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Spring Safety Checkup...From parents.com

Read this before the kids head outside to play. These 12 tips will help them have a fun--and accident-free--spring whether they're in a sport or just hanging out at the playground.

1. Do a Helmet Check

Though most states require kids to wear a helmet when they ride a bike, it falls to parents to enforce this rule and to apply it to any sport in which kids—even little kids—can reach a high speed. "A good rule of thumb is if your child is on anything with wheels, he or she should wear a helmet," says Cheryl Wu, M.D., a pediatrician in New York City. This means mandatory helmet-wearing while riding a scooter, skateboard, bicycle, tricycle, or rollerblades.

The fit of the helmet is critical: A well-fitted helmet sits just above the eyebrows and the fastening straps create a V-shape that surrounds the ears and then is fastened under the chin, says Lisa Pardi, R.N., M.S.N., injury prevention coordinator for Akron Children's Hospital in Ohio. "It should be snug enough that it will not rock back and forth on the child's head. Use the pads provided with the helmet to snug it up and try tightening the chin strap," she says. To test the fit, have the child shake his head back and forth, suggests Tracey Fejt, R.N., injury prevention coordinator at Cardon Children's Medical Center in Mesa, Arizona. "The helmet should not move, and you should be able to get just one finger between the child's chin and the strap," Fejt says.

Final check: Make sure the helmet sports an American Standards Testing Materials (ASTM) label. This indicates that the helmet has been tested and suits Consumer Product Safety Commission standards for safety.

2. Protect Skin from the Sun

Just because the sun isn't at its summery brightest, there's no reason to forgo applying sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. "Most spring sports and activities take place outdoors, usually during the hottest time of the day," Dr. Wu says. "That's why it's extra important to apply sunscreen and reapply it as well, especially if you're spending all day basking in the sunshine." Use a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, and reapply after 30 minutes.

3. Stay Hydrated

With a rush back outdoors, it's often easy to forget to drink water. Provide your child with water plus a banana to balance electrolytes, suggests Dr. Wu. That's a better option than a sports drink, which often contains a lot of sugar, she says. Keep in mind that symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle cramps, and lethargy.

How much water is enough? That depends on your child's age, size, and activity level and what the temperature is outside, says Karen Judy, M.D., pediatric program director and vice chair of education at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. Basically, parents can tell whether their children are getting enough fluids if the youngsters are urinating at least four to six times per day, and the urine is clear and pale yellow, she says.

4. Consider the Sport

Don't forget the other parts of the body that might need protecting depending upon the sport. If your child is just discovering the fun of doing wheeled activities like skating, wheelies, and skateboarding, for instance, it's important to protect his or her wrists. "There's a high risk of the child's falling onto his outstretched hand," says Greg Canty, M.D., medical director for the Center for Sports Medicine at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri. "Wrist guards may also help prevent a broken arm and ensure a spring that's filled with fun without a cast."

Shin guards and appropriate footwear are particularly important for small soccer players. Make sure the guards cover the entire shin and that shoes with cleats don't pinch.

5. Check Adult Credentials and Training

It's not being a pushy parent to confirm that any adults who are watching your children or in charge of sports activities—whether babysitters, coaches, or teachers—are schooled in first aid and CPR. If your children participate on sports teams, make sure their coach warms them up before practice and has them cool down and stretch afterward. And if temperatures get high in your area, ask the coach about policies regarding practicing in the heat.


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