Summer Safety 4 Kids: Out & About

It’s summer!  Summer means fun!  Vacation, travel, and even just running errands with Mom or Dad.  When your kids are home with you, taking a few extra minutes to review summer safety can mean the difference between fun and some very scary times.

When you have small children, you often wish you had four more hands and two more sets of eyes.  It’s SOO hard to keep track of littles ALL the time!  They squirt away in a crowd, hide under clothes racks and generally scare the pants off their parents on a regular basis.

So how can you enjoy your summertime outings without winding up with a stomach ulcer and high blood pressure?  Or worse, with injuries or illnesses to deal with?

1.  Stranger Danger

Small children need to know what to do if they are approached at the park, playground or store by an adult or teen that they don’t know.  In many places there are organized safety classes (in Cleveland it’s called Safety Town) but you can do a lot to help your child stay safe around strangers.

First of all, you don’t want to make your child afraid of all strangers.  After all, most strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet!  Telling your child that strangers are bad or dangerous will only make her more anxious when she meets new people.

I heard it said once that children should be aware of “tricky” grownups.  That sometimes grownups like to play tricks on children.  Because it’s hard to tell whether a grownup is being tricky or not, a child should check with Mom or Dad (or Grandma or other trusted “safe” adult) before believing what a grownup says, if it’s someone they don’t know well.

If a child has a feeling an adult MIGHT be “tricky,” (not that they ARE, just that they MIGHT) he should follow the “No, Go, Tell” rule.  He should say “NO” as loud and as often as he can, he should “GO” away from the tricky adult, and “TELL” a safe adult like a parent, grandparent or teacher as soon as possible.

A child’s “uh-oh feeling” should always be respected and reinforced.  If something doesn’t feel right, it ISN’T right.  If a child is taught to ignore that feeling, it will go away and one of the child’s most effective safety mechanisms is lost.

2.  Getting Lost

OK, if you’ve NEVER lost track of your child in a crowd, raise your hand.  Nope, didn’t think so.  If you have a small child (or worse, more than one!) it’s a guarantee he’s going to get away from you at some point.

You can start teaching very small children what to do if they’re lost.  First, they should come out in the open so they are easily seen, and stand still.  If THEY know they’re lost, chances are YOU know they’re lost too, and are looking for them.

If you’re in a store or at an amusement park or someplace that has easily-identified employees, make sure to point them out to your child.  For instance, when at Target point out the lady stocking shelves wearing a red shirt and a nametag.  Then tell your child if she gets lost, first she should go out into a main aisle and look in all directions to see if she can see you.  If not, she should then look for an employee (while standing still) and keep watching until she sees one.  Once she sees an employee, she should go up to her and tell her she is lost and needs help finding her grownup.

This is a good one to role-play.  When you’re at the grocery store, you can play hide-and-seek.  This means you pretend you’re lost, and your child has to find you. (Of course, you are in sight all the time, but have your child pretend you’re lost.)  The important lesson is that the fastest and safest way to find a lost parent is to find a store employee and have THEM locate the lost parent while keeping the child safe.

One important word about safety.  PLEASE make sure your child knows that police officers are good guys.  A policeman is one of the safest grownups your lost child could possibly come across.  You do NOT want to make your child afraid of the police.  If you were at the summer festival and your child were lost, that off-duty police officer providing security would be the best possible person for her to approach for help finding her lost parents.

3.  Travel Safety

Car seats are the first word in travel safety for kids.  Even when on long car rides, small children should be buckled into an appropriate safety seat any time the car is moving.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that small children (less than 4 years old and 40 lbs) be secured in their car seat when traveling by airplane.  The FAA allows children under 2 years of age to be held on a parent’s lap, but it may be worth exploring whether your child could have his own seat on the plane.

At the very least, you will need a car seat when you arrive.  Car rental companies have seats available for a fee, but they will need a heads-up that one will be needed.

NEVER leave your child alone in a car.  For any amount of time.  For any reason.  In the summertime, temperatures in a car can quickly climb well over 100 degrees.  Small children have died this summer after being left in the car for only a short period of time.  It’s not worth the risk!

Summer is meant to be fun!  With a little planning you can keep your small children safe AND enjoy yourself this summer!

QUESTION:  What other safety tips would you give other parents?  What did I miss?


Summer Safety 4 Kids: Home Sweet Home

Well we are truly embarked on summer!  The kids are out of school, the lawn is growing fast and the weeds are growing faster, LOL!

Whether your kids are home all day or in a summer day camp program, it’s important to be aware of summer safety concerns.

There are two major categories of summer safety issues, those that arise at home, and those that happen when you’re out and about.  Today I’d like to focus on safety concerns at home.


OK, this isn’t really a safety concern but it DEFINITELY needs to be mentioned.

Where are your kids when they’re at home during the summer?  Are they outside playing, or inside playing video and computer games?  Hopefully they are NOT plugged in to electronics all day long!  Kids need fresh air and physical activity.  They also need to practice social skills and engage in imaginative play.

Before you start the summer (or ASAP, since the summer’s already underway) you should set some ground rules for how much computer and video game time your kids will have.  The general rule is no more than two hours per day of combined screen time (TV, video game and computer) for children.

