Ensuring for a fun, memorable summer for your family.
Summertime brings long, sunny days, plenty of new experiences for children and memories that will last a lifetime. Heading to the beach, mountains or out to your own backyard means fun for everyone. As with any adventure or activity, there is always a risk of injury. By learning some simple safety tips, you can ensure your kids will enjoy all the wonders that summer brings without any major mishaps.
“Let’s go to the beach!” is what many children say on a hot summer day. Whether your beach is at the ocean, lake or pond, any body of water poses a significant drowning risk for kids, especially those under five years of age. Drowning is often quick and silent, so it’s important that parents and caregivers understand the dangers of water. Constant, attentive adult supervision and staying within an arm’s reach of children five years and younger and non-swimmers are an absolute must while they are in the water. Don’t rely on the lifeguard to watch over your kids. Additional water safety measures follow.
* Install a fence around all sides of a pool in addition to a pool cover. The fence should be at least four feet high and completely separate the pool from the house and play area of the yard. These measures only work if gates and covers are closed after using the pool. Also check zoning requirements in your area for aboveground and built-in pools, as each municipality has its own safety standards.
* Teach your children to avoid the drains at the bottom of a pool. Install anti-entrapment drain covers and a safety vacuum release system to shut down the pump should anyone become trapped in the drain.
* Always have a shepherd’s hook or life preserver ready, along with a poolside telephone.
* Remove toys from the pool after use so children are not tempted to reach for them.
At the Beach
* Natural bodies of water have additional dangers not found in a pool, so it’s important to pay attention to the lifeguard’s warning flags and signs regarding surf conditions and hidden undercurrent.
* Never turn your back to the ocean. A wild wave can strike at any time along the shore where your family could be wading.
* Watch out for sharp shells, rocks and coral that can cause nasty cuts and scrapes.
* When on a boat, all passengers, including young children and non-swimmers, should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests at all times. Air-filled flotation aids are not good substitutes.
Hopefully your summer will include many adventures on land as well as those on the water. This may be the summer your child learns to ride a two-wheeled bike or masters the latest skateboard trick. Depending on the children’s ages, your family may be exploring the confines of your backyard or trekking the trails of a state or national park. No matter where your journey may take you, staying safe should be a top priority. Commonsense safety measures follow.
In Your Backyard
* Home trampolines are strongly discouraged as they are associated with serious injuries, even with adult supervision.
* Fireworks, including sparklers, are not safe for a child of any age to light, use or hold. They can lead to serious burns and permanent scars for the injured victim. It is best to ooh and aah at a professional fireworks display.
* Keep your grill away from any structures, trees or play areas. The hot surface and open flame can cause serious burns or a fire. Never leave children unattended around a hot grill.
* Clean up your yard. Remove containers, kiddie pools and other items that collect stagnant water, as they are a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Pick up pet or other animal excrement in the grass that may expose kids to germs.
At the Playground
* Always supervise children.
* Inspect playground equipment for broken swings, bars, stairs or slides.
* Because of developmental differences among children, playground equipment is made for specific ages. Kids should play on age-appropriate equipment.
* Look for safer playground surfaces such as mulch, pea gravel, sand or rubber mats instead of concrete, asphalt (blacktop), grass, packed dirt or rocks.
* Remove strings from children’s clothing that may catch on playground equipment.
* Bike helmets should not be worn while using playground equipment.
* Children should ride a bicycle that’s appropriate to their developmental level. Pushing them to ride a two-wheeled bike before they are ready can lead to significant injury.
* Bicycles should fit your kids at their current size, not what they will grow into over the next few years.
* Everyone should wear a helmet every time a bike is ridden, including parents. This applies even if your child is just going down the block. Follow the instructions for the use and proper fit of the helmet. Be sure to look for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sticker on all bike helmets.
* Teach the rules of the road to your kids, and reinforce them frequently. Until your children are old enough to understand traffic, bike riding should be limited to paths and sidewalks.
* Skateboarders, roller-skaters and scooter-riders should always wear a helmet with an American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) label that shows the specific activity for which the helmet is made. Additionally, wrist guards, elbow pads and kneepads should be worn.
