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Debunking Old Wives' Tales: Summer Safety Tips for Your Kids

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Debunking Old Wives' Tales: Summer Safety Tips for Your Kids

Aug 20, 2018

Summer is a time for kids to go outdoors and have fun. But as a parent, you want to make sure they’re safe out there. Does your child really need to wait 30 minutes after eating to swim? Should they get a base tan? Pediatrician Dr. Cindy Gellner examines some of the more common summertime safety tips and whether or not they’re true.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Gellner: Summer is a time of outdoor fun, but also a time for safety. What safety tips does your child really need to follow and which ones are old wives tales? I'll let you know on today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Remember that one thing that one person told you that one time about what you should or shouldn't do when raising your kids? Find out if it's true or not. This is "Debunking Old Wives Tales" with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Probably the biggest one that is a myth is that we need to wait 30 minutes after eating before our kids can go swimming. This came from the false belief that our stomachs pulled blood from our arms and legs in order to digest food. So, if a person goes swimming shortly after a meal, their muscles would cramp up and that would increase the risk of drowning. Luckily, we have enough blood for all of our body parts.

Then, there are the myths around summer sun protection. For example, you may have heard that if your child has dark skin, they can't get a sunburn and you really don't need to put sunscreen on them. While it's true that people who have a lot of melanin or pigment in their skin don't burn as easily, they can still burn. Skin cancer doesn't care how much melanin you or your child has. So it's important that you put sunscreen on your child and yourself and be sure to reapply every hour.

Similarly, if it's a cloudy day, you still need to put sunscreen on. Eighty-nine percent of ultraviolet rays from the sun can get through the clouds. So your child can still get a sunburn on an overcast day. One thing I hear a lot from teenagers is that they get a sunburn intentionally at the beginning of summer so they can get a "base tan." While this may seem like a good idea to speed up how dark their tan will be for the season, it's actually a really bad idea. Any tan technically is an injury to the skin, and any sunburns increase the risk of developing melanoma.

Finally, kids and bike riding. I hear all the time from kids and their parents that they don't need to wear helmets. Excuses I hear are that they're only riding on their street or on the sidewalks, and they're not going far and that they're careful. Well, they may be, but the drivers aren't.

Other people walking on the sidewalks may be distracted too. I've seen it happen more than once that less than a block from their house, a child is hit while on their bike and that those that had their helmets on fared way better than those without. I've seen kids who are stopped in the street on their bikes in front of their own homes and didn't have a helmet on and get hit by vehicles and almost killed. Helmets come in so many varieties now that kids can surely find one cool enough to wear.

Bottom line for all these activities is, summer is a time to have fun, but be safe and be smart about what you and your child do.

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