tick bites are not just painful annoyances, but potential sources of diseases like West Nile Virus(mosquitos) and Lyme disease(ticks). While both of these diseases are relatively rare, occurrences both West Nileand Lyme diseasein Illinois have increased significantly in the last 15 years. The CDC’s recommendations for protecting yourself and your family from mosquito and tick bitesinclude:

  • Use an EPA-registered insect repellentcontaining DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), Para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Do not spray insect repellent on skin under clothing.
  • If you are also using sunscreen, apply the sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
  • Don’t use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old, and don’t use repellents containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Check for ticks on yourself, your child, and your pet after being outdoors, especially if they have been near taller grasses and plants.

If you, your child, or your pet should pick up a tick, the CDC has instructions on how to safely remove it.

Poisonous Plants

The primary poisonous plants that people worry about in the United States are poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. The old saying “Leaves of three, Let it be!” is a helpful reminder for identifying poison ivy and oak, but not poison sumac which usually has clusters of 7-13 leaves. Even poison ivy and poison oak may have more than three leaves and their form may vary greatly depending upon the exact species encountered, the local environment, and the season. Being able to identify local varieties of these poisonous plants throughout the seasons and differentiating them from common nonpoisonous look-a-likes are the major keys to avoiding exposure. Check out the CDC page for pictures to help you identify these plants.

All three of these plants release an oil, called urushiol, when the leaf or other plant parts are bruised, damaged, or burned. When the oil gets on the skin an allergic reaction, referred to as contact dermatitis, occurs in most exposed people as an itchy red rash with bumps or blisters. When exposed to 50 micrograms of urushiol, an amount that is less than one grain of table salt, 80% to 90% of adults will develop a rash. Burning these poisonous plants can be very dangerous because the allergens can be inhaled, causing lung irritation. Exposure to urushiol can come from:

  • Direct contact with the plant
  • Indirect contact, such as touching tools, livestock, or clothing that have urushiol on them
  • Inhalation of particles containing urushiol from burning plants

The CDC has information on how to identify exposure to a poisonous plant and how to treat it.

Photo © 2010 by Stefan Jacobsunder Creative Commons license.

Helping Your Kid Cope

Being a parent is stressful. Increasingly, being a child is as well. One of the skills we need to teach our children is how to cope—with setbacks, with disappointment, with feeling overwhelmed, and more. Coping skills are an essential part of becoming a resilient person who can deal with life’s ups and downs.

To help you teach your child how to handle difficult times, iMomhas a list of essential coping skills for kids. Most of these are simple strategies that you can teach your child to use when things get hard. Among them are:

  • Breathe
  • Create art
  • Talk it out
  • Take a break
  • Get the negative energy OUT
  • Problem solve
  • Squeeze the lemons
  • Remember
  • Ask for a hug

Every child is different, so not every coping skill works for every child. Find the ones that work best for your child. You can get the details on the skills listed above and more in the iMom article.

Nurture a Love of Nature and Health with These Resources

Earth Day is coming up on April 22nd, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has a website to help nurture your child’s interest in the environment, science, and health. The site, Kids Environment Kids Health, provides resources for parents, teachers, and kids to explore these topics.

Among the topics covered on the site are:

  • Environment & Health
  • Healthy Living
  • Pollution
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Science—How It Works
  • The Natural World

The games section of the website provides brainteasers, puzzles, songs, and riddles, while the activities section includes coloring pages, stories created by kids, and science experiments to do at home. For teachers, there are lessons plans on environmental health topics from kindergarten through high school. The site also provides a section aimed just at little kids, gathering all of the age-appropriate materials in one easy-to-find location.

What to Expect at Your Child’s Checkup

You might have obsessively read the What to Expect When You’re Expectingbook when your first child was on the way. Perhaps you’ve used PTA’s Parents’ Guides to Student Successto be informed about what your child will be learning each year and what questions you should ask your child’s teacher. As your child grows, having an idea of what’s coming up can make you a better parent.

One of the areas where parents may not be too sure what to expect is their child’s annual checkup. Kids’ Health has a series of guides in both Englishand Spanishabout what to expect at each checkup from birth to age 21. The guides provide information on:

  • What your doctor should be doing and asking about.
  • What to keep in mind until your child’s next checkup.
  • What your child should be learning to as they grow and mature.
  • What safety issues you should be aware of for that age.

Check out the guide for your child’s next checkup and bookmark the listso you have it handy next time your child is in the examining room. Share the guides for the older years with your teen or young adult to help take some of the fear out of their next visit.

Photo © 2015 by Greens MPsunder Creative Commons license.