Tips for a healthy, happy summer
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Tips for a healthy, happy summer

Patricia Cucolo, MD
Patricia Cucolo, MD

It is important to do your homework to keep your kids safe and healthy this summer. Patricia Cucolo, MD, a pediatrician with Atlantic Health System, offers these tips so the summer stays focused on fun.

Swim safely

For many children, cooling off in a pool, lake or pond is a highlight of the summer. However, bodies of water can be potentially dangerous places. “A life vest is needed for all kids of all swimming abilities in natural bodies of water – like an ocean, pond or lake — because of obstacles under the water, hidden currents and other dangers,” Dr. Cucolo said. She added that inexperienced swimmers should also wear a life vest or life jacket in the pool.

Remember to hydrate

A lot of the physical activity kids experience comes at the height of the summer, when the weather is often hot and humid. “Kids having fun outside will sweat more due to the heat and physical activity – so hydration is critical to keep them safe and healthy,” Dr. Cucolo said. Kids need to drink lots of water to replenish what they lose as their activity increases. If a child doesn’t drink enough water, heat exhaustion, heatstroke and dehydration can occur.

Block the sun

Outdoor fun in the sun means exposure to UV rays that can cause skin damage and sunburn. Kids should have layers of sun protection, starting with sunscreen that is correctly applied and reapplied every two hours throughout the day and after swimming. Dr. Cucolo recommends looking for a mineral-based sunscreen and/or sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Avoid sunscreen with oxybenzone, she said. “You want safe products that are ultimately going to protect children against the sun.”

Prevent bug bites

Kids will share the great outdoors with creatures big and small, so it’s important to protect them from bug bites. Aside from the itchy nuisance, insect bites can lead to allergic reactions, wounds can become infected, or an insect may transmit disease. Mosquitos and ticks can both carry disease, but ticks are a bigger cause for concern in the New Jersey area. Ticks can carry Lyme disease and other pathogens. Dr. Cucolo said, “in our area, prevention of Lyme disease is very important.” Lightweight clothing that covers exposed skin offers some protection from mosquitos and ticks. Insect repellant should also be applied to exposed skin, clothing or both, she said. Insect repellant should not be applied under clothes or to areas with sunburn or broken skin. A lower DEET concentration works for a shorter length of time (i.e., 10 percent DEET provides protection for one to two hours and 30 percent DEET protects up to five hours.) Tick checks are also very important. For children who will be outdoors for prolonged periods of time or in areas with a high insect infestation, a bug repellant with a higher concentration of DEET is recommended. Parents may also want to consider clothing coated in permethrin.

For more summer health and safety tips, visit atlantichealth.org/summer.

Dr. Patricia Cucolo is part of Atlantic Medical Group, a multispecialty network of health care clinicians. For more information, visit atlanticmedicalgroup.org.

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