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Summer means fun in the sun, beach outings, swimming pools, and outdoor adventures like camping, hiking, bicycling and skateboarding. What also comes is an increased risk for injuries—and an increased need for awareness.
Experts at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Safety and Injury Prevention Program have compiled a list of helpful guidelines to ensure that you and your family have an enjoyable and safe summer.
Risks of swimming tragedies increase in the summer. Two-thirds of drowning deaths occur in the summer, between May and August, and most commonly on the weekends.
Give kids your undivided attention. Actively supervise children throughout the summer, whether it’s at the playground or in and around water. Small children can drown in as little as one inch of water.
Use the Water Watcher strategy. When there are several adults present and children are swimming, use the Water Watcher card strategy to designate an adult as the Water Watcher for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision and give parents a chance to read, make phone calls or take a bathroom break. The adult holding the Water Watcher card knows they are on duty.
Educate your children about swimming safety. Every child is different, so enroll children in swimming lessons when you feel they are ready. Whether swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake, teach children to swim with an adult. Older, more experienced swimmers should still swim with a partner every time.
Learn CPR. We know you have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be at the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. The Red Cross is now offering some first aid training courses online.
Be extra careful around pool drains. Teach children to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets, which can cause situations where kids can get stuck underwater.
Wear life jackets. Always have your children wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water or when participating in water sports. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. Have the child make a “touchdown” signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits the child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.
Fireworks are involved in more than 10,000 injuries treated in emergency departments every year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Exercise great care when using fireworks, especially when children are around.
Watch out for kids attempting to hold fireworks until just before they explode—this can result in serious hand injuries. Sparklers should only be handled by children over age 6, and only under parental supervision. Younger children can easily burn themselves or someone else. And older kids may take bigger risks, so always make sure an adult is present to supervise.
Alan Nager, MD, MHA, Chief of the Division of Emergency and Transport Medicine at CHLA, recommends going to fireworks shows instead of using them at home (and fireworks are illegal in the City of Los Angeles). Click here for an in-depth guide to fireworks safety.
Drink water during sports. Have your kids bring a water bottle to outdoor activities and drink plenty of water before, during and after play. This is especially important in summer months to avoid dehydration.
Set up your grill with safety in mind. Use long-handled grilling tools and position your grill well away from siding, deck railings and overhanging branches, while keeping a safe distance from play areas and foot traffic. Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below the grill so it cannot be ignited by heat.
Monitor trampoline use closely. Trampolines should only be used with direct parental supervision, and users should wear helmets. Popular stunts and activities can easily lead to serious injuries.
Never leave your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. It can be tempting to leave a child alone in a car while you quickly run into a store, but it can cause serious injury or even death in a matter of minutes. Reduce the number of deaths from heatstroke by remembering to ACT – Avoid heatstroke, Create reminders, and Take action if you see a child left alone.
Wear a helmet for biking and other wheeled sports. We have a simple saying: "Use your head, wear a helmet." It is the single most effective safety device available to reduce head injury and death from bike crashes. Kids should wear a helmet when riding a scooter, skating, skateboarding or biking.
Put on your shoes. Bare feet can leave feet vulnerable to a wide range of injuries. Make sure to wear shoes in public spaces like parks, which may be littered with hidden foreign objects, barbecue coals or other hazards.
Don’t forget your mask. It may be hot, but wearing a mask is an important way to keep yourself and others healthy in the time of COVID-19 or when immune-compromised. Kids under the age of 2 should not wear masks due to risk of suffocation.
Don’t hesitate to go to the Emergency Department if you or your child is injured! Delaying care for a serious injury could have terrible consequences, and treating injuries early offers a better chance at a full recovery. “Fresh injuries like burns, lacerations, internal injuries and illnesses are easier to repair and treat than older injuries and illnesses,” says Dr. Nager. Don’t delay care—your child’s health is essential.