Also be aware that electronic devices can make it hard for kids to settle down before bedtime, so they should be powered down about an hour before bedtime every night.


When your kids are outside in the summertime they should have sunscreen applied.  There are some concerns lately about topical sunscreens being an endocrine disruptor, but the evidence is not clear.  It is well known that sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer, and the majority of the damage that leads to skin cancer occurs before age 18.  All it takes is one bad sunburn to increase the risk!

Even waterproof sunscreen eventually gets washed away by swimming and sweating.  Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going out in the sun, and reapplied liberally and often.  Hats also can be worn to protect the face and neck, and sunglasses are a good idea too.


Anybody who has a swimming pool in their backyard knows that safety is super-important.  Small children can drown in as little as 2 inches of water.  Little ones should NEVER be left alone around water.  Almost 1000 children die every year in the US by drowning, and most drownings occur in backyard pools.

Get your kids involved in a learn-to-swim program as soon as practical, especially if they really like the water.  My kids were enrolled in swimming lessons in self-defense!  They were so fearless around water that I was twice as worried as I would have been if they were nervous about it!

Have you checked out your swingset lately?  Make sure the metal pieces are in good order and free of rust and sharp edges.  Repair or replace any wooden bits that are splintery or rotten.  Put down a new layer of mulch or reseed any areas of grass that are worn.

Make sure your kids know what to look for so they stay away from poison ivy.  I see lots of folks in the office who got into the poison ivy while taking out bushes or weeding in their own backyard.  For reference, here’s what it looks like:

Toxicodendron_radicansLeaves of three, let it be!


I’m not going to get into the politics of guns in the home.  It is our right as law-abiding American citizens to own firearms.  If you choose to own guns though, you have to keep them secure.  If you have children in your home, the stakes are considerably higher.

You must have a firearm locker that your children CANNOT access.  Your guns should be stored unloaded.  It is best to take a firearm safety course before you bring your first weapon home, the courses thoroughly cover safety concerns.

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list of home safety precautions.  Next time I’ll go over summer safety concerns when out and about!

QUESTION:  Are there any other home safety concerns I should have mentioned?





High Blood Pressure? Avoid These 3 Foods

If you have high blood pressure, I bet you’ve heard a lot of suggestions about foods you shouldn’t eat.  What are your favorite foods?  Have you thought about what effect those foods are having on your blood pressure?

I have a list of 3 foods that you should stop eating if you have high blood pressure.  Are your favorites on the list?  I hope not!

1.  Canned soup

Feeling brave today?  Pull a can of your favorite soup out of the cupboard and check the nutrition panel.  Yikes!

Each can of soup has 2 to 2 1/2 servings of soup.  Each serving usually has about 500 mg of sodium.  That means that (since everyone eats an entire can of soup) you are getting over half your daily allotment of sodium in one fell swoop!

If you love soup (and I LOVE soup, so I completely sympathize) your best bet is to make your own.

Feel intimidated?  Don’t!  It’s actually quite easy to make your own soup, and yummy too.  There are lots of great recipes out there, and as long as you use low-sodium broth you’ll be able to make great soup without adding lots of sodium to your diet.  Make big batches and freeze for later!

My favorite soup is this recipe for black bean soup.  It’s completely plant based and SUPER yummy 🙂

2.  Margarine

Most margarine is completely artificial.  Pull out your tub of margarine and check the nutrition label.  If there is mention of PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED <INSERT VEGETABLE> OIL you need to put that margarine directly in the trash.

Partially hydrogenated oil equals trans fat.  Trans fats are artificial fats that have been shown to increase cancer risk.  They also have been shown to increase C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation and increased risk of heart disease) and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

If you have high blood pressure you do not need to be using products that contain trans fats.  A much better choice to top your toast would be a little jam or honey.  Olive oil (especially with herbs) is a yummy alternative as well.

For baking I actually recommend real butter.  Since none of us health-conscious eaters is eating bakery regularly (right, guys?) an occasional indulgence is OK.  Butter also has medium-chain triglycerides which raise the metabolic rate and help you burn more calories.

3. Alcohol

Sorry guys!  Alcohol raises the blood pressure.  In fact, one of the first questions I ask when I find a twentysomething man with high blood pressure is “How much are you drinking?”  Usually the answer indicates there is work to be done!

However there are good qualities to drinking alcohol.  In particular, red wine has resveratol and other plant antioxidants that are good for the cardiovascular systems.  And modest alcohol intake is one of the few ways to raise the HDL (good cholesterol) level in the blood.

So how much alcohol is too much?  Current guidelines recommend no more than 2 drinks per day and 7 drinks per week for women, 3 drinks per day and 14 drinks per week for men.

Be aware that binge drinking raises the blood pressure substantially as well.  If you’re saying “Well I don’t drink more than that recommended amount per week,” but you’re getting all that alcohol on Saturday, you’re missing the point 😉

Dietary habits have a big impact on the blood pressure.  If you watch your intake of sodium, artificial fats, and alcohol, you’ll be making good progress towards controlling your blood pressure and minimizing your need for medications.

PS – If you are obese and have hypertension, weight loss also can really help with controlling the blood pressure.  Check out this page for information about losing weight.