By Dr. Ian Wallace
Happy spring everyone! With the change of seasons, spring cleaning at home, and anticipating summer fun activities with my own kids, I would like to discuss children’s health for this article. This is a good opportunity to check in with your kids health (or your grandkids, or any kids you care about and spend time with) and figure out if they need any “maintenance”.
Children should have a yearly check-up with their health care provider to track basics like height, weight, any chronic medical issues, and just to check in overall, and establish a positive relationship between health care provider and child. Often these visits provide continuity of care, and may in fact catch problems early. If your child plays sports, summer is a good time to get those sports physicals done.
Related to medical care, twice yearly dental visits are also important to maintain kids’ oral health. Keep up with that brushing and flossing twice daily too.
For all the summer fun activities in our area, make sure kids are sun-safe with hats, sunscreen, keep properly hydrated, and get plenty of rest. Make sure their bicycles, skateboards, dirt bikes etc. are in proper working order and that kids wear helmets and protective padding. If kids will be riding in a UTV/quad type vehicle, make sure they have on a helmet and padding and are operating the vehicle at a safe speed or riding with a responsible adult.
This is a good time of year to check car seat fit. Make sure the seat is appropriate for kids’ height and weight and remember the new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is for kids to follow height and weight limits printed by the manufacturer on the car seats themselves. The recommendations are: rear facing for as long as possible in a 5 point harness, followed by front facing in a 5 point harness, followed by a belt positioning booster, until the child is approximately 4 feet 9 inches tall or between the ages of 8-12. Children under the age of 13 should always ride in a back seat. So read those little labels or research the car seat make/model online. Your health care provider can help with this too. Remember car seats do expire after about 10 years, due to sun damage and wear and tear on straps, unfortunately they need to be tossed in a landfill. Some retailers offer car seat trade up events to get a discount on the next size up.
Checking smoke detector batteries should be a part of spring cleaning.
If there are any guns, knives, hunting equipment in the home, make sure that they are locked, or put away, safely, especially considering kids might spend more time at home in the summer months and start to explore nooks and crannies of the home. As your kids mature, they can be a part of maintaining and understanding safe use, storage and handling of hunting, sport shooting type of equipment. If you take your child fishing, monitor them around fishing lines and hooks.
Keep your kids safe around burn piles, campfires and BBQs this summer, make sure those s’mores sticks are long enough! Teach your kids never to start a fire without adult supervision (and keep matches and lighters out of reach). Never leave children alone by a fire. If camping, follow posted forest/campsite rules about open flames and always make sure to keep water nearby and a fire is out before walking away.
Consider wearing long pants, or using bug spray, and check for ticks after a hike or playing in the woods or fields.
If you take your kids out boating or playing in the river or reservoir, make sure kids have a proper fitting PFD on at all times, and kids who don’t know how to swim are within arm’s reach at all times. Consider swimming lessons or teaching your child how to swim.
Summers are a great way to spend time with friends and family, especially as we recover from a strange and challenging year of COVID-19 restrictions. To celebrate and gather safely, vaccines are recommended and approved for those 16 and over, and -just announced!- the 12-15 year old age group is approved as well. Vaccines are a great way to ensure people can travel and gather while staying protected. Getting each age group vaccinated as soon as they are eligible ensures a return to normal activities as quickly and as safely as possible for us all. Talk to your health care provider if you have any questions about the vaccine, and have a great summer!