Summer dangers for kids
Accidents peak during season, but you can prevent them
Summer is an exciting time of year for families, when swimming, picnics and other adventures replace days at school or in the office. Unfortunately, it’s also the most dangerous time of year for kids — nearly half of all unintentional injury-related deaths among children occur from May to August.
“Tragedies peak during summer break because children are supervised less, have more free time and engage in more outdoor activities,” said St. Joseph’s Children’s Advocate Keri-Rose Lanotte.
To help protect children from accidents, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital recommends these safety tips.
Drowning can happen any time of year, but parents and caregivers need to be particularly vigilant during warmer months, when the number of drowning deaths among children increases 89 percent compared to the rest of the year.
Lanotte urges families to:
- Never leave children alone in or near water. Parents and caregivers should always watch while children are playing in or near water, even in shallow wading pools. Children can drown in as little as one inch of water in a matter of seconds.
- Never rely on a personal flotation device or swimming lessons to protect a child. Learn CPR and keep rescue equipment, a telephone and emergency numbers poolside.
- Install four-sided isolation fencing, at least 5 feet high and equipped with self-closing, self-latching gates. Fencing should completely surround swimming pools and prevent direct access from a house or yard.
- Enroll children in swimming lessons taught by qualified instructors when they are ready, usually after age 4.
- Make sure your child is actively supervised by an adult while visiting any house with a pool.
- Empty all buckets, containers and wading pools immediately after use.
- Children should always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device when on a boat, when near open bodies of water or when participating in water sports.
- Children ages 14 and younger should never operate a personal watercraft.
Bicycling is a great way for children to stay active in the summer. It’s important to remember that bicycles are more than just a toy. They are associated with more childhood injuries than any consumer
product besides the automobile.
To keep children safe, Lanotte recommends that parents:
- Make sure children wear bike helmets every time they ride. Enforcing a single rule — wear a helmet or don’t ride — can reduce the risk for head injury by as much as 85 percent.
- Don’t let children wear a helmet that fits poorly.
- Make sure children stop and check for traffic before riding onto a street or through an intersection.
- Teach children to ride with the traffic flow as far to the right as possible.
- Don’t let children ride without supervision until they’ve shown they can always follow the rules.
- Explain the proper hand signals and make sure children use them.
- Don’t negotiate. It’s estimated that 75 percent of bicycle-related deaths among children could have been prevented with bicycle helmets.
“Kids, especially 11- to 14-year-olds, might insist they’re good riders who don’t need helmets, complain that helmets are uncomfortable or point out that none of their friends wear them,” Lanotte says. “Resist the temptation to give in; requiring your children to wear helmets every time, everywhere they go, is the best thing you can do to protect them.”
Chances are, children who ride bikes probably also enjoy skateboards, scooters or inline skates. Be sure that whenever they wheel around, they are wearing the right gear.
Did you know that a blistering sunburn before the age of 10 will double the likelihood of developing skin cancer later in life? Kids don’t have to be at the pool or beach to get too much sun. Their skin need protection from the sun’s harmful rays whenever they’re outdoors.
To keep children sun-safe throughout the summer adhere to the American Cancer Society’s SUN safety guidelines.
Shadow test. If the shadow is shorter than the child, the sun is at its strongest and most dangerous point.
Ultraviolet sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater should always be used when a child is exposed to the sun.
Now! Protect children from the harmful effects of the sun now.
Parents should also:
- Use sunscreens and protective clothing together for the best protection.
- Reapply sunscreen throughout the day, especially after swimming. This applies to waterproof and water-resistant products as well.
- Try to keep children out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the strongest.
- Know the ways of the rays. It’s possible to get a sunburn on a cloudy day just as easily as on a sunny day and the sun’s rays can penetrate 3 feet of water.
Few things are more exciting to a kid than a great playground and they can be a great place to grab some outdoor fun, fresh air and exercise. Playgrounds also can pose potential safety hazards. More than 200,000 children are treated in U.S. emergency departments for injuries that occur on playground equipment every year.
To help keep your family’s trip to the playground fun and safe:
- Look for playgrounds with shredded rubber, mulch, wood chips or sand. Grass, soil, asphalt and concrete are not good surfaces.
- Be sure to check for potential hazards, such as rusted or broken equipment and dangerous surfaces. Report hazards to the appropriate municipality.
- Keep children younger than 5 in a separate play area, away from equipment designed for bigger kids.
- Actively supervise kids on a playground. “Just being in the same area isn’t good enough – they need your undivided attention while playing on or around the equipment,” Lanotte adds.
- Teach children to use equipment properly — slide feet first, don’t climb outside guardrails and no standing on swings.
- Don’t allow children to play while wearing clothes with drawstrings, purses, backpacks or long necklaces, which can get caught on equipment and cause strangulation.
- Playground equipment can become uncomfortably or even dangerously hot, especially metal slides. If the equipment feels hot to the touch, it’s probably not safe or fun to play on.
According to Lanotte, falls are the leading cause of injury on playgrounds, but using the right equipment for a child’s age and soft surfacing can help prevent injuries.
Every year in the United States, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 60 percent of them are children.
“Children under the age of 7 are especially vulnerable and are most likely to experience more severe injuries to their head, neck and face when bitten by a dog,” said St. Joseph’s Children’s Steinbrenner Emergency/Trauma Center Pediatrician Maximo Luque, M.D.
To help prevent children from being bitten by dogs, Dr. Luque recommends that parents teach children:
- Don’t approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Never disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Don’t scream or run from a dog.
- If approached by an unfamiliar dog, be as still as possible and move away slowly either backwards or sideways.
- If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball, cover your face and stay still.
- If bitten, immediately tell an adult.
Dr. Luque adds that it’s important to remember that almost any dog can bite under the right circumstances, no matter how friendly they seem.
Now that you know how to keep your kids safe, it’s time for some summer fun.
The Safety Store at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital features low-cost, injury-prevention products. Call 813-443-2064 or visit www.stjosephschildrens.com to learn more.