* Skateboard parks are safer than skateboarding in the street. Adult supervision is advised for children younger than eight years. No one should skateboard alone.
* Hiking is great exercise, and almost anyone can do it. It’s safer to hike with other people and certainly more fun.
* Some trails in parks are well marked and heavily traveled, while others can be isolated with challenging terrain. It’s important to be prepared prior to heading out on the trails. Know your own ability and understand that children may not have the endurance of an adult when it comes to hiking. Take breaks as needed.
* Study the trail map before heading out, and bring it along on the journey. A compass can come in handy if you get lost.
* Bring a cell phone, but understand that in remote areas there may not be reception to make a call if needed.
* Take along enough water for everyone in your family. Bring snacks for hungry kids if you will be out on the trails for a few hours.
* Dress appropriately. This includes proper shoes with a heavy tread for traction and layers of clothing to protect against the cold and sun.
* While out on the trail, you will likely see various plants and animals. Do not touch or eat plants or berries, even if they look familiar to you. Do not approach or attempt to feed wild animals.
* Don’t forget a small first aid kit. Blisters on the feet can make for some very unhappy kids.
* Leave the trail better than how you found it by removing any trash that you bring or find there.
No matter what your summertime activity, take steps to protect everyone from the heat, sun and biting insects. Even on a cloudy day, there are risks of overheating and overexposure to the sun. Fortunately, there are some simple steps to reduce these common outdoor hazards.
* Keep infants under six months old in the shade. Dress your baby in a brimmed hat and lightweight clothing covering arms and legs. Discuss sunscreen use for your infant with your health care provider.
* Children and adults should wear a wide-brimmed hat also, along with sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays. Tightly woven clothing can provide additional protection.
* Avoid the sun at its peak intensity, between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M., to minimize exposure and risk of sunburn.
* Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on everyone over six months of age. Apply liberally to all sun-exposed areas, and reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
* Stay hydrated with water when participating in outdoor activities. Remind kids to drink water before, during and after activities, even if they are not thirsty. Avoid sodas, and note that sports drinks are not needed in most situations.
* Avoid outdoor activity on hot, humid days between the hours of noon and 6 P.M.
* Pay attention to heat warnings issued by your local news stations.
* Children should rest indoors and drink cool fluids at the first sign of being overheated.
* Signs of heat exhaustion can include: increased thirst, increased sweating, cool and clammy skin, irritability, weakness or fainting, muscle cramps, nausea and/or vomiting and a headache.
* Signs of heatstroke include: loss of consciousness, seizure, rapid breathing, confusion and no sweating. This is a medical emergency, and you should seek emergency medical care.
* Mosquitoes are everywhere and can bite during the day as well as at dusk and dawn when they are most active. Protect your children from these pests with the use of insect repellent and light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants.
* Insect repellent with 10- to 30-percent DEET is approved for use in children older than two months of age. The percentage of DEET in a product relates to the length of time it provides protection, from two to five hours. It’s best to select a DEET-containing product with the lowest concentration needed for the length of exposure. Always read the labels for instructions. Avoid combination sunscreen and insect repellent, as sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours while insect repellent may not be reapplied in most cases.
* Use of insect repellent can decrease the likelihood of contracting tick- and mosquito-related illnesses. West Nile is a virus carried by birds and transmitted to people by a mosquito that bites the infected bird, then the human. It can cause flu-like symptoms, but it can also lead to serious complications such as encephalitis and death. DEET also protects against tick bites that can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
* Always check your children for ticks after being in areas known to have them, and wash off insect repellent when they return indoors.
* Avoid heavily scented soaps and brightly colored or floral-printed clothing, as they tend to attract stinging insects such as bees.
Keeping your children out of harm’s way should be your goal. Prevention is key to reducing accidents and the likelihood and the severity of injury. Playing it safe can ensure that you and your children have a great, memorable season.
Kathleen Kent, DNP, RN, CPNP, is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Indiana University School of Nursing in the Pediatric & Family Nurse Practitioner Programs and also works as a certified PNP for Northpoint Pediatrics, Indianapolis.