Q&A with Dr. Schroeder: Sports, Summertime Activities and Illness

Q1: What are the best ways to prevent injuries during my child’s spring/summer sports season? 

A1: The most important way to prevent serious injury during sports season is to ensure that your child is wearing the necessary protective equipment for their sport (helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, shin guards, etc). Double-check that your child’s protective gear fits appropriately. Their helmet should sit level on the head and low on the forehead (one or two finger-widths above their eyebrows) with no more than one or two fingers fitting under the chin strap.

Q2: How will I know if it is a minor injury or something that I need to see my Pediatrician for? 

A2: If your child has a scratch or bruise from a normal accident while playing, you can care for this at home. If your child hits their head hard enough to cause loss of consciousness or seizure activity, then need to be evaluated immediately. We also recommend that they be evaluated immediately if they vomit more than two times following the incident. If that is not the case, but they have a headache, dizziness, difficulty finding appropriate words, poor concentration, or nausea, we would prefer to see them within approximately 24 hours. It is often difficult to differentiate a sprain from a fracture. Typically, there is less swelling and bruising with a sprain, they are still able to use the extremity, and the pain starts to slowly improve over the first few days after the accident. If they have significant swelling, bruising, cannot use the affected extremity, or pain does not begin to improve after a day or two, consider bringing them in for an evaluation.

Q3: What is the best criteria for picking a healthy sports drink? Healthy snacks that will be filling? 

A3: I only recommend sports drinks for kids when they are exercising hard enough to be sweating. We lose important electrolytes like sugar and salt in sweat that need to be replenished. Otherwise, water is preferred during activities.

Q4: What risks should I be aware of during summertime water activities? 

A4: The most feared risk of water activities is drowning. A child who is not a strong swimmer should wear a life jacket and have an adult watching them at all times. To decrease the risk of head injury followed by drowning, even strong swimmers should not be allowed to run around a pool or dive head first into water more shallow than 8 feet deep.

Q5: What are the signs/symptoms of an ear infection? 

A5: The type of ear infection that is more common during summer months is an outer ear infection, which is also known as swimmer’s ear. This is caused by inflammation and infection of the fleshy ear canal. Symptoms include pain (especially when you move or push on the ear), a feeling of fullness in the ear, itching, and redness of the canal.

Q6: How long will it take until my child can swim again after an ear infection? 

A6: In order to assure that a swimmer’s ear heals completely, we recommend that children abstain from swimming with their head underwater for two weeks after beginning appropriate treatment.

Q7: When should my child stay home from summer camps, vacations or play dates if they are feeling ill? How long should I wait before I see my Pediatrician? 

A7: The same guidelines are used for summer as any other time of the year. You should wait a full 24 hours after their last fever before allowing them to resume their activities. In the case of a stomach virus causing vomiting and diarrhea, I recommend keeping them home until their vomiting has completely subsided, their diarrhea is mild or resolved, and their energy and appetite are back to normal. Children who have had a fever for three days or longer without improvement, those with persistent vomiting and poor oral intake, ear pain, throat pain, or cough for more than a week without improvement should all be evaluated by their pediatrician.