Skateboard Safety

Skateboarding has become an increasingly popular sport that many youth enjoy. With any sport there are serious injury risks that could happen. The No.1 rule of skateboarding is always wear your protective gear. A helmet, elbow and knee pads, wrist guards, and sturdy shoes help reduce injuries. Helmets especially help prevent concussions and damage to the face and head. Athletic gloves are also recommended to keep hands safe, if your child falls.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics children under age 5 years old should never ride a skateboard. Children aged 6 to 10 years old need close supervision from an adult or trustworthy adolescent whenever they ride a skateboard. Parents should supervise their children at skate parks and choose parks that are away from busy streets and highways.

Helmet safety    

A properly fitted helmet should meet the standards of the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or Snell Memorial Foundation. Properly fitted helmets should:

  • Be worn flat on your head with the bottom edge parallel to the ground
  • Sit low on your forehead
  • Have side straps that form a “V” shape around each ear
  • Have a buckle that fastens tightly (there should be room to put only two fingers between the strap and your chin)
  • Have pads inside that you install or remove so the helmet fits snuggly
  • Not move in any direction when you shake your head
  • Not interfere with your movement, vision or hearing

Helping Your Child With School Problems

School is almost in full swing and some problems may be beginning to emerge regarding your child’s school performance. Most parents realize how important it is to address this subject but have few ideas how to.

It is important to provide children with all the support they need to succeed in school. All too often we see kids give up and label themselves as “stupid” when they are not successful. This experience can have long-term mental health and career implications.

Children’s brains all process, learn, and retain information in slightly different ways.  Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. As adults, our society benefits from all these different ways of thinking and learning because we need mechanics, doctors, artists, and many other types of people.

However, children are expected to learn in similar ways in school, which cannot accommodate every unique learning style. Differences in learning can sometimes be associated with school problems and should be attended to and addressed to prevent problems.

What are some signs your child might need help?

  • Consistently poor grades or grades below what might be expected
  • A change in performance (this often occurs in years when school expectations increase, like in 3rdgrade, 7th grade, and 9th grade)
  • Complaints from your child that school is hard
  • Difficulty completing homework
  • Anxiety about school
  • Complaints from the teachers about school performance
  • A child who says things like “I can’t do it,” “I hate school,” “I don’t care,” or “I’m stupid”

If your child meets any of the signs, it’s possible they could also have a learning disability. It’s important for children to be screened for learning disabilities so that teachers and families know how to help.  Here are some other tips for helping your child immediately:

What should I do, if my child is struggling in school?

  • The first step is to talk to your child’s teacher(s) to make sure there is nothing going on at school affecting performance that may be easily fixed
  • A tutor can be helpful if there is difficulty in a particular subject
  • A psychoeducational or neuropsychological assessment may be warranted to determine where there are weaknesses or differences in order to make a plan to help
    • Public schools are obligated to perform these evaluations for free and then to accommodate any particular needs determined in these evaluations. Talk to your school counselor or psychologist for information on getting these done. There is often a long waiting list for these evaluations.
    • Many private practices in the area conduct these evaluations. Contact your insurance company to see if these evaluations are covered and which providers are covered.
    • Children’s National has two services that specialize in these evaluations. Call the Pediatric Neurology Program at 301-765-5443 or the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder And Learning Disabilities clinic at 571-405-5912

It is very important not to wait too long to address problems. Providing children with support and reassurance that they can succeed can go a long way in helping them feel successful and engaged with school and learning.

Back to School Health Tips

Many children are heading back to school this month. Transitioning from summer to a new school year can be tough to navigate. Here are some health tips for parents preparing for a new school year: 

