Pediatricians Offer Expert Comment Kids' Summer Health

Armen Hareyan's picture

Experts are available to provide tips on making summer '07 a safe and healthy for your kids.

Healthy eating in a fast-food world

"Picnics, playing outside, and summer travel make it all too easy for kids and families to feast on junk food," said Julie Matel, MS, dietician and nutritionist at Packard Children's. "But with proper planning, there are lots of ways to create healthy summer treats, such as popsicles made out of pure fruit juice." Matel also suggested kids stay hydrated by drinking water that's been slightly flavored by fruit juice.

Summer safety

"Recreational activities create a greater chance of injury during the summer," said Sharon Williams, PhD, Director of the Outpatient Child Psychiatry Clinic. Dr. Williams, a specialist in pediatric head injury, said proper supervision is essential. "Children should be watched," said Dr. Williams, "particularly with ball games or activities that could allow them to wander into the street or near a car. Any type of water activity requires careful monitoring, too. And don't forget the helmet when kids are on bikes, scooters, or skateboards."

Child-proof the windows


Every summer we hear tragic stories of children falling out of open windows. "This is a very dangerous situation, especially for small kids," said Swati Agarwal, MD, a critical care pediatrician who has seen victims as young as ten months. "For all rooms above the first floor parents should install window guards," added Dr. Agarwal, "and furniture needs to be moved away from windows. We know how they love to climb." Dr. Agarwal also wants parents to know that window screens do not prevent kids from falling out of windows, only window guards do.

Sun Protection

"Parents ask us a lot of questions about using sunscreens on children," said Anna Bruckner, MD, Chief of Dermatology at Packard Children's. "We recommend sun avoidance and protective clothing as the first line of sun defense. If sunscreen is used, we advise parents to use it liberally, starting about 30 minutes prior to exposure, even on cloudy days, and to reapply it every one to two hours. A sun protection factor of 30 or higher is best." Dr. Bruckner can also recommend tips for parents seeking a safe and effective insect repellent.

Travel smart

Fidgety kids make for tough travel. Lisa Chamberlain, MD, MPH, Clinical Instructor and mother of two, has advice. "A good idea for long car trips is to take breaks at rest stops. Let the kids get out and play for a while," she said. "For snacks, filling a cooler with healthy bars, crackers, and bottled water can help parents avoid filling kids with junk food." Whether plane, train, or automobile, Dr. Chamberlain stressed preparation. "Successful planning and packing needs to take into account the age and developmental stage of the child. Younger children need more distraction since their attention span is short. Parents need to bring a series of small things like books, magnetic games, crayons and stickers so that they have one new activity to offer at needed intervals. Older children will obviously require fewer distinct activities."

Lights out, please!

As a dad, Rafael Pelayo, MD, knows all too well that that changing a child's sleep pattern is not the easiest trick in the world. As Director of the Pediatric Sleep Service at Packard Children's, Dr. Pelayo offers ways to effectively transition kids to a summer sleep schedule. One of his tips may be revolutionary. "Sleep is a core value and parents should be role models for their kids. This means parents and kids should try and maintain the same sleep schedule on weekends as on weekdays, even in the summer," said Pelayo.