With sounds of glee over fireworks displays and the sight of popsicle juice dribbling down little chins, there’s a lot to love about celebrating July 4th with kids. But staying safe is what keeps Independence Day fun. Whether you’re taking your family to a parade or the beach this weekend, you’ll want to take extra precaution with your children. It’s easy to forget basics like applying sunscreen and drinking plenty of water when you’re out having a good time.
Here are 10 ways to keep your kiddos healthy, comfortable, and safe this holiday weekend:
1. Double up on the sun protection. Chances are, you’re going to be spending a lot of time outside over the next couple of days. According to the New York Times, there’s evidence that childhood sun exposure can increase a person’s risk of later skin cancer. Even if your children have a darker complexion, you should outfit them with hats and sunscreen (and reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes). Try to avoid being outside between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is at its brightest.
2. Steer the bugs away. Per American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines, children as young as 2 months can safely use insect repellents containing deet. Parents Magazine points out that a higher concentration of deet means that a repellent lasts longer, not that the product is stronger. If you prefer natural ingredients, look for repellents containing citronella, lemongrass, and cedarwood.
3. Have water on you at all times. Pack a separate water bottle for each child or bring a cooler and fill it up with water and other beverages. Refill the water bottles throughout the day. Dehydration can lead to death, so never discount the value of water. Check out The Huffington Post’s list of top seven dehydration myths and also see how much water the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests for your kids’ age range.
4. Always know where the nearest hospital is. When you go out of town, you might be more likely to research the whereabouts of the nearest taco bar or amusement park than hospital, but knowing where the hospital is can save a life. Have the hospital’s name, address, and phone number saved on your phone or in your travel journal for easy access. If you’re going to a remote spot, find out what locals do for medical care—and definitely don’t skip the next step.
5. Pack a first aid kit. You never know when a boo-boo or something more serious may happen, so plan ahead for injuries. If it’s been a while since you last looked at your first aid kit, go through it and see what needs to be replaced. Also compare your kit’s contents to this family Red Cross list.
6. Follow fireworks safety. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that in the period around July 4th, an average of 230 people go to the emergency room every day due to fireworks-related injuries. You and your kids can avoid joining these numbers. First off, don’t allow young kids to play with fireworks. Period. Even older kids should always have adult supervision. But it doesn’t end there. Learn other tips on the CPSC site.
7. Warm up before exercising. Warming-up isn’t just for organized or school sports practice; it’s for summer playtime, too. WebMD stresses that kids should always do a series of warm-ups and light stretches to prep their muscles for athletics. Don’t let an athletic injury ruin the weekend.
8. Put your kids in helmets. When the bicycles, scooters, skateboards, rollerblades, and skates come out, the helmets should, too. PBS Parents says the helmet must fit properly and that the right kind of helmet must be used. So get a new helmet if your child has outgrown the old one and don’t have your kid use, say, a skateboard helmet if they’re riding a bike. Another biggie: If you’re on wheels with your kids, you should wear a helmet, too. It sets a good example.
9. Prevent your child from drowning. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the number one cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 4. You should never let your little ones play in the water unsupervised. Even older children who are confident swimmers shouldn’t be left alone. CBC also warns that you and your children stay alert of currents, watch the water, and never dive into shallow water.
10. Use common sense about sharks. If Shark Week has you dreading a Jaws-like encounter at the beach this weekend, you can calm down. In the United States, an average of one person dies from a shark attack every year. Most injuries are not fatal, with 36 U.S. beach-goers attacked annually. That being said, you don’t want your loved ones to be one of the 36. Shark survival expert Terry Schappert told ABC News that if you see a shark, don’t freak out and thrash around in the water. Get onto land and tell everyone else to do the same. If your child gets bitten on a limb (the most common spot for shark bites), apply a tourniquet and get to a hospital.
No matter how you choose to celebrate Independence Day this year, have fun and stay safe!