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Health Stories

Summer Safety

child jumping in the sun

Oh, the glory days of summer! It’s a time of year when we’re all feeling a bit more relaxed, enjoying the outdoors and our long awaited summer vacation. It’s also a time of year when we tend to fill our medicine cabinets with all kinds of products to treat the many little injuries that our children will encounter during the course of the summer. From scrapes and cuts from falling off their bikes and scooters, to sunburns, and insect bites — our children and youth will likely need us to pull out the first aid kit at some point during the summer.

Of course, preventing the injuries in the first place is always the best advice! The old saying “An ounce of prevention goes a long way” is one to live by during the summer months. Insisting children and youth wear the proper helmet and protective equipment when cycling, in-line skating, or riding their scooter goes a long way in preventing potential head injuries and other injuries from falls. In the case of insect bites, insect repellent is advisable, as is applying sunscreen regularly and wearing a hat when children are out in the sun.

Here are a few additional useful tips:

Sun Safety

Your child can easily sunburn in as little as 15 minutes.

  • Venture outside in early morning or afternoon, and stay in the shade between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
  • If out in the sun, apply sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher and don’t forget to apply on the ears, nose and face. Put sunscreen lip balm on lips as well. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going out in the sun and reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, or if you’re child has been in the water or is sweating a lot.
  • Don’t forget to put a hat and sunglasses on your child. When buying sunglasses, look for a label that says ANSI or CSA approved. They will provide almost 100% protection against eye damage from the sun. Have your child wear sunglasses at an early age and they will become part of their routine when preparing to go outside.
  • Dress children in lightweight, light-coloured clothing, preferably in cotton to absorb sweat.
  • Give frequent small amounts of water
  • NEVER leave a child alone in a parked car. It takes only minutes for the inside temperature to rise dangerously, even in the shade or with the windows down.
  • If by any chance you think your child has taken in too much sun and has heat cramps, give acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • If your child has heat exhaustion symptoms (i.e. cool, moist, pale or red skin, a low-grade fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness or weakness and exhaustion/fatigue), call your child’s physician or Telehealth Ontario. (1-866-797-0000).
  • If your child has a high fever (41°C or 106°F), is irritable or shows aggressive behaviour, is difficult to wake up, has a rapid or weak pulse and rapid breathing, he/she may have heat stroke. Call 911 immediately, or go to your hospital’s emergency department.

Scrapes and Cuts

  • Minor scrapes and cuts should be washed thoroughly, and kept clean with a bandage. If the bandage gets wet, remove it and replace it with a clean one. Once the wound forms a scab, a bandage is no longer necessary.
  • If the wound becomes red, swollen, tender, warm or starts to drain, contact your child’s doctor.
  • For larger cuts and scrapes, you should seek medical attention if:
    • you can’t stop the bleeding after 5 minutes of applying direct pressure;
    • you are unable to clean out the wound thoroughly;
    • the wound is on your child’s face or neck;
    • there is something stuck in the wound;
    • the cut is more than .5 (one-half) inch long or appears to be deep.

Insect Bites

When you know your child will be exposed to insects, take measures to avoid insects such as:

  • Avoid areas where insects nest or gather such as garbage cans, stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and sweets, and gardens and orchards.
  • If you can’t avoid these areas altogether, dress your child in long pants and lightweight long sleeved shirts. Avoid bright coloured or flower prints because they seem to attract insects. Bugs may actually think your child is the flower!smiling child holding an apple
  • Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes, scented hair products because they also seem to attract insects.
  • For children 6 months to 2 years, apply insect repellent with 10% DEET or less, and apply only once a day.
  • For children 2 to 12 years old, apply insect repellent with no more than 10% DEET and do not apply more than 3 times a day.
  • In children over 12 years, use insect repellent with 30% DEET or less and re-apply if needed.
  • In all cases, do not apply on hands or face.
  • In the event of a bite, calamine lotion applied regularly will provide some relief.
  • In the event of a bee sting, it is important to remove the stinger if it is visible. Gently scrape it out horizontally with a blunt-edge object, such as a credit card or your fingernail.
  • Wash the area with soap and water. A cold pack or cold wet washcloth, followed by a paste made of baking soda and water and left on for 15-20 minutes will provide relief. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) might be given for pain.
  • A sting near the mouth, or a sting that leads to a large, swelled area, abnormal breathing, tightness in chest or throat, dizziness, hives or rash, fainting, nausea or vomiting or constant pain or swelling for more than 3 days might be sign of an allergic reaction to the sting. You should take your child for medical attention if you notice any of these symptoms.

If you are unable to contact your child’s doctor and are not sure whether or not to go to the hospital, you have a few options. You can call:

  • Your community health centre, or
  • The City of Ottawa’s Public Health Info Line (weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at 613-724-4179, or
  • Telehealth Ontario, toll-free, 24 hours a day at 1-866-797-0000, or
  • Local CLSC (8-1-1) during the daytime, and after hours listen to the recording for directions, which give a telephone number to call in the Outaouais region

These sources may be helpful for additional information.

In all cases, parents and caregivers are encouraged to seek the advice of their family physician or pediatrician where their child’s health is concerned.

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