By Carol Wolfenbarger
Chief Executive Officer, Mission Hospital McDowell
Summer is full of sun and fun, especially for kids. With summer vacation finally here, they can enjoy everything from baseball and trips to the beach to barbeques and bike rides. During this active season, the Mission Hospital McDowell emergency department typically sees an uptick of certain pediatric conditions and emergencies. Our goal is to keep you and your kids injury free and ensure that a hefty dose of safety accompanies your summer fun.
Whether your child is a soccer star or a die-hard baseball fan, sports offer a chance to expend energy or cheer for a favorite team. Whatever outdoor sport they’re doing, it’s essential that they always have an ample supply of broad spectrum, 30+-strength sunscreen nearby, and use it frequently. Each sunburn increases the risk for skin cancer, and sunscreen use is especially important when they are perspiring in the heat of active play or swimming. It’s also best to play outside before and after the 10 am-4 pm window if at all possible, as those are the hours when the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their most powerful.
Aside from sun exposure, sports and recreational activities like bicycle riding and skateboarding pose a serious risk: the possibility of traumatic head injury. Helmets are an absolute must. If your child participates in soccer or softball, a mouth guard should also be used.
If they’re not on the field, the next most popular places for kids are the pool or the beach. Children should be taught to swim at an early age, and when in the water, should always have adequate adult supervision in addition to oversight by a lifeguard, as well as flotation aids if they are very young. Children should also be told never to dive headfirst into an area of the pool unless its depth is at least 6-9 feet. In our area, this holds especially true for teens and mountain pools. Families should also exercise caution when visiting waterfalls to lessen the risk of dangerous falls. If your child enjoys helping out in the garden, teach them to identify poison ivy, oak and sumac, so they can avoid contact and lower their risk for the itchy, painful rashes that accompany exposure. The old adage “leaves of three, let it be,” can help to prevent much discomfort.
Barbeques and Fourth of July festivities are also staples of summer that kids look forward to. Burns that occur from campfires, fireworks or grilling are bound to happen, so be sure to provide plenty of adult supervision. Though highly explosive fireworks are not legal in North Carolina, some types are. There’s no question here: Only adults should handle and light fireworks, and even then, they should wear eye protection and stand a safe distance away after lighting a fuse. Adults should never allow any part of their body to be directly above the firework they are lighting, and it’s a good idea to keep a bucket of water handy as well.
While we know we can’t put our kids in bubble wrap and that routine sports injuries or twisting an ankle while hiking are normal parts of life, many accidents can be prevented by thinking ahead about safety. Enjoy your summer and know that Mission Hospital McDowell Emergency Services and Mission My Care Now, along with Mission Pediatrics, are ready to care for you and your family at all times, no matter what the season.
Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE, is Chief Executive Officer of Mission Hospital McDowell. She holds both Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees in nursing administration from the University of Tennessee, is board certified in Healthcare Management and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Carol, who has served hospitals and health systems for more than three decades, has worked to add full-time cardiology services, led growth in outpatient services including imaging and surgery, and the expansion of primary care offering in Burke County since assuming her role as President at McDowell Hospital in 2015. She is an active member in Rotary and serves as a Board member for the Rutherford/Polk/McDowell Health District Board of Directors, the Corpening YMCA Board of Directors, and the McDowell County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.