summer safety

How to Keep Children Safe This Summer

April 12, 2010
by Lindsey Chapman
Summer is a time of long bike rides, swimming trips and maybe just a few hours spent working a job. But for all the season offers kids, it can also be dangerous, and following safety tips is important.

Statistically, Summer is Most Dangerous Time for Kids

One of the most dangerous times of year for children is the period from May to August. According to Reader’s Digest, a study by the National SAFE KIDS Campaign determined that approximately half of all injury-related childhood deaths occur during this time. Kids will also account for about three million trips to the emergency room.

Water dangers are the biggest risks kids face during the summer season, Reader’s Digest explains, followed closely by bicycling accidents and trouble at the playground.

Pool Safety for Kids

Families with pools at home can make the area safer by surrounding the pool with a fence at least four feet high. The American Academy of Pediatrics says pool gates should be self-closing with a self-securing latch that kids can’t reach.

Once little ones are in the water, remember that accidents happen quickly, and that children should never be left unattended. The Cincinnati Children’s Center says kids “can drown in a matter of seconds.”

Having rescue equipment nearby, such as a life preserver, a shepherd’s hook (“a long pole with a hook on the end”), and a telephone is also important.

The AAP has also pointed out that swimming devices like floaties “can give children a false sense of security,” and are not an appropriate replacement for other life-saving gear.

Monitor infants and toddlers even more closely—in and out of the water—by practicing “touch supervision,” which means never being out of arms reach of them.

Bicycle Safety for Kids

Wearing a helmet can go a long way toward preventing a possibly devastating injury to kids. A bike helmet fits properly if it sits low on the child’s head and doesn’t rock in any direction, back and forth or sideways. A helmet should also have safety stickers from the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Dr. Angela Mickalide, program director of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, told Reader’s Digest that parents may have to get strict with children who don’t want to wear safety equipment, even warning kids that they won’t be allowed to ride their bikes if they are caught without safety gear on.

Adults can also serve as great examples for kids, Mickalide says, by wearing proper safety gear themselves.

Staying Safe from Mother Nature

One of the most visible parts of summer, the sun also poses a quiet hazard. Time in the sun should be carefully controlled, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns. Wearing protective clothing and sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater can be useful in reducing risks of developing skin cancer. Put sunscreen on at least every two hours, and 30 minutes before initially going outside. Wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses will also help guard your eyes against the sun’s rays.

Sunburns are best treated with a cold compress—not ice or butter—and an over-the-counter pain medication if necessary, the FDA notes.

But the sun isn’t the only thing to watch out for when basking in the outdoors. Some of nature’s smallest inhabitants, such as mosquitoes, ticks and bees can also be dangerous.

Mosquitoes and ticks carry West Nile virus and Lyme disease, respectively, and can be more easily avoided using an insect repellent that contains a chemical called DEET. For kids the amount of DEET in a repellent should not exceed 10 percent; insect repellent—even if it doesn’t contain DEET—is not appropriate for babies.

Bees can be evaded with the help of light-colored clothing and the avoidance of scented soap and perfume. If someone is stung, watch for an allergic reaction, which will generally manifest itself within a few hours.

Vehicle Precautions

Never allow children to play in driveways, in cars, or around parked cars. Teach them how to safely cross the street using only designated crosswalks and being mindful of oncoming traffic. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center advises that children under 10 not be allowed to cross the street by themselves.

For parents, remember that children should never be left in the car during the summer. First, cars can become terribly hot in a short amount of time, leaving kids subject to heat stroke. Second, it’s a prime opportunity for a criminal to nab a youngster.

General Safety Practices

When your children are out and about, ask them to check first with an adult before leaving to go somewhere. Kids should also go out with a friend, just to be safe. Children should never go into public restrooms alone, either, advises the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Remind children of stranger danger as well. Teach them that it’s important never to get into a car with, or accept gifts from, someone they don’t know. If they are in a situation that frightens them, tell them that it’s alright to say “No” and leave immediately.

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