Stay safe this summer with summer safety tips from the experts at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital!
Here are some things we don’t need to worry about now that summer is here: Grades. Exams. Getting to school on time. Carpools. School’s out and it’s time to play! However, Florida’s best features—weather and water—can also be our pitfalls if we aren’t careful, and a near-drowning or heat exhaustion incident can derail an entire vacation.
Check out the tips below from Michelle Sterling, injury prevention expert with St. Joseph’s Children’s Wellness and Safety Center, to make sure your children (and you!) have a safe and fun summer.
- Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when you’re on board. Make sure the jacket fits snugly; this isn’t the article of clothing you buy a size up for the child to grow into. A great place to get fitted and buy one is the Safety Store at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.
- Be aware that even excellent swimmers can face trouble in open water, which is very different from swimming in a pool. Uneven surfaces, weather conditions and sea or river currents can pose challenges to even the most experienced swimmer.
- While there is no minimum age for driving a boat in Florida, boaters born after Jan. 1, 1988, who want to pilot a boat of more than 10 horsepower have to finish an approved safety boating course. They should also carry a Florida Boating Safety Education Identification Card from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
For more information and guidelines, check out the United States Coast Guard boating safety page at uscgboating.org
- Sterling recommends applying sunscreen of at least an SPF 15, but says the higher the better. An SPF of 50, for example, guarantees 98 percent coverage. Look for broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB radiation.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating and even if using waterproof products. Pay attention to often-neglected areas such as ears, noses, lips and the tops of feet.
- Stay as covered up as possible with hats, swim shirts and cover-ups.
- Try staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when ultraviolet rays are at their most harmful. The American Cancer Society has a tip: If the child’s shadow is shorter than the child, the sun is at its strongest and most dangerous point. Don’t assume safety, either—the sun’s rays can easily penetrate clouds and three feet of water.
- Children absorb more heat than us but sweat less, so they are especially at risk for dehydration. Keep that water bottle handy. Use and refill constantly! Water is better than sugary sports drinks. Caffeine actually increases dehydration, so watch that teen’s soda or coffee intake in the sun.
- When playing outside, give kids occasional breaks in air conditioning to cool off.
- If your kids play sports through the summer, encourage frequent water breaks. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines are 5 ounces of water for an 88-pound child every 20 minutes and 9 ounces for a 132-pound adolescent every 20 minutes during physical activity.
- Know how to spot signs of dehydration, which include decreased frequency of urination, dry mouth, dry tears, headache, dizziness, nausea and sunken eyes.
- The first and best thing to do is enroll your child in swimming lessons when he or she is ready. If you cannot afford swim lessons, contact the Safety Store at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital at (813) 554-8510 to find out about swim vouchers for those who qualify.
- Do not rely on floats, water wings or other floatation devices because they teach children that if you fall in, you will float, which is not the case if you don’t know how to swim.
- Follow the pool safety guidelines mandated by a 2000 Florida law that states pools need to have one of four safety features installed: a safety pool cover; a barrier that is at least four feet high; door and window alarms for exits that lead to the pool area; or self-closing, self-latching devices on doors or windows leading to the pool no less than 54 inches above the floor. Be aware that pools built before this time may not have these security measures, so always keep an eye on children.
- Make sure your windows and doors are locked and have alarms that can alert you if a child gets out of the home.
- Designate a water watcher, a responsible adult whose job is to do nothing (including looking at their cell phones) other than keeping a constant eye on the children in the pool.
- Remove pool toys from the water after swimming. Young children attracted to the toys can fall in when reaching for them.
- Be aware of rip currents and tides. Even strong swimmers can face challenges in open water that are significantly different from swimming laps in a pool. If you are caught in a rip current, stay calm, tread water and call for help. If you can manage it, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current and then swim to the shore.
- Just because there is a lifeguard on duty, don’t assume you can take your eyes off your child in the water. That lifeguard is responsible for multitudes, and drowning is quick and silent.
- Pay attention to warning flags on beaches. Double red means closed to public. A red flag indicates high currents or dangerous surf and yellow is medium currents and surf. Green indicates calm conditions, and purple indicates dangerous marine life in the area.