With baseball season in full swing — and all the sun, warm breezes and tailgating that comes with it — Miller Park promises to be a popular destination for parents and kids all summer long. Win or lose, baseball games are a great family activity. That said, there are some potential hazards to keep in mind.
Below are some simple tips to help make sure your day at the ballpark is as fun and carefree as it should be. Unfortunately, the Brewers performance is out of my control.
Sitting in the packed stands under a bright blue sky and warm sun — there may be nothing better. But as everyone knows, prolonged exposure to the sun can have serious health consequences. Little kids are particularly susceptible to sunburns.
For general sun protection guidelines, doctors like to point to the ABCs.
A = Avoid. Refrain from extended, unprotected exposure to the sun. This is especially important during the peak hours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and for children younger than 6 months old. For day games with the roof open, this might be tricky, so I’d recommend every half hour or so taking breaks from the action and seeking shade in the concourse area (there are even two playgrounds, one located behind home plate and one in right field).
B = Block. For any children over 6 months old, always apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher that block UVA and UVB rays. Make sure to apply a liberal amount – generally about two tablespoons — and reapply every two hours.
For children younger than 6 months, because of the sensitive nature of their skin, sunscreen recommendations are a bit mixed. Personally, I think it’s perfectly fine to apply a small amount of sunscreen to a baby’s face, back of hands or any other small exposed areas. If you have any concerns, you can apply a very small test patch to see how your child’s skin reacts.
C = Cover. Clothing is the best defense against the harmful rays of the sun (especially, as I mentioned above, for kids under 6 months old). Lightweight, light-colored, long-sleeve t-shirt, pants, sunglasses and a brimmed hat will go a long way toward keeping your kids protected.
It’s also important to remember to keep kids well hydrated if they’re going to be spending time in the sun. If your child does get overheated — feeling dizzy or nauseated — immediately take him or her to a cool, shady area and cool them down with water and damp towels. If the symptoms persist, Miller Park does have two first aid rooms staffed with emergency medicine physicians.
Getting separated from your child is terrifying and can happen in an instant. But there are some steps you can take ahead of time to both help prevent it from happening in the first place and to help get you reunited as quickly as possible.
Depending on the age of your children, talk with them about safety before heading out to the ballpark and devise a plan so everyone understands what to do if they become separated. Whether the plan is for the child to remain in place and ask a park employee or security guard for help or to have a pre-determined meeting place — some place public and easy to find — the key is for everyone to be on the same page. A good idea is to make sure to put your child’s ticket stub into his or her pocket so a security guard or fellow fan can bring them back to your seats.
I’ve recently seen a couple other safety tips online that I think are great ideas. One is to write your cell phone number on your child’s wrist and cover it with liquid bandage (to prevent it from smudging or wearing off). That way if you do get separated, people will know how to contact you. Another is to be sure to take a photo of your child before you leave for the game so you have a record of their most up-to-date appearance and clothing.
Also, don’t forget parking lot safety. It’s easy to get distracted during a fun tailgate party but cars are still driving in the area and a child chasing a ball or running between parked cars could be easily hit. Another parking lot danger is hot grills and coals which could give a serious burn with even a brief touch and put a quick end to everyone’s fun day at the ballpark.
The Brewers have been giving fans a lot of reasons to cheer this year, but with small kids you should always be aware of noise levels. Doctors warn against prolonged exposure to a decibel level above 80 (for reference, a regular speaking voice is about 60 decibels). The roar of the crowd after a big Erin Thames home run or Chase Anderson strikeout can easily surpass 100 decibels. Since small kids are more susceptible to hearing damage from loud noises, I’d strongly recommend investing in a pair of ear protection earmuffs for any kids under 3 years old.
Peanuts and hot dogs go hand in hand with baseball — but they’re also one of the most common foods small children choke on. For children under 4, doctors recommend avoiding whole peanuts and cutting up hot dogs into smaller bites less than ½ inch. Distracted eating is also a choking hazard — one that definitely comes into play during a baseball game. If you’re getting hot dogs, consider sitting down and eating them in the concourse area where there are less distractions. As many parents already know, peanut allergies can be extremely serious. Thankfully, Miller Park (and other stadiums throughout the country) have addressed this issue head-on and now have “peanut-controlled areas.” These are special seating areas of the stadium where peanuts are not allowed — Miller Park even provides a route to get to those sections that has the least exposure to peanuts.
If you just make sure to keep a watchful eye on your child as he or she eats, there should be little need to worry — and that’s true wherever you are and whatever they’re eating.
Whether you’re going to a baseball game or just hanging out at home, I can’t recommend strongly enough that all parents get first aid and CPR certified. The class is inexpensive, takes an hour or two to complete and it could make all the difference in the world for your own child … or someone else’s.
This all may seem like a lot to take in and my intent is certainly not to ruin your day at the ballpark with worry. But at the end of the day, just a few simple precautions can help you and your family root, root, root for the home team without any incident.
And while my focus here is baseball games, many of these tips can be applied to any large, outdoor gathering — Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair, water parks, the zoo, the beach, etc. It’s summer in Wisconsin — take advantage of it while you can, because you know it’ll be gone before you know it.
Pediatricians from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin care for children at primary care offices throughout southeast Wisconsin, including our office in Cedarburg. Find a pediatrician near you.
Learn more about Boyd Miller, MD.