A D.C. doctor who wants to keep kids out of emergency rooms has advice for parents, as families welcome summer and begin gearing up for post-pandemic routines.
“We are starting to see what we could call our ‘normal summertime injuries,'” said Dr. Sarah Ash Combs, an attending physician at the Children’s National Hospital Emergency Room. “With getting back out there comes the potential for injuries: falls, scrapes, broken bones.”
As the director of outreach for the hospital’s emergency room, Combs offers advice and tips.
She recommends kids ease back into physical activity slowly.
“If you have kids who are used to being every active — they might even be athletes, they might play sports on a team — don’t ramp up from zero to 100,” she said. “That’s how we end up getting strains and sprains, muscle injuries, even broken bones that can lay them out the rest of the summer,” Combs said.
She said to start with basic warm-up exercises or 10 minutes a day that can be ramped up over time toward the one-hour mark.
She also said it was important that kids don’t forget their safety gear.
Kids getting on bikes or using age-appropriate, nonmotozied scooters need to be properly equipped.
“Please, please, please put that helmet on their head,” Combs said. “I think with the enthusiasm to get out and to get active, sometimes we lose track of the basic safety precautions,” she said.
“We’ve all been so focused on masking, masking, masking this year. So, please: helmets, padding, all that appropriate safety gear still applies this year more than ever,” Combs said.
Backyard barbecue grills and fire pits may be staples of summer, but Combs said they come with their own hazards.
“If you have small, young kids with those curious wondering hands, I like to say they’re like moths; they’re attracted to flames,” Combs said.
Grills should be elevated above a child’s eye level. Make sure that grill has an appropriate cover.
Children should be kept at least 3, but preferably 6 feet away from sources of fire.
“Keep these kids safe from the flame. We have been seeing a number of burns coming in because kids get curious; kids reach. And any of those of us who have children [can tell you] — I have a 14-month-old boy — they just move so quickly that it’s done in an instant, and you can end up with a bad injury,” Combs said.
Combs also said to get those prescriptions filled: Children who have allergies and asthma need to have appropriate supplies on hand.
“You have a pollen reaction; you get sniffly; you get red swollen puffy eyes. Those [symptoms] can be minor, but they can really be debilitating and get in a child’s way of being outdoors and enjoying themselves,” Combs said.
It’s important that children with asthma have their rescue inhaler available.
“More and more this year, I’m seeing parents who say, ‘I’m really sorry, but I didn’t get to the pediatrician. I didn’t get my refills,’ and they bring in a totally empty pump canister,” Combs said.
Parents should also check the expiration dates of their kids’ medications.
Children who might be susceptible to severe allergic reactions, or anaphylaxis, from insect bites and stings, need to have functional epinephrine auto-injectors, also known by the brand name EpiPen. They expire fairly quickly.
“Check the date on that auto-injector if you haven’t been out this past year,” Combs said. “If you need a new one, try and go see your doctor; put a call in to your doctor’s office to get that refill sent to your pharmacy, so you’re not going out on, say a lovely hike in the middle of nowhere, and you get stranded and stuck with a severe allergic reaction in your child.”