Children's Health Parenting

The parents’ guide to surviving the great outdoors

The Parents’ Guide to Surviving the Great Outdoors

So shows like “The Walking Dead” have prepared all of us for surviving a zombie attack. But what about something much more terrifying? We’re talking about blistering sun, deadly bacteria, insects that draw blood.

In other words, a typical weekend out as a family.

As the warm sun beckons us to come out and play, taking a few simple precautions can help you and your family not only survive, but thrive in the great outdoors this summer.

How to survive: Heat
Kentucky has its bluegrass; Augusta, well, we just have heat. Hydration is key, but we can’t emphasize it enough: Water, water, water. Soda, sweet tea and alcohol just don’t cut it (and can even dehydrate you faster). For kids, juice boxes are handy, but also carry a wallop of sugar, which can lead to crankiness (and nobody’s got time for that). “Water is the ideal liquid,” said Dr. Kathryn McLeod, a pediatrician with the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. “And remember, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.” So how do you get kids of all ages to drink the good stuff? Try using a fun water bottle. Or if they must have flavor in their water, try flavored waters, sugar-free Kool Aid or Crystal Lite, diluted juice. Or, for the best option, try infusing water with fresh fruit, like slices of lemon or orange, strawberries and more.

How to survive: Sunburn
Prevention is always the best cure, including applying sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you head outdoors and reapplying every two hours. Too late to prevent? Apply cool compresses and aloe vera to cool the burn and keep damaged skin moist, drink plenty of water and take ibuprofen to help with pain and inflammation.

How to survive: A hike
You know the basics: good shoes, a fresh map, a hat with a brim, plenty of water and a snack, and a phone just in case you get lost. Insect repellant and sunscreen are also a must, but don’t buy into the insect repellant/sunscreen combinations. DEET-based insect repellants need only be applied once every 10 hours, but sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, so you’ll be getting way too many chemicals if you use a combo option.

How to survive: A tick bite
If you’re out in the woods or tall grass for any time in Georgia or South Carolina, getting one of these little hairy critters attached to you is a possibility. Make sure to check your body all over once you get back inside (or back to your campsite), paying particular attention to your hair and scalp, underarms and groin area. If you find a tick, don’t panic about Lyme disease just yet: It typically takes at least 24 hours of a tick being attached for you to “catch” the disease. So the important thing is to remove the tick quickly and properly. Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close as possible to the skin, with a confident, upward motion and steady, even pressure. Afterwards, thoroughly clean the bite and your hands with soap and water, iodine or rubbing alcohol. Watch for any sign of a rash (the telltale sign is a bulls-eye shaped marking) and see your doctor if you have concerns.

How to survive: A bee sting
Just like with a tick bite, with a bee sting, it’s important to remove the stinger. But don’t reach for the tweezers! They can inject more venom into your skin. Instead, scrape the skin with the edge of a credit card to remove it. Add ice and elevate the body part if you can. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen help with pain, too. You may want to add an antihistamine or topical hydrocortisone for itching, or try applying baking soda or calamine lotion. If you or your child has trouble breathing or has tongue or lip swelling, call 911—it could be the start of a severe allergic reaction.

How to survive: An outdoor picnic
When dining outdoors, ants are the least of your worries. It may not be as much of a problem in cooler parts of the country, but outside in the 90-plus degree heat of a typical Augusta summer, food can get nasty fast. For food safety, recommendations suggest not keeping foods outside at temperatures of 90 degrees or more for longer than an hour for food safety—in particular, foods containing mayonnaise, milk, eggs or meat. So store foods like deviled eggs or potato salad in a cooler, and enjoy your burgers or steaks right off the grill instead of letting them sit and wait, especially if you like them a little pink.

How to survive: A kid meltdown
No matter if you’re at the park, a picnic, a farmer’s market or a festival, if your kids are fussy and grumbling after an hour or so, it may not just be because they’re bored. “It’s a heat thing,” said Dr. McLeod. “Children’s bodies are smaller, so they feel the heat more acutely.” Hydration and going out at cooler times of the day can help. Bringing a friend along can help your kids last longer too. Or choose the right venue that’s both outdoors and helps them stay cool: “At the pool, my kids never want to go home,” said Dr. McLeod with a laugh.

How to survive: Everything else
When it comes to safety, both indoors and outdoors, nothing beats supervision and the right safety gear. At the pool, don’t always rely on the lifeguard; make sure to keep an eye on your children. Use bike helmets, and when going to and from venues, always buckle up in the proper child seat for your child’s age, height and weight. “Just be mindful,” said Dr. McLeod—and your (hopefully zombie-less) outdoor adventures can be less scary and a lot more fun.

About the author

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the only facility in the area dedicated exclusively to children. It staffs the largest team of pediatric specialists in the region who deliver out- and in- patient care for everything from common childhood illnesses to life-threatening conditions like heart disorders, cancer and neurological diseases.