Nothing beats summers in Wisconsin. After long dark winters that drag into spring most years, everyone wants to spend as much time outdoors as possible once the sun and warm weather of summer finally arrives. With baseball season in full swing — and all the sun, warm breezes and tailgating that come with it — heading out to a Brewers’ game 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. Following these tips will help ensure your time spent outside is as fun and carefree as it should be.
When you're taking in a Brewers’ game, there may be nothing better than sitting under a bright blue sky and warm sun. But, as everyone knows, prolonged exposure to the sun can have serious health consequences. Little kids are particularly susceptible to sunburns and heat-related illness.
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 is a kids' interactive playground in right-field corner on the Terrace Level called the Kids Zone. It remains open through the 8th inning (if you and your kids make it that long!). The Kids Zone is designed for children under 42 inches of height. For families and fans alike, there is the Power Playgrounds located on the field level near the right field corner. It includes a batting cage, pitching cage, replica Bernie Brewer slide and clubhouse, a Race to First Base, as well as many photo opportunities. This one is open until the end of the game.
B = Block. Before you head out to the ballpark, make sure to apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher that blocks UVA and UVB rays for any children over 6 months old. Make sure to apply a liberal amount — generally about two tablespoons. Bring it with you 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. My colleague Jerome Esser, MD, wrote a blog post on how to identify and prevent heat-related illness.
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 them to a cool, shady area and cool them down with water and damp towels. If the symptoms persist, look for a first aid room that may be 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 wherever you’re going 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 an 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. While most tickets are digital these days, if you do have an actual ticket stub, put it in your child’s pocket. If your child has a phone, share the digital ticket with them 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). With older kids (around 4 or older), you can practice memorizing your cell phone number, too. That way, if you get separated, people will know how to contact you. 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.
Brewers’ games can get loud! 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 Christian Yelich home run or Corbin Burnes 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, the Brewers (and other MLB teams 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 — the Brewers even provide a route to get to those sections that have the least exposure to peanuts.
If you just make sure to keep a watchful eye on your child as they eat, 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 Red Cross and other organizations offer classes that are inexpensive, take a few hours to complete and 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 it’ll be gone before you know it.