Jul 27, 2015

Dr. Gellner: Hiking can be a fun experience for the entire family as long as safety is top priority. I'm doctor Cindy Gellner and hiking safety tips for families is today's topic on The Scope.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kids Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: As a parent I know I've held my breath as my boys run headlong down a rocky trail. One reason why kids love to hike is because there's a certain amount of freedom and risk that they don't get at home. You want your children to explore their boundaries but not too much. The question becomes then how do we let them explore the outdoors as safely as possible without quashing their fun?

Remember your first aid kit. Whether you are going on an easy half-mile hike around a nature loop or a day-long excursion, be sure to carry it with you. Often you can buy a first aid kit that's well stocked with bandages, gauze, ointments and such, but make sure that the kit has kid-friendly supplies as well. Antiseptic for cleaning wounds and scrapes, a variety of bandages for fingers, toes or big body areas, Tylenol or Motrin and of course insect repellant.

If your child has allergies to plants or insects, be sure to bring their EpiPen along as well as some antihistamines. Be sure to bring plenty of water with you on a hike. Carry a backpack with water bottles in it. That's also a good place to store snacks. A few granola bars and some fruit are essential as kids will burn a lot of energy as they run.

Set expectations with the kids on the ground rules for your hike. Being clear and consistent with these at the start of a hike is an essential safety step. Five good rules for kids are to stay on the trail, no running or throwing objects, remain with the group, younger kids need to remain within eyesight and teens within earshot, always stop if there is a turn off the main road and wait for others to see which way to go, and, finally, be courteous to other hikers by stepping aside and always ask politely to pass.

These rules are important whether your child is three or 13. Often it is the older teens that can get into the most trouble by hiking ahead and getting separated from the rest of the group. If your child does get lost, make sure they know what to do. Give them a whistle. Attach it to their backpack or water pack. Be sure they understand that it is not a toy and should only be used in an emergency. Three quick whistles can mean "I need help" or "I am lost." They should stay in one place and blow their whistle counting to three between each toot. After blowing their whistle, they should be quiet and listen for someone calling to them.

Remember, you may not have cell signals where you are hiking so you need another way to communicate. By following these rules, hiking can be a great way to share the outdoors with your child.

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