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Keep your kids healthy and safe this summer

Kids playing on swing set.

Summer is a great time for kids to relax and recharge before the new school year begins. When planning fun activities like outings with friends or swimming at the lake, a top priority should be making sure children stay safe and healthy — no matter how they spend their days.


“We want everyone to enjoy their summer vacations visiting friends and family, not recovering from injury or illness. To help ensure everyone stays healthy and safe, follow common sense guidelines like applying sunscreen, drinking plenty of water and wearing appropriate safety gear,” said Dr. Yameika Head, clinical practice director of pediatrics at Atrium Health Navicent.


Physicians at Atrium Health Navicent offer these tips to help parents ensure their children have an enjoyable summer with safety in mind.


Get outside and play

Encourage physical activity this summer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14.7 million children and adolescents in the U.S. suffer from obesity, and 19.7 percent of children are considered obese. In Georgia, 33.9 percent of children ages 10-17 are obese, according to America’s Health Rankings.


To combat weight gain, help your children get 60 minutes of exercise per day. Exercise not only burns calories, but leads to better academic achievement, higher quality sleep and reduced feelings of anxiety.


Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

When the weather is warm, hydration is key. Encourage kids to drink plenty of water, and limit the amount of soda, fruit juice and energy drinks available to them, as these can hurt hydration levels.


If kids play summertime sports, hydration is even more important. Staying properly hydrated is one of the best defenses against heat-related illnesses.


“Even for kids who are used to exercising or playing outside, heat exhaustion can sneak up quickly if the weather combines high temperatures and high humidity. Taking frequent water breaks — even when they’re not thirsty — can help keep kids stay hydrated and prevent heat exhaustion,” Head said.


To gauge whether a child is properly hydrated, take a peek at the color of their urine. It should be light-yellow, not golden or dark.


When exercising, children ages 9 to12 need to drink 3 to 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes to stay hydrated. Teens need to drink 34 to 50 ounces per hour.


Stay sun smart

Too much sun not only ruins your fun, it can be harmful to your body. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, an invisible type of radiation that comes from the sun, can lead to skin cancer later in life.


According to the CDC, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States with 4.3 million adults treated for skin cancer annually.


Children should wear sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. Help children apply sunscreen in a thick layer on all exposed skin. Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming, sweating or toweling off. The use of sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months old.


Those with sensitive skin should wear protective clothing while outside, even if they’re in the shade. Wear a hat that has a brim that shades the face, ears and the back of the neck. Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from UV rays as well.


Gear up

When planning outdoor activities, make sure children have the right safety equipment on hand. Knee pads and helmets are a must when riding a bike or roller blading. Children and weaker swimmers should wear life jackets in and around pools and other bodies of water.


According to the CDC, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 5 to 14. More children ages 1 to 4 die from drowning than any other cause of death.


“The most important thing parents can do to help prevent drowning is to teach children how to swim,” Head said. “The second most important is to seek CPR training. Adults and teens who are monitoring kids this summer should be CPR certified. CPR saves lives!”


Bug off

When the weather warms up, summertime insects also come out to play. Between ticks, mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies, kids are sure to bring home bites this summer.


The best thing to do is arm your children with bug spray. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 30 percent concentration of DEET in insect repellants for children over 2 months old. When kids come home from playing outside, especially in the woods or grassy areas, check them for ticks. 


To treat bug bites, dermatologists recommend the following tips:

  • For painful bites, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Always follow the directions on the label and use the correct dose.

  • For itchy bites, apply an anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone, or take an over-the-counter oral antihistamine.

  • To bites that swell, apply an ice pack.


If a child experiences serious symptoms such as a rash, fever or body aches, call your pediatrician, or seek out medical attention immediately.


Limit screen time

Summer isn’t all sunny days. When it’s rainy outside, plan fun activities for your kids inside. Most importantly, limit their screen time. Too much screen time can be bad for children’s development.


According to the CDC, children ages 8 to 18 spend, on average, 7.5 hours in front of a screen for entertainment each day, 4.5 of which are spent watching TV. For children ages 11 to 14, the average screen time tops 9 hours a day.


Plan fun, screen-free activities to occupy your children on rainy days. These may include playing with blocks, puzzles or Legos, creating artwork or other crafts, reading a book, or learning to cook or bake.


Snack smart

Between ice cream cones, movie theater snacks and cookout desserts, opportunities for too much junk food abound during the summer. As parents, it’s your job to monitor what children eat and provide them with healthy options all year long.


Abiding by healthy eating habits while kids are out of school will keep them on track when school starts again. It will also help them get the vitamins and nutrients they need to fuel their summer fun.


Limit kids’ consumption of high-fat and high-sugar foods. Ideas for healthy snacks include carrots, apples, bananas, blueberries, grapes, yogurt or oven-baked vegetable chips.


At dinner time, fill children’s plates with fruit and vegetables and lean protein.


Where to go for help

Accidents happen, and so it’s important that parents and those supervising children know where to seek appropriate medical treatment. For emergency situations, call 911 or seek care at the nearest emergency center.


Atrium Health Navicent offers emergency care at the following locations:

  • Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center (770 Pine St., Macon)

  • Atrium Health Levine Children’s Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital (888 Pine St., Macon)

  • Atrium Health Navicent Peach (1960 Hwy 247 Connector, Byron)

  • Atrium Health Navicent Baldwin (821 North Cobb St., Milledgeville)

  • Putnam General Hospital, Atrium Health Navicent Partner (101 Greensboro Road, Eatonton)


For non-life-threatening injuries, visit your nearest urgent care provider. Atrium Health Navicent provides urgent care at three Macon locations.

  • Atrium Health Navicent Urgent Care North (3400 Riverside Drive, Macon)

  • Atrium Health Navicent Urgent Care East (1339 Gray Highway, Macon)

  • Atrium Health Navicent Urgent Care Northwest (5925 Zebulon Road, Macon)


For more information about services for children, visit


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