  1. Practice getting back into routines. Easing your child into a regular sleep schedule is important. According to new guidelines released by the National Sleep Foundation earlier this year, school-aged children need between nine and 11 hours of sleep per night. With many schools starting around 8 am, parents should try to ease their children into an earlier bedtime once school begins. Not having enough sleep can impede the learning process and make it difficult for your child to fully focus on what’s being taught.
  2. Talk about the transition. Take time to sit down with your child and discuss both what they’re excited about, and what they’re nervous about. Do more listening than problem-solving so you can fully understand and acknowledge how they’re feeling. Have your child write or draw what they’re excited about to help them focus on the positive and visualize themselves enjoying their new classroom environment. It may also help to set up playdates with children in their new class so they can make friends and feel more comfortable.
  3. Make sure your child has had his or her annual physical and recommended vaccinations. In recent years, the recommended vaccination schedule has changed due to more disease outbreaks in the U.S. Make sure your child starts the school year healthy and protected from vaccine-preventable diseases with a visit to his or her primary care provider before school starts. Visit the CDC website to make sure your child is up to date on required vaccinations.
  4. Make sure your child’s nutrition needs are met. This includes eating breakfast every day and making sure your child has a well-balanced lunch. Eating right will help your child focus and learn better during the school day. It’s also important to pay attention to how your child reacts to different foods. If you notice something that may be a food allergy, take your child to a primary care provider to be tested. Limiting your child’s food options before officially being tested is not recommended, as you may unintentionally be cutting out an important food group. If your child does have an allergy, make sure their teacher and/or school nurse knows and that you are familiar with the school’s policy. Some food allergies are very serious, and it’s crucial to make sure your child’s teacher knows their restrictions so they can ensure you child stays safe at school.
  5. Talk to the teacher about any health concerns. Many school-aged children have health conditions such as asthma that need to be managed throughout the school day. Make sure you talk to your child’s teacher and to the school nurse so your child knows what to expect. For instance, if your child has asthma; you’ll want to make sure they’ll have access to their inhaler as needed. Many children with asthma need to use their inhaler before physical activities in gym class and/or recess. Know what the rules are so your child will be able to participate with their classmates. Aside from staying safe, it’s important to make sure children with health conditions don’t feel stigmatized from their classmates and can participate just like everyone else. You may also want to talk to the teacher to make sure the classroom environment promotes healthy lungs for all kids. Things like air fresheners, mold and smoke should be avoided.

Playground Safety

More than 200,000 children go to emergency departments across the U.S. each year due to injuries associated with playground equipment. The majority of these are caused by a child falling from the structure to the ground. Here are some tips on playground equipment to help keep your child safe at the playground.

  1. Every playground should have at least 12 inches deep of mulch, wood chips, sand, pea gravel, or mats made of safety–tested rubber. This can help lessen the impact when the child falls and help prevent injury.
  2. Check to ensure that the protective surfacing is at least 6 feet away from the structure in all directions. For swings, the surface should extend twice the height of the suspended bar in both directions.
  3. Any structures more than 30 inches high should be at least 9 feet apart from one another
  4. Protruding bolt heads and open “S” hooks can lead to dangerous injuries. Check to make sure that there are not any on the structure along with sharp edges.
  5. Any spaces such as guard rails that could trap children should be less that 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches apart.
  6. Try to stay away from tripping hazards such as exposed concrete footings or tree stumps.
  7. Any elevated surface should have guardrails on both sides to prevent falling.
  8. Check that the equipment is in good condition. If it is not maintained properly there is a higher risk of injury.
  9. Always supervise your children on the playground to make sure they’re safe.
  10. If the playground has a net, make sure the perimeter of the opening is less than 17 inches or more than 28 inches. Holes within these dimensions can cause strangulation if a child’s head is caught.

Summer Child Skin Care

Now that summer is in full swing, your children are likely to spend a lot more time outdoors. However, with more time outdoors comes more time in the sun, and studies show a correlation between childhood sun exposure and the risk of developing skin cancer as an adult.  Here are some tips to keep your kids (and yourself) safe from harmful UV rays:

  • Wear protective clothing like lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, wide brimmed hats and sunglasses to provide an extra sun blocking layer
  • Avoid midday sun exposure
  • Reapply sunscreen every one or two hours and immediately after swimming or heavy sweating
  • Apply sunscreen even when it’s cloudy
  • Don’t forget the ears and back of the neck

What Sunscreen Should I Buy?

There are many choices when it comes to buying the best type of sunscreen. We recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which will protect from both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens that contain titanium and zinc oxide only are a good choice for young children or children with sensitive skin.

Many people prefer to use spray sunscreen because it’s quicker and easier to apply to a squirming child. While it’s effective, it only works where sprayed and can actually be harmful if inhaled. If you choose to use a spray sunscreen it’s best to:

  • Spray it while outdoors
  • Avoid spraying the face
  • Apply it to your hands and rub it on

When Can Babies Wear Sunscreen?

Babies older than 6 months should be wearing sunscreen. We understand it’s impossible to keep your child indoors for the first 6 months, so if you go outside, make sure he or she is in the shade, under an umbrella or stroller canopy and wearing clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Also, remember that babies don’t sweat like an adult, so always make sure they are hydrated.

