Summer is long-anticipated in the eyes of children. And when it finally arrives, it is up to adults and caregivers to help do what they can to pave the way for a safe summer.
“Prevention and preparation are key,” says Corinne Sadecki-Lund, Trauma Coordinator in the Division of Pediatric Surgery. “You have to plan for safety; it can’t be taken for granted.” A fall is one of the leading causes for a child’s visit to the emergency room (ER). “We recently treated a patient for injuries sustained after falling from a pony during a ride at a summer carnival for instance,” says Sadecki-Lund. Another common reason children are seen in the ER is for bone fractures caused by falls from bicycles, skateboards, monkey bars, and trampolines.
So how can adults help their kids avoid injuries and accidents this summer?
- Awareness: Knowledge of your child and their surroundings will help prevent falls. For example, bikes should be properly sized to fit the child and skateboards should not be used by kids under 6, as they have not yet developed the necessary balance and dexterity. Also, it may seem helpful and fun, but do not let children ride on adult’s shoulders. The elevated height poses a high risk for a child to fall and experience a devastating head injury.
- Yard/Home Maintenance: Check your patio furniture to make sure the glass and tile hasn’t chipped or cracked. If you have a swing set, thoroughly inspect it for possible splinters, cracks in the wood, or rusted metal, and make sure the bolts are covered. It’s also helpful to set up a “safe swing zone” to ensure that those walking by will not collide with those swinging. Trampoline owners need to inspect for holes and worn out netting before allowing activity.
- Clothing: When the weather is warm it’s best to dress kids in light-colored, loose fitting clothing to prevent overheating. Sunscreen should be applied every two hours and hats/sunglasses are very useful in blocking harmful UV rays. Avoid bright, patterned clothing as it tends to attract bees and other insects.
- Swimming: Supervision is essential. Drowning accounts for more deaths among children ages 1 to 4 than any other cause besides birth defects. Most drowning cases occur with children who were not supposed to be near the water in the first place. You can start swim lessons for your child as early as six months and when at the beach with smaller children make sure they are within arm’s reach. At-home pools should be properly alarmed and fenced-in to avoid accidents. Floats and toys should not be left in the pool and the ladder should be flipped up or removed when not in use.
Other helpful reminders:
Hydrate! Before kids go out to play sports or participate in physical activities, make sure they drink water and also give them a bottle of water to consume during play. Taking breaks in the shade will also help kids stay hydrated and healthy in the summer heat.
Sanitize! Bouncy houses are a summer staple for kids, but they are also a petri dish of germs. If renting one, go in ahead of the event with disinfecting wipes and fully wipe down the surfaces. When kids exit the bouncy house have them use hand sanitizer. Some other safety tips include: keeping the bouncy house away from sidewalks (the concrete is worse for a potential fall), make sure the inflatable is anchored down properly, and have kids jump by age group, as a collision involving varying sizes is a recipe for disaster.
“You can’t keep kids in a bubble,” says Sadecki-Lund. “So it’s best to plan ahead. Everyone thinks it’s not going to happen to them, but you have to be smart to have fun.” Simple precautions will make a big difference.