With summer's increased opportunities for outdoor activities like playing on playgrounds or riding bicycles, there's an correlating increase in injuries like abrasions, bruises and broken bones, health experts say.
"Summer is interesting because we do see a peak in injuries like fractures and broken bones from kids out playing on the playground," says Atlanta orthopedic surgeon Dr. Augustine Conduah of Stonecrest Orthopedics in Lithonia, Ga.
He adds that broken wrists and elbows are the most common type of fractures associated with falls from elevated playground equipment, due to children outstretching their arms to break their fall.
Summer is also prime time for kids to spend hours riding their bikes, which means kids are at an increased risk for minor traumas such as scrapes, bumps and bruises, but also more serious injuries such as concussions or other head trauma.
Preventing injuries on playgrounds and bikes
For playground safety, Dr. Conduah recommends parents pay close attention to their children and visit safer playgrounds. "Younger kids especially should be under close supervision when playing and assisted when using elevated playground equipment," he says, adding that more modern playgrounds that feature soft rubber or plastic composite flooring can better protect kids from a fall.
Dr. Patrick Crocker, director of emergency medicine at Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin, says parents should talk with their kids and ensure that kids are properly protected. "Part of prevention is parents talking to their children about what’s reasonable and making sure they’re wearing a helmet if they’re doing activities likes riding a bike or skateboarding," Crocker says. "I can’t count the number of broken helmets but perfectly intact heads I’ve seen versus the number of head bumps, concussions, serious brain injuries and lacerations that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet."
Bike safety for kids includes wearing adequate protective gear, but also making sure both kids and parents follow the rules, says Seattle pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Starnes of Swedish Medical group. "The main thing parents can do is set the example by wearing a helmet and following the traffic rules," he says. He adds that parents should take the effort when purchasing a child's bike to make sure it's the right size by getting a proper fitting for their child at a bike shop.
Dealing with injuries from playgrounds and bikes
For minor injuries like bumps or bruises, Crocker recommends cleaning the area with soap and warm water and applying a triple antibiotic ointment. "If the pain is significant, an aspirin or Tylenol and an ice bag can help a lot," he says.
However, Crocker cautions that if the area becomes infected, if there’s increasing pain or the child can’t use the extremity normally, it’s a likely indication your child needs to see a doctor.
"Any injury that’s preventing the child form continuing with play, should be looked at closely," Starnes says. "If they refuse to ride their bike, don’t want to walk or don't to use the injured extremity, they should be evaluated and or seen by their primary care provider."
In Georgia, Conduah says parents in his area should seek an Atlanta pediatrician's advice or take their child to an immediate care facility or emergency room if it becomes apparent that an injury to an extremity like an arm or leg is more than just a bump or bruise.
"Comparing the limb to the opposite limb and looking for an obvious injury or swelling will indicate if it's a more significant injury such as a fracture," he says. "Another indicator is pain that doesn't resolve after about 30 minutes to an hour - with significant injuries, the pain is unremitting."
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