Once your child is a teenager, it’s much harder to dictate how they protect themselves from the sun, so start to shield them as early in life as possible.Now that school is out and summer is here, your children are likely to spend a lot more time outdoors. However, with more time outdoors comes more time in the sun, and studies show a correlation between childhood sun exposure and the risk of developing skin cancer as an adult.  Here are some tips to keep your kids (and yourself) safe from harmful UV rays:

  • Wear protective clothing like lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, wide brimmed hats and sunglasses to provide an extra sun blocking layer
  • Avoid midday sun exposure
  • Reapply sunscreen every one or two hours and immediately after swimming or heavy sweating
  • Apply sunscreen even when it’s cloudy
  • Don’t forget the ears and back of the neck


Summer Camps

Is My Kid Ready? Should I? Why? What Should I Say?

Benefits of summer camps

  • Provide opportunities to develop maturity and independence
  • Promote flexibility, problem solving, and social skills (in a fun setting)
  • Specialty camps – for specific sports, interests, or children with specific diseases – offer a way for kids to gain new skills with kids who have similar interests.

How do you know when a child is ready for camp?

Generally, children are ready for an overnight camp between 8-10 years of age. Parents know their children best and should know if they are mature enough to handle it. A shorter, “trial” camp is often a good route for first-time campers.

Some indicators that your child may be ready:

  • He can get himself dressed, teeth and hair brushed, and show some independence during daily routines
  • She has had a successful sleepover at a friend’s house
  • Your child is able to verbalize concerns to an adult comfortably

Talk with your child about camp

Include him in the decision-making process to find a camp that’s right. Schedule a tour of the camp ahead of time if you can.

Another tip is to talk with your child about specific scenarios and how to handle them. What if she doesn’t like the food one day? Or if she’s feeling sick? Counselors are trained to handle these situations so encourage them to confide in a camp counselor.


Manage your own expectations – and emotions!

Many children have a great time at camp and often forget to call or write home every day. And if they do, you should be prepared to hear a range of emotions. If your child is upset, be supportive – but don’t give him an easy out to come home. Everyone has bad days, and learning to cope with them is part of the experience.

Telling your child that you have confidence in your child to succeed at camp is also important. Adds Dr. Monaghan: “Kids pick up on adults’ social cues, so if you’re anxious about camp, try not to show it.”

For all those first-time campers (and parents out there), good luck! 

Trampoline Safety

How to Keep Kids Safe on Trampolines

Pediatric healthcare providers know how addictive and fun trampolines can be for kids. Unfortunately, we often see trampoline-related accidents because kids don’t understand the proper safety precautions before they start jumping.

As a result, we find ourselves treating fractures and sprains in the wrists, back, and knees. As a parent, it’s vital to monitor trampoline activity to make sure your kids stay safe.

Here are few tips to keep your kids safe while they’re on the trampoline.

  • Do not allow tumbling.Tumbling presents more opportunities for injury. If your child wants to tumble, consider enrolling them in gymnastics, where a professional can teach them how to tumble safely with the right equipment.
  • Consider trampoline placement. The placement of the trampoline is important. It should be on a flat, level surface. Avoid cement or hard surfaces and try to place the trampoline on soft, cushiony surfaces like grass. Try to place it in a relatively open area, with few trees, keeping other objects like tools and toys far away. If you don’t have space like this, reconsider purchasing a trampoline as it could present immediate safety concerns.
  • Maintain the trampoline. Pack your trampoline away in the winter so the natural elements don’t weaken or destroy it. Check the trampoline netting, padding, poles, and screws each month to make sure everything is still tight, attached, and secure. There shouldn’t be any holes or deflated cushioning. It’s wise to also install a safety net upon purchasing a trampoline.
  • One child at a time.There should only be one child jumping on the trampoline at any time. More than one child increases the chance of an accident.
  • Never leave your child alone.Kids should always have an adult spotter to watch them while they’re jumping. That way if there’s an injury, an adult can be there immediately to assist.
  • Take injuries seriously.It’s important for kids to take any injuries they have on the trampoline seriously. Often, kids will not admit when they’re feeling back, wrist, knee, or head pain from the trampoline for fear of it being taken away. If you see your child experiencing pain or see that they have injured themselves, make sure they rest, elevate, and ice the injury. If you’ve administered pain relievers and they are still experiencing discomfort, visit our ER for x-rays. As always, stop trampoline use while your child recovers from an injury and if there have been multiple injuries in a short amount of time, consider removing it altogether.