The official kick-off to summer is just around the corner, everyone’s eager to stow away their winter clothes, break out the beach chairs and sit back, relax and unwind. Memorial Day weekend is about honoring and remembering the service members who sacrificed so much for our country. Many of us will gather together and enjoy the sun, spend time with friends and family and looking forward to the next few months of warmer weather. But along with the fun that comes along with this long-awaited weekend comes a number of safety concerns that parents should keep top of mind—especially when there are little ones running around. So before you pack up the car, fire up the grill, inflate the floaties and kick back, make sure to keep these safety precautions in your back pocket.
Even if you’re planning on camping out under a UV-protected tent all weekend long, sunscreen is essential—and be sure to slather your little guy or gal too. I recommend a full spectrum-protection sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Full spectrum protection ensures it’ll ward off both UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to go heavy as opposed to light when you apply, as the American Academy of Dermatology reports that nearly half of people aren’t using enough sunscreen. Focus on key areas, namely your child’s face (don’t forget the ears!), legs, arms, feet and hands. Apply about 30 minutes before you head out for the day and reapply every two hours or every time your little fish comes out from the water.
And, since the skin is your largest organ, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredient list of everything that you rub-on and apply—especially when little bodies are involved. The most toxic UV filters are oxybenzone and octinoxate. Some sunscreen chemicals may even disrupt the hormone system. I see way too many patients, women especially, who have used a host of hormone-disrupting products that wreak havoc on their body’s hormonal balance. This is why I recommend avoiding these ingredients and other harmful chemicals whenever possible. There are some less toxic UV filters that some of the more natural sunscreens contain including titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone to name a few. Or, you can make your own DIY sunscreen. Try my recipe here.
Water and Pool Safety
There’s nothing sweeter than watching your little one splish-splash around in the water (especially if it’s the first time), but try not to get distracted by snapping photos if you haven’t yet considered some key safety ground rules. Keep your kiddo at arm’s reach whenever possible, something the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) refers to as touch supervision. So, even if your child is making waves in his swim class, stay in the water with him at all times to keep his head above water and make sure he’s not swallowing too much of the stuff (this could lead to a rare, but serious, condition known as water intoxication). Also, floaties are not life savers. While they add a layer of protection, you can’t rely on them for everything. If you haven’t already, go ahead and sign your kiddo up for swim classes and sign yourself up for CPR classes as an added precaution.
BBQ and Grilling Safety
The obvious number one safety concern here is to keep tiny hands (and bodies) away from the piping hot grill. But, additionally, you want to make sure that whatever food from the grill that goes into your little one’s mouth is fully cooked or, even better, well done. Slice through and cut up any meat you’re giving your child—whether it’s chicken, turkey, beef, pork, or what have you. As an added precaution, use a meat thermometer to ensure that every type of meat is the proper temperature for eating. You can find these specific guidelines on the USDA’s website.
There’s more to ensuring a safe ride than wearing seat belts (although that’s extremely important too!). I always tell all of my moms to make sure car seats are properly installed. As anyone who’s loaded one of those in their car knows—it’s a lot harder than it looks! And, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, more than 90 percent of parents are installing or using their car seats incorrectly.
Sure, it’s not easy installing a car seat—but it’s not impossible either. So let me help break it down for you. First thing’s first, you always want to place the car seat in the back seat, which is the safest spot for a baby. The middle spot is ideal, but the other two sides will do just fine, too. At all costs avoid installing the car seat in the front seat. Even though it gives you a great view of your baby’s precious face, any accident would cause the passenger-side airbag to open up and cause a serious injury to your child. You also want to face the car seat backwards if your child is younger than two years old. Statistics show that kids under two are three-quarters less likely to be hurt or fatally injured when the car seat is rear-facing. Got the positioning downpat? Good! Next thing up is to secure the base tightly so there’s no wobbling. If you’re still having trouble or just aren’t totally sure it’s in correctly, head to your local police or fire station. These folks will do a safety check for free. If there’s a car inspection station nearby, you can go there too—call 866-SEAT-CHECK to check.
Enjoy, be safe and have fun!