As the temperature rises, more and more Americans are headed outside to take full advantage of all that the season brings. Whether you're barbequing on the beach or lounging by the pool, the last thing you're probably thinking about are all of the hidden dangers lurking in your everyday activities. But if you're a parent, especially if you're a parent of a small child, there's a lot to consider before you embark on your summer adventures. These seven summer baby dangers to be aware of are just a few of the issues that might arise.
When I was a brand new parent, I was at once full of misplaced hubris and worried out of my mind. I thought I knew about all of the potential dangers, and therefore worried about those obsessively. As it turns out, a lot of the things that freaked me out (scabies, detergent allergies, listeria from ice cream trucks) weren't that common. Instead, other dangers, like how to shield your infant from the sun and how and when to apply which bug repellant, were far more pressing in terms of their importance. Like most things in parenting, what you think is a big deal, in reality, is usually somewhere at the bottom of the list of worries. (I'm still dubious about the ice cream thing, though.)
1. Blankets & Car Seats Don't Mix
This is definitely one of those "know better do better" situations. Many of us, myself included, would throw a muslin blanket over our baby's car seat or stroller in the hot weather, hoping to shield them from the sun.
This is a mistake. Svante Norgren, M.D., a pediatrician at Astrid Lindgren children's hospital in Stockholm, told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that "It gets extremely hot down in the pram, something like a thermos."
2. The Pool Is Dark & Full Of Terrors
I was a lifeguard for several years during and after high school. In my time teaching swim lessons and pool safety, I learned a ton, but the biggest takeaway is that you cannot look away from a baby for a minute in a pool area, even if there is a lifeguard present. Drowning can happen in an instant. Never assume that because your baby is wearing floaties or is in one of those fancy baby life preserver rings that they can't go under — trust me, they can, I've seen it.
Even kiddie pools can be dangerous. Children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water. Pediatric otolaryngologist Dr. Nina Shapiro noted on her blog that 10 percent of pool-related deaths happen in "kiddie pools."
Also, if the pool is at your home, make sure that the chemicals are locked up away from where the baby can get to them. As someone who has been burned by algae cleaner, I can tell you, they are nasty and dangerous.
3. Bugs & Bug Spray
Little babies cannot wear bug spray, according to pediatrician and health care educator Dr. Jarret Patton. He told Romper in a previous story that "to prevent stinging and biting insects from feasting on your babies this summer, insect repellent is a good option for babies over 2 months old. (Babies under 3 months old should not have insect repellent.) Repellents with 15 to 30 percent DEET are effective and safe for babies over 2 months, and DEET is proven effective to prevent tick bites as well. Many insect repellents are marketed to children — simply make sure it contains DEET."
Make sure you do not spray their hands, as those are constantly in their mouths. Instead, think of mittens to cover those areas. Also, never spray the face directly — spray your own hands and apply.
Mosquito and tick borne illnesses are a definite danger for baby, so try to stay away from areas where they may gather, like around barn animals, standing water, and consider staying inside during twilight hours. Otherwise, mosquito netting is fabulous and cheap, and really very effective.
When the summer hits, most dog owners enjoy taking longer walks with their pets, bringing them to the park, and generally including them as much as possible. While this is normally pretty darn great for everyone, sometimes it goes wrong. More than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, and incidences go up with the increasing number of dog/human interactions in the warmer months, noted the American Veterinary Medical Association. It's not just pit bulls, either. Any dog can attack, so keep a close eye on your yard, as well as your child's environment.
5. Sun & Sunscreen
This is a tricky one, because children under the age of 6 months are severely limited on how much sunscreen they can wear according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Their guidelines declare that the best line of defense is to stay out of the sun. They wrote to make sure you're "timing outdoor activities to minimize peak midday sun (10 a.m. - 4 p.m.) when possible, applying sunscreen, and wearing sunglasses." Also that "infants younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight."
Otherwise, cover the baby with shades or sun protective clothing. However, "when adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF (sun protection factor) on infants under 6 months to small areas, such as the infant's face and the back of the hands. Remember it takes 30 minutes to be effective."
Babies over 6 months old should wear a generous amount of sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15, and reapply every two hours. There has been some concern lately about the safety of the chemicals in sunscreens, but never fear, there are physical sunscreens that utilize minerals like zinc oxide instead of chemicals like oxybenzone.
6. Eye Damage
Yes, babies need sunglasses, according to Child Safety Experts. Babies' eyes are even more sensitive than our own, so a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses are 100 percent necessary. Plus, they look so stinking cute on your baby.
7. Bounce Houses
If your baby is a little older, you might be tempted to let them loose in the bounce house, but be forewarned, an unsecured, overcrowded bounce house can be a dangerous place for a baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics has actually gone so far as to say that bounce houses are simply "unsafe."