Slide into summer safely: playground tips

By Catherine Agricola, MD  |  6/28/2017

Summer has finally arrived and the playground is a great way to spend free afternoons with children. But, sometimes, children get hurt at the park. They may fall and sprain an ankle or need stitches after a bad cut from a piece of play equipment.

Here are a few safety points to consider so you can spend your day at the park injury free:

Scope it out.

Before you let your children loose in any outdoor space, take notice of the various play surfaces. Metals will become hot fast. This includes some slides and rails. If it's been rainy recently, some surfaces may be slick. Also, look for impact-absorbing surfaces on the ground such as sand, pea gravel, woodchips, mulch and shredded rubber. Hard surfaces such as concrete, asphalt and blacktop are not acceptable and will lead to more injury in the event of a fall.

Keep a watchful eye.

Children should always be under the supervision of an adult while at the playground. Use the playground as an opportunity to teach your child about safety. Key behaviors that help prevent injuries include: not crowding the slide, taking turns, not pushing others and using equipment appropriately.

Check for ticks.

Ticks love to hide amid the taller grasses and some may spread infectious diseases such as Lyme. Ticks usually need at least 24 hours of attachment in order to transmit a potential infection. Thus, a daily tick check is crucial this summer. Check your child under the arms, around the ears, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and belly button, and in the hair. Consider using a repellent on exposed skin or treating clothing and gear with a permethrin product.

Know the heat index.

Unlike the air temperature, the heat index factors in humidity and tells us how it actually feels outside. Take caution when there is a heat index of greater than 90 degrees. Make playtime short and ensure good hydration.  With the heat index higher than 100 degrees, it's definitely time to find somewhere cool to play.

Protect against the sun.

From dawn to dusk, remember sun protection. All children should be dressed in cool, lightweight clothing to protect the body from the sun. Keep children under 6 months old in the shade and out of direct sunlight. For those older than 6 months, apply broad-spectrum sunscreen at least 15-20 minutes before going outside.  Use at least 15 SPF. Apply liberally on all exposed skin and rub in well. Having a swim? Reapply sunscreen every two hours.

Protect the head.

If your child will be cruising around on his or her bike, don't forget a helmet. Get into the habit early of wearing one for every single ride, even around the driveway. The helmet should cover the top of the forehead and stay snug. Helmets are made with specific activities in mind. Don't substitute a football or skateboard helmet for a bike helmet.

Now that you've considered some important safety tips, enjoy your summer adventure and safe play days ahead.

Dr. Catherine Agricola is a pediatrician and internal medicine physician at Health Quest Medical Practice in Kingston. Learn more about Dr. Agricola.