Childhood injuries and trips to the emergency room seem to climb right along with the summer temperatures. This summer children ages 14 and under will be rushed to emergency rooms nearly 3 million times for serious injuries resulting from car crashes, swimming accidents, bike wrecks, scooter scrapes and other hazards. More than 2,500 of these children will die. Many of these hurting children will have had ADHD.
Children with ADHD are more likely to end up in an emergency room and are more likely to have serious injuries throughout the year. Their chances don't improve over the summer months, when they're often unsupervised and left to find their own creative and typically high-risk ways to pass the time.
Parents who choose to discontinue their child's medication during the summer months may be placing their children at an even greater risk of injury. Unmedicated children are more likely to have accidents and are less likely to think about the consequences of what they're about to do.
There are also social advantages to staying on medication during the summer months. Ritalin and other medications help the child pay attention during games and other organized activities and allow the ADHD child to better interact with others.
"Unfortunately, some children are not able to do well with peers or to participate in organized peer activities without medication," says David Rabiner, Ph.D. of Duke University. "Problems getting along with parents are also often helped substantially by medication - I've had many parents tell me how much easier it is to have a good time with their child when he or she is on medication and that they are able to spend time together in ways that are just not possible otherwise."
Choose developmentally appropriate activities
Accidents happen when parents over-estimate their child's maturity and ability to perform. Children with ADHD are typically less mature than their same-age peers. What was appropriate for big brother when he was 10 may not be appropriate for a 10-year-old who has ADHD. Keep that in mind when considering activities or lessons for the summer.
Know the rules
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends these specific safety tips for these some popular activities:
Fun in the sun
For older children:
- The first, and best, line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that block 99-100% of ultraviolet rays), and cotton clothing with a tight weave.
- Stay in the shade whenever possible, and avoid sun exposure during the peak intensity hours - between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The risk of tanning and burning also increases at higher altitude.
- Sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 should be effective for most people. Be sure to apply enough sunscreen - about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
- Some self-tanning products contain sunscreen, but others don't, so read the labels carefully. In addition, tanning oils or baby oil may make skin look shiny and soft, but they provide no protection from the sun.
For young children:
- Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of the direct sunlight. Move your baby to the shade or under a tree, umbrella, or the stroller canopy.
- Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs and use brimmed hats.
- Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside, and use sunscreen even on cloudy days. The SPF (sun protection factor) should be at least 15.
Heat stress in exercising children
- The intensity of activities that last 15 minutes or more should be reduced whenever relative humidity, solar radiation, and air temperature are high. One way of increasing rest periods on a hot day is to substitute players frequently.
- At the beginning of a strenuous exercise program or after traveling to a warmer climate, the intensity and duration of exercise should be limited initially and then gradually increased during a period of 10 to 14 days to accomplish acclimatization to the heat. When such a period is not available, the length of time for participants during practice and competition should be curtailed.
- Before prolonged physical activity, the child should be well-hydrated. During the activity, periodic drinking should be enforced, eg, each 20 minutes, 5 oz of cold tap water or a flavored salted beverage for a child weighing 88 lbs, and 9 oz for an adolescent weighing 132 lbs, even if the child does not feel thirsty. Weighing before and after a training session can verify hydration status if the child is weighed wearing little or no clothing.
- Clothing should be light-colored and lightweight and limited to one layer of absorbent material to facilitate evaporation of sweat. Sweat-saturated garments should be replaced by dry garments.