Summer is a time when school classrooms and hallways empty to the awaited anticipation of children’s’ freedom for fun and play time. Everyone’s childhood memories are filled with summertime fun, which means trips to the beach, ice cream and rides at the amusement park.
From the heat, to pools, to bike riding, parents need to be on alert. While your family enjoys the summer, emergency services and emergency room doctors don’t enjoy what they refer to as the “trauma season for kids.”
This summer, children ages 14 and under will be rushed to emergency rooms nearly 3 million times for serious injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes, drownings, bike crashes, pedestrian incidents, falls and other hazards. More than 2,500 children will die.
Tragedies rise and nearly half (40 percent) of all unintentional injury-related deaths occur during the summer months because children are supervised less, have more free time and are involved in more outdoor activities. Although you may relax this summer, it is not the time to relax about safety. Close supervision, proper protective gear, and other simple prevention steps will help keep your child safe.
Trauma is preventable. Keeping your children out of the emergency room takes thought and preparation.
First and foremost — please remember to drive safely and use proper child seating and safety belts. It could protect your family by saving yours or child’s life. Please read more about car safety below.
Heat can kill. When kids play, they sweat. Children are smaller than adults and they dehydrate faster. They should not be out in the heat for more than 30 minutes. Bring them inside for at least 15 minutes for water and snacks.
Insect bites can be dangerous. Bugs also enjoy the outdoors. These creepy-crawly, biting, stinging pests don’t have to be such a pain if parents discourage children from getting excited and moving rapidly when they see insects — movement encourages insects to bite. Keep sugary foods and trash cans away from outside play and eating areas and avoid sweets during picnics — unless water is accessible to rinse off sticky areas after eating.
When it comes to fun in the sun, there are many steps you can take to reduce your child’s exposure to the sun’s rays. Sunscreens, wide brimmed hats, protective clothing and sun avoidance between the hours of
10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are important for maximum sun protection. Sunscreens should be viewed as a back-up to primary means of sun protection such as shirts, hats and sun avoidance. Always reapply sunscreen — even if it’s waterproof — immediately after coming out of the water.
Bike riding without helmets is an accident waiting to happen. Wearing a cast on an arm or leg can be uncomfortable in the summer, but you cannot put a cast on a child’s brain. Brain injury is the most serious of injuries. Children must wear helmets every time they’re on their bikes — no matter what.
According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 260 children under 5 years of age drown each year in residential swimming pools and spas. It is estimated that another 3,000 children under age 5 are treated in hospital emergency rooms following submersion accidents each year.
Some of these submersion accidents result in permanent brain damage. Nationally, drowning is the fourth leading cause of death to children under five.
To ensure that your children are safe, never leave them unsupervised around water. Teach your child to swim, but remember that younger children shouldn’t be left unsupervised around water even if they know how to swim. It is recommended that children under age 4 not be given formal swimming lessons, especially as a primary means to prevent the risk of drowning.
• Always wear a safety-approved life jacket when on a lake, river or ocean while boating, water skiing, jet skiing or tubing.
• Warn your children about playing in canals or other fast moving water.
• Do not let your child play around any water (lake, pool, ocean, etc.) without adult supervision (even if he or she is a good swimmer).
• Don’t allow running or rough play around the water.
• Childproof your swimming pool with a fence around your backyard and a fence (at least 4 feet high) around the pool, with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Also consider having a phone poolside to call 911, and learning CPR in case of emergencies.
Water park safety is another place where children should never go unsupervised. Older kids can use the buddy system. If your child is a weak swimmer use a flotation device. Be sure to read and follow all park rules. Observe rides before you let them ride them. Do not allow children to dive. Always make sure you know the depth of the water they wade in. Most minor injuries at waterparks are caused by slips and falls — don’t run. It’s a good idea for parents to know CPR, first aid and where telephones are located.
Always take caution when grilling outside. Never bring charcoal grills indoors. Burning charcoal produces deadly carbon monoxide. When cooking outdoors with a gas grill, check the air tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders, or food grease. Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing. If you ever detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas at the tank and don’t attempt to light the grill until the leak is fixed. Newer grills and propane tanks have improved safety devices to prevent gas leaks.
In the yard
Summer also means yard work. When mowing, keep small children out of the yard and turn the mower off if children enter the area. If the lawn slopes, mow across the slope with the walk-behind rotary mower, never up and down. With a riding mower, drive up and down the slope, not across it. Never carry children on a riding mower.
In the car
We all know the sadness and disbelief we feel when we read local headlines about a child dying after being left unattended in a hot car. Last year 32 children died after being left in a hot car (sometimes on relatively mild days with only 70 degree temperatures), most of them ages 3 and younger. They died from heat stroke after being trapped in the car.
In the most recent three-year period of 2009-2011, when almost all young children are now placed in back seats instead of front seats, there have been at least 118 known fatalities from heatstroke — a ten-fold increase from the rate of the early 1990s.
Many parents mistakenly think they can leave a child in a vehicle while running a “quick” errand. Yet a delay of just a few minutes can lead to tragedy. Heat is much more dangerous to children than it is to adults. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s core body temperature can increase three to five times faster than that of an adult causing permanent injury or death. Children should never be left alone inside of your car, even for a few minutes.
Since school’s out for summer, kids are everywhere and parents should be, too. Even though your children may be older, make sure you’re on watch, so that you won’t have to take a trip to the emergency room.
Bryan County Emergency Services wants you to safely enjoy the summer with your children.