You’re in the stands cheering on your kid as he or she is playing their favourite sport, when suddenly, they take a hard hit to the head. You panic, rush to the sidelines, and make sure they are alright.

Checking for signs of a possible concussion, you and the coach agree to remove your child from the game and you head straight to the doctor.

Well done! The first step is to always take a significant hit to the head seriously. Here are some of the symptoms to watch for:

Most symptoms show up within minutes or hours, but others may take longer to appear. Getting to the hospital is always the right thing to do.

But what happens after the doctor confirms a concussion? What does the road to recovery look like and what should you do as a parent?

While each concussion is different, medical experts pinpoint early detection and brain rest as the first steps to helping concussed kids recover more completely. At their young ages, the brain is still developing and improper diagnosis, treatment, or too quick of a return to normal activity may lead to long-term problems.

Pediatric neurologists say that at minimum, two or three days of rest can help with such blows to the brain. That doesn’t just mean no sports or running around, but also no electronic devices, school work, video games, and anything else that can challenge or stress the brain.

A hard hit needs to be taken seriously. In Canada, 39% of all kids between 10 and 18 who visited an emergency facility following a sports-related head injuries were diagnosed with a concussion, while another 24% showed signs of possible concussion. Three sports in particular – football, soccer, and hockey – show a greater increase in reported head injuries in the decade between 2004 and 2014. Of course, sports are not the only cause of a concussion: falls, car crashes, and other whacks to the head can also cause a concussion. But no matter the cause of the injury, your focus needs to be on treatment and recovery.

There’s good news, though! Medical researchers in Nebraska found that 80 to 90% of sport concussions resolve in two to three weeks. This is if the child has been treated and follows medical advice. Doing so can also help prevent more serious brain injuries at a time when the child is vulnerable to other jolts to the head. If the problem persists beyond that point, another trip to the doctor is in order.

Catching a concussion early, preventing further activity, and seeking immediate medical attention are all helpful steps to healthy attitudes and healthy kids.

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Did you know…

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists 5 steps to follow in order to protect kids from the sun’s harmful UV rays:

  1. Seek shade. Plant yourselves under a tree, umbrella, or a pop-up tent.
    Be most careful at midday when the sun’s rays are strongest. Consider a lunch break indoors.
  2. Cover up. Clothing is a great way to protect your kids’ skin. Look for long-sleeved swimwear with built in UV ray protection. Or any loose, light-coloured clothing with a tight knit that won’t overheat your little ones.
  3. Get a hat. Look for hats that shade the face, neck, and ears. Another helpful hint – get a hat with straps that tie under the chin to prevent your clever toddler from removing it and tossing it to the ground.
  4. Wear sunglasses. UV rays can cause cataracts. Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
  5. Apply sunscreen. Apply generously 30 minutes before going outdoors and don’t forget to reapply often, especially after getting wet. Don’t forget ears, feet, and nose! A lip balm with SPF protection can be applied to the lips.

What sunscreen is best?

nwsltr_sunscreen_spot3The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher (broad spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays).

Experts say that lotion sunscreens are better than spray sunscreens. It’s not yet known what the risks are of inhaling spray sunscreens. Take particular care when applying sunscreen to little ones.

Consumer Reports says that children and pregnant women should use a sunscreen without titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These ingredients contain nanoparticles which have been linked to reproductive and developmental effects in animal studies. Pregnant women and children should also avoid sunscreens with retinol or retinyl palmitate. These ingredients, also found in some acne medication, have been associated with birth defects.

A Special Note for Babies

babies sunscreenA baby’s skin is thinner and more at risk of sunburn compared to adults. This is true even for children born to parents with dark skin. Babies should be kept out of direct sunlight, especially between the hours of 11am and 4pm. Babies six months and older should wear sunscreen on areas not covered by clothing while being careful to avoid the eyes. It’s not recommended that babies under the age of six months wear sunscreen, so it’s important to keep newborns out of the sun altogether.

Sunscreen and heatstroke

Sunscreen does not prevent heatstroke. But it does prevent sunburns, which can be a contributing cause of heatstroke. Precautions you can take to avoid heatstroke include the following:

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Every week in the US about 50 children are seriously injured by drivers failing to pay attention when backing up their vehicles. Kids and Cars reports that two children die every week from “backover accidents.” And Canada shares this tragic problem. The Globe and Mail tells a story about a Toronto father who reversed his car into his wife and eight year old son. His wife is in serious condition. His son is dead.

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), backovers kill 292 U.S. residents each year. And over a five year span from 2006-2010, backovers killed 448 children in the U.S.