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Have a safe and sane summer

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Summer time traditionally arrives with the Memorial Day weekend. For most children this means more outdoor activities. 

For all parents, this means being extra vigilant to keep your child safe and healthy. Here are some easy suggestions that the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have developed to help keep your child safe this summer. 

Heat stress in exercising children 
- The intensity of activities that last 15 minutes or more should be reduced whenever high heat and humidity reach critical levels. 
- At the beginning of a strenuous exercise program or after traveling to a warmer climate, the intensity and duration of exercise should be limited initially and then gradually increased during a period of 10 to 14 days to accomplish acclimatization to the heat. 
- Before prolonged physical activity, the child should be well-hydrated. During the activity, periodic drinking should be enforced, for example, each 20 minutes, five ounces of cold tap water or a flavored sports drink for a child weighing 90 pounds, and nine ounces for an adolescent weighing 130 pounds, even if the child does not feel thirsty. 
- Clothing should be light-colored and lightweight and limited to one layer of absorbent material to facilitate evaporation of sweat. Sweat-saturated garments should be replaced by dry garments. 
- Practices and games played in the heat should be shortened and more frequent water/hydration breaks should be instituted. 

Pool safety 
- Install a fence at least four feet high around all four sides of the pool. The fence should not have openings or protrusions that a young child could use to get over, under, or through. 
- Make sure pool gates open out from the pool, and self-close and self-latch at a height children can't reach. 
- Never leave children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment. 
- Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd's hook - a long pole with a hook on the end - and life preserver) and a portable telephone near the pool. 
- Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as "floaties." They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security. 
- Children may not be developmentally ready for swim lessons until after their fourth birthday. Swim programs for children under 4 should not be seen as a way to decrease the risk of drowning. 
- Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm's length, providing "touch supervision." 

Water safety 
To ensure that your children are safe, never leave them unsupervised around water. Here are some tips to keep your child safe around the water this spring: 
- Teach your child to swim, but remember that younger children shouldn't be left unsupervised around water even if they know how to swim. The AAP recommends that children under age four not be given formal swimming lessons, especially as a primary means to prevent the risk of drowning. 
- Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket when on a lake, river or ocean while boating, water skiing, jet skiing or tubing. 
- Warn your children about playing in canals or other fast moving water. 
- Do not let your child play around any water (lake, pool, ocean, etc.) without adult supervision (even if he is a good swimmer). Even older children and teens shouldn't swim alone, but should instead use a 'buddy' system and always swim with a friend, preferably in areas that are supervised by a lifeguard. 
- Don't allow running or horseplay around the water. 
- Childproof your swimming pool (about 250 kids under age 5 drown in swimming pools each year) with a fence around your backyard and a fence (at least four feet high) around the pool, with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Also consider having a phone poolside and learning CPR in case of emergencies. 

Things can get confusing, especially when you go to a water park, for example, and they won't let you use your own floatation device. To be safe, use a floatation device that keeps your child from going under the water, and keeps his face out of the water and his head upright. 

Essentially, this means using a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket or personal floatation device is critical. It should be obvious that simple arm "floaties" don't count as an approved personal floatation device. Instead, look for one that is labeled as being U.S. Coast Guard approved. 

Bug safety 
- Don't use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on your child. 
- Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and gardens where flowers are in bloom. 
- Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints. 
- To remove a visible stinger from skin, gently scrape it off horizontally with a credit card or your fingernail. 
- Combination sunscreen/insect repellent products should be avoided because sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, but the insect repellent should not be reapplied. 
- Insect repellents containing DEET are most effective against ticks and mosquitoes, and can prevent Lyme Disease and encephalitis, a real problem here in Brevard County. 
- The concentration of DEET in products may range from less than 10 percent to over 30 percent. The benefits of DEET reach a peak at a concentration of 30 percent, the maximum concentration currently recommended for infants and children. DEET should not be used on children under 2 months of age. 
- The concentration of DEET varies significantly from product to product, so read the label of any product you purchase. 

Keeping these ideas in mind will hopefully lead to a fun, safe summer for the little people.