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Safety reminders as you send kids out to play this spring

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As the season changes, now is the perfect time for parents to be considering safety so their children won't be singing the summertime blues.

Kids in Rutherford County are already heading outside to play, and keeping them safe is a top concern for Safe Kids Rutherford County as well as area pediatricians.

Third graders across the county recently received new bicycle helmets and were given instruction that they needed to wear them every time they planned to ride.

"The main reason for wearing a bike helmet is to protect the head and the brain from possible injury," said Dr. Chris Burley, Safe Kids Rutherford County coordinator. "Helmets are 88 percent effective if they are worn properly."

Third graders are chosen to receive helmets, he continued, because it is a good age to provide safer instruction to.

"They're still impressionable enough to teach somebody that age to wear a helmet, and children that age head growth has started to stabilize, so they'll get a lot of wear out of that helmet," Burley explained.

"Brain injuries don't heal like a broken bone," Burley told students during a helmet distribution at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy. "If you have a brain injury as a third grader, you have it from now on."

Third grader Angelina Ledford was excited to receive her helmet and planned to wear it that afternoon.

"Today will be my first day to ride without my training wheels," she said.

Students received tip sheets with reminders of how to wear their helmets and that they should replace a helmet if it has been in an accident.

"If there's visible or suspected damage or compression of the foam, it should be replaced," Burley said.

Helmets aren't just for bicycles, but also for any wheeled activity, said Dr. A.J. Grein, pediatrician with Rutherford Children's Care.

"For activities like roller skating or scooters, a bicycle helmet is fine," he said. "But for motorcycles or ATVs, a full helmet with a face guard should be worn to protect your eyes as well."

ATV accidents, he added, are one of the leading causes of emergency room visits for children. Trampoline accidents are another leading cause.

"There is no safe trampoline," Grein explained. "Those nets that go around a trampoline give a false sense of security. But, if you are going to jump on one, there should always be an adult supervising and no more than one child on the trampoline at a time."

After bicycling, skateboarding and jumping, parents need to remind children to slow down and drink water to avoid dehydration, another summer safety concern.

"Children should have free access to fluids and take breaks every 20 minutes or so to drink water," he said. "Sports drinks aren't really necessary and water is the best to drink."

Heat stress can be caused not only from playing in the hot, humid Southern sun but also from being exposed to heat on long car rides for vacation, Grein said.

"Be sure that before you start off on the road trip that you pull up a sun shade," he said. "Even if you're cool in the front seat, if your child is sitting in the back seat in direct sun, they are at risk of getting overheated."

For infants who cannot tell you they are hot, Grein advised stopping every so often and taking the child out of his or her carseat to cool off.

Sunscreen should be worn that includes a minimum SPF 15 that block both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen should be reapplied every few hours, and more often if you've been sweating or in the water.

"Sunglasses are also important to protect the eyes from UVA and UVB rays," Grein added. "The reflection off water can be very damaging."

Those who will be playing outdoors should also wear a bug spray with 10 to 30 percent DEET.

"You should apply bug spray every couple of hours, and only to the areas of your body that are exposed," Grein explained. "If you wear lightweight clothing to cover your arms and legs, that will also offer protection."

And if you're concerned about chemicals, there are alternatives that can be effective.

"Avon's Skin So Soft - it's kid safe, and it seems to work," he said.

If your child does get bitten by a bug like a tick, take steps to carefully remove it from the skin.

"If you suspect it is a tick, use a pair of tweezers to make sure you remove the entire tick, including the head," he said.

Watch your child for signs of allergic reactions and if you are concerned about them, seek medical care.

"Dr. Google is not your friend," Grein said.

For more information on safety tips for children, visit safekids.org.

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