The summer months offer a great opportunity to focus on your child’s health and get a game plan together without the distraction of school-year activities. As a pediatrician who specializes in the treatment of ADHD, depression and anxiety, I find it’s a particularly good time for families to get a handle on these conditions.
As we move into the summer break, consider the following wellness and safety tips for your child:
Doctor Visits & Well-Child Checks
Summer is the best time of year for your child’s annual well-child check. Not only is your schedule likely to be less busy this time of year; your pediatrician’s schedule probably is, too. Plus, there are fewer sick kids in a pediatrician’s office during the summer months, which means you’re less likely to expose your child to viruses and illnesses on your visit.
Many schools have sports physicals during the fall, but it’s preferable to have the checkup done by a pediatrician who can get a more holistic overview of your child’s health. It’s also important to use this time to focus on an action plan for managing any chronic disease, such as diabetes or asthma, your child may have.
If your child is traveling outside of the country this summer for a mission trip, exchange program or family vacation, you should also use this time to make sure he or she is up to date on any vaccinations or antibiotic prophylactics he or she may need. You can find a list of requirements by visiting CDC.gov/travel.
Sun Safety & Hydration
When at all possible, keep your child indoors during the hottest part of the day (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.). This can reduce the chances of heat exhaustion, dehydration and sunburn. When your child is outside, don’t forget to apply sunscreen. Sunscreen can be applied to children as young as 2 months of age.
One of the most important components of a safe summer is lots of hydration. To remain adequately hydrated while running and playing out in the hot sun, your child should have three bottles of water for every one bottle of Gatorade. Hydration is important for all members of the family, but especially kids and nursing moms. Women who are breastfeeding should stay super-hydrated to ensure adequate hydration for the baby.
Ticks & Mosquitoes
Most natural bug repellents are not effective at repelling mosquitoes. For adequate bug protection, you will need a product containing DEET. If you’re concerned about your child absorbing chemicals from bug spray, spray his or her clothes instead. When it comes to ticks, do a tick check of your child’s body every day. Most tick-borne illnesses don’t spread until the tick has been attached for at least 48 hours — so if you’re doing a daily check, you’re likely to detect a tick before it becomes dangerous to your child’s health.
Kids are outdoors a lot in the summer. Make sure your child wears a helmet when riding a bike. Safe practices at the swimming pool are also very important this time of year. Never leave a child in a pool unattended, and make sure young children have arm floaties when they’re in the water. Swimming lessons are also a great way to improve your child’s water safety.
Mental & Emotional Health
While the school year may be when ADHD, depression and anxiety are most likely to cause difficulty, summer is an important time to change or start any new treatments or medications for your child. This will give you a better opportunity to observe your child and make adjustments, as necessary. When it comes to ADHD, some parents like to reduce their child’s medication during summer vacation. If you do so, be sure to speak with your pediatrician, and also be sure you start increasing the medication to regular levels before the school year starts to avoid any potential side effects during back-to-school time. Summer is also an ideal time to look into any behavioral sessions, mental health evaluations or educational testing your child may need.
Rest & Relaxation
Make sure your child maintains a regular sleep schedule during the summer months. It’s OK to let him or her wake up a little later, but make sure that, overall, consistent bedtimes and wake times are kept.
Also ensure your child has the time and freedom during the summer to just be a kid—to play, relax and go on summer vacation. If your child participates in any sports that have practice times during the summer months, make sure he or she still has enough down time—otherwise, burnout could result.
To schedule a vaccination, well-child check or ADHD evaluation at my office, call (336) 802-2200.
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