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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Summer Safety - 10 Tips for Parents

Lucky for me not only are all three of my brothers physicians but one of them is an Emergency Room physician in Dallas, TX. If it was not for him I would never have paid attention to the correlation between the arrival of summer and the dramatic rise in emergency room visits for children. Safe Kids USA cited the following stats:


  • drowning deaths increase by 89% during the summer
  • bike deaths increase by 45% during the summer
  • fall deaths increase by 21% during the summer
  • motor vehicle deaths increase by 20% during the summer
  • pedestrian deaths increase by 16% during the summer

Staggering isn’t it? Well, in the interest of keeping my children and yours out of these statistics I have written the following article.

Before we get into the “meat” of the issue I wanted to make a point of letting you know that I cannot tell you the number of times during my research for this piece I ran into the statement “I just turned my back for a second” spoken by endless numbers of shocked parents so I will advise you first and foremost this summer DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK FOR A SECOND! Ok, let’s begin.

This spike in traumas in the summer is no wonder since kids are not only out of school for the summer but the increased time on their hands coupled with the beautiful weather means they are doing a lot more playing and spending time outdoors. In combination with the outdoor activities of children parents are also spending more time in the sun doing things like sun bathing, barbecuing, gardening (mowing the lawn)and just plain enjoying the weather. I searched for a good article to reference and I found a couple worthy of mentioning. The following tips came from http://pediatrics.about.com/cs/safetyfirstaid/a/summer_safety.htm and I found them quite comprehensive and very helpful. I know the list is long but I have trimmed it down as much as I thought I could and it is worth every second you spend reading. The information could help to keep your little one safe all summer long!

  1. One of the best ways to stay safe this summer is to wear a (properly fitting) helmet and other safety gear when biking, skating and skateboarding, and when riding scooters, all-terrain vehicles, and horses. Studies on bicycle helmets have shown they can reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent.
  2. Use layers of protection to prevent a swimming pool tragedy. This includes placing barriers completely around your pool to prevent access, using door and pool alarms, closely supervising your child and being prepared in case of an emergency. Lack of adult supervision and drowning go hand in hand. In summer, kids drown at nearly twice the rate that's typical for the rest of the year--reflecting a steeper summertime increase than exists for any other kind of accidental injury to kids. Drowning is "not like in the movies," says Cianflone. There is no wild flailing and commotion. "The child will simply just slide into the water, very silently and very quickly," she explains. In a pool setting, for example, an adult might suddenly notice a child at the bottom of the pool and have no idea how long he or she has been there. Resuscitation may be possible, but often serious damage has already been done. "You can get them back from a cardiac standpoint," explains Lozon, as children typically have resilient cardiovascular systems, "but they will have severe neurologic damage." The most basic, common-sense advice to prevent children from drowning is to have an adult watching the water at all times. Sounds obvious, like something any parent would do instinctively, but Cianflone says a kid drowning is usually "a matter of everybody was watching, but nobody was watching." The solution, she says: Having a designated adult with his or her eyes on the water at all times and the ability to jump in quickly. (http://www.ihavenet.com/Health-Summer-Safety-Reasons-Kids-End-up-in-ER-How-to-Prevent-It.html )
  3. 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.
  4. Make sure your home playground is safe. Falls cause 60 percent of playground injuries, so having a safe surface is critical. Concrete, asphalt or packed dirt surfaces are too hard. Use at least 9 inches of wood chips or mulch.
    Use softer-than standard baseballs, safety-release bases and batting helmets with face guards to reduce baseball-related injuries to children.
  5. If you are a soccer mom or dad, beware that movable soccer goals can fall over and kill children. Make sure the goal is anchored securely at all times and never allow anyone to climb on the net or goal framework or hang from the cross bar. Remove nets when the goals are not in use.
  6. To prevent serious injuries while using a trampoline, allow only one person on at a time, and do not allow somersaults. Use a shock-absorbing pad that completely covers the springs and place the trampoline away from structures and other play areas. Kids under 6-years-old should not use full-size trampolines. (**we violated this one like CRAZY when we were kids…**)
  7. Don't allow a game of hide-n-seek to become deadly. CPSC has received reports of numerous suffocation deaths involving children who crawled inside old cedar chests, latch-type freezers and refrigerators, iceboxes in campers, clothes dryers and picnic coolers. Childproof old appliances, warn children not to play inside them.
  8. If summer plans include camping and you want heat inside your tent or camper, use one of the new portable heaters that are equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). If oxygen levels start to fall inside your tent or camper, the ODS automatically shuts down the heater before it can produce deadly levels of carbon monoxide (CO). Do not attempt to use alternative sources of heat or power to warm a tent or camper. Traditional camping heaters, charcoal grills, camping lanterns, and gas generators also can cause CO poisoning.
  9. Install window guards to prevent children from falling out of open windows. Guards should be installed in children's bedrooms, parents' bedrooms, and other rooms where young children spend time. Or, install window stops that permit windows to open no more than 4 inches. Whenever possible, open windows from the top - not the bottom. Also, keep furniture away from windows to discourage children from climbing near windows. (**window falls increase dramatically during the spring and summer months**)
  10. 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.

Have a fun and most importantly a safe summer!

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