Be Prepared: Top 10 Outdoor Essentials for Parents

by Luke Hermann, M.D. & Tara Summers Hermann, R.N., B.S.N.

I learned valuable life lessons from the Girl Scouts: respect people, our planet and myself. I learned how to speak in front of an audience, how to sell (best cookies ever!) and yes, how to "Be Prepared." Here's a patch-worthy check list to prepare you for your next outdoor adventure, even if that adventure is a trip to the playground...again.

1. First Things First
: When it comes to being prepared, a First-Aid Kit is a give-me, right? Well, not so much. I've talked with hundreds of parents while teaching safety classes and found that most don't carry a first-aid kit and often don't even own one. First-aid kits are easy to put together and personalize for your child. Take 10 minutes and create one today. Begin by asking, "What emergencies are most likely to occur and what do I need to have on hand when they do?"

2. Map and Compass (figurative): 
It's easy to feel lost, alone and overwhelmed during medical emergencies. You need a "guide" to help you respond reliably. Toss your Baby MEDBASICS book in your diaper bag and off you go!

3. Canteen
: Keep your little one well hydrated. The very old and the very young are most vulnerable to heat emergencies such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Limit time in the sun, provide periods of rest, give lots of fluids and monitor for changes in behavior. If you suspect your baby is suffering from heat exhaustion, call your Pediatrician. If you suspect your baby is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 immediately. 

4. Full Coverage
: Don't let the weather be your guide. Harmful UV rays are present even when the sun is not. Choose a sunblock with UVA and UVB protection, an spf of 30+ and a physical rather than chemical block. Apply sunscreen everyday at least 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every 1-2 hours. Don't forget about the "forgetables"; the back of the neck, under eyes, tips of ears, behind the knees and those little tootsies. Shade may help protect your little one from a sunburn, but it does not protect from harmful UV rays that can cause life long skin damage, so remember, sunblock, sunblock, sunblock. 

5. Gear Up
: Look for a sun hat with a wide brim and a velcro or snap strap (although my little Miss Vivienne will attest, there is no velcro or snap stronger than the will of a baby who doesn't want to wear a hat). Choose sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays. Spring for the straps to keep the glasses on baby's face and out of the sand. Put an umbrella on the stroller and dress your baby in light weight, loose clothing. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends SunGuard, a laundry additive containing the sunscreen, Tinosorb FD. Toss it in the wash, and your clothes instantly get a UPF of 30 that lasts about 20 washings. I've not used this so I can't speak from personal experience although I would try it if I owned a washing machine (gotta love NYC!) Last but not least, buy a UV protective shade for your car window. Believe it or not, on long car rides harmful UV rays can penetrate car windows and damage your baby's skin.

6. Trail food
: Pack a variety of age appropriate snacks for your little one. For babies younger than 6 months, it's a limited menu. Soft solids can be safely introduced at 6 months and soft finger foods around 8 months. Babies don't chew well (or at all) which is why hyper-vigilance is required during snack and meal times to monitor for choking. Err on the side of caution -- cut food into tiny pieces, NO hot dogs, raisins, whole grapes, popcorn or trail mix.

7. Expect the Unexpected
: Carry a cell phone...a charged one preferably (I say this to myself mostly!) 

8. Anticipate: 
Anticipate a change in weather. When we lived in Chicago, I can not tell you the number of times we left our house dressed for one type of day only to find out 10 blocks from home something totally different was going on. Pack an umbrella, stroller rain cover, a jacket and blanket, even if it's warm and sunny when you start.