Summer is finally here and that means fun in the sun. Swimming, biking, and Fourth of July celebrations are all activities that kids look forward to; however, these activities also can present dangers to the very kids who enjoy them. Kristel Poffinbarger, M.D., chief medical officer at Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, shares tips to help make your family’s summer a fun and safe one.
Harris County has more drowning deaths for individuals under the age of 18 than any other county in Texas. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, drowning is the nation’s leading cause of death for children ages one to four, and the second for kids ages five to 14. Dr. Poffinbarger suggests these tips to keep your children safe while they splash:
- Designate an adult whose sole responsibility is to watch the children in or around the water. This person should not be distracted by other activities such as talking on the phone, reading, or supervising other children.
- Stay within arm's length of toddlers and children who can't swim.
- Install barriers around your pool. This should be at least 4 ft. high and have latches that are out of children's reach.
- Remove any toys, balls, or floats from or around the pool after use. Children may be tempted to reach for these and possibly fall in as a result.
- Never replace life jackets with water wings, inner tubes, or foam noodles-these are not designed as safety devices.
- Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Performing CPR before paramedics arrive could make a difference in life or death.
- Keep a cell phone and rescue equipment by the pool at all times.
- Remember, large bodies of water – pools, lakes, rivers, ponds – are not the only danger. Children can drown in just a few inches of water, so young children should be supervised around all water including buckets, toilets, and bath tubs.
Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are caused by exercising or playing in a hot, humid environment where the body becomes dehydrated, Dr. Poffinbarger says. If heat exhaustion progresses to heat stroke, it can be fatal. Consider these tips to keep your children cool during outside play:
- Have children wear lightweight, bright-colored clothing to help prevent overheating during outdoor activities.
- Teach children to always drink plenty of fluids before and during any activity in hot, sunny weather – even if they aren’t thirsty. Avoid excessive amounts of sugary drinks, water is always the best choice for our kids
- Limit sun exposure to before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
- Teach children to come indoors immediately whenever they feel overheated.
In 2012, more than 270,000 children were seen in emergency rooms for injuries from riding bicycles. Follow these tips to protect your kids while they pedal:
- Wear a helmet. A child who rides with a companion, including parents, wearing a helmet is more likely to wear a helmet.
- Helmets should only be worn for biking or other activities specified on the package. Helmets should not be worn on a playground or to climb a tree – there is a risk of strangulation from the chin strap during these types of activities.
- Replace the helmet if your child hits any surface hard while wearing it. Helmets lose their capacity to absorb shock after taking serious hits.
- Discuss the rules of the road for bike riding with your children. Kids should ride on the right side of the road with traffic, not against it. They also should use appropriate hand signals and respect traffic signals, stopping at all stop signs and stoplights.
- If riding a bike at dawn or dusk, light colored or reflective clothing should be worn so that motorists are able to see the bicycle rider.
Fourth of July Firework Safety
Fourth of July and fireworks go hand-in-hand, but if not handled properly, fireworks can cause serious injury. Before lighting that sparkler, Dr. Poffinbarger asks that you think twice about these safety tips:
- The best way to protect your family is to not use fireworks at home. Attend public fireworks displays and leave the lighting to the professionals.
- Before lighting fireworks, check to see if it is legal in your neighborhood.
- Always use fireworks outside and have a source of water nearby in case of accidents.
- Never hold a firework in your hand or any part of your body while lighting it.
- Always wear eye protection while lighting a firework.
- Never point a firework at another person or a house.
Summer is a perfect time to soak up sunshine, but too much sun exposure can be harmful and can cause skin and eye damage, immune system suppression, and even skin cancer. Follow these tips to protect your kids while they have fun in the sun:
- Even just a few serious sunburns in childhood can increase the child’s risk of developing skin cancer later in life. Teach children how to take precautions during sun exposure to reduce their chance of injury – seek shade, cover up, get a hat, wear sunglasses, and apply sunscreen.
- Avoid being in the sun for prolonged times when the sun is strongest – typically mid-day from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. If kids are in the sun between these hours, be sure to apply protective sunscreen — even if they're just playing in the backyard.
- The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that all children — regardless of their skin tone — wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
- Even one day in the sun can result in a burned cornea (the outermost, clear membrane layer of the eye). Cumulative exposure can lead to cataracts later in life (clouding of the eye lens, which results in blindness).
- The best way to protect eyes is to wear sunglasses.
- Being a good role model by wearing sunscreen and limiting your time in the sun not only reduces your risk of sun damage, but teaches your kids good sun sense.