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Summertime Family Safety
School’s out and children are busy playing. Now is the time for all of us to be conscientious of where they are and what they are doing. Each year we hear tragic stories of children who neglected to follow basic safety precautions and have lost their lives as a result. Although we don’t wish to terrorize our children with our concerns for safety, it is my hope that this guideline will serve to remind parents and caregivers, as well as adults everywhere, to keep a sharp eye out for dangerous or unsafe activities, and to intervene when necessary. In the course of the day, be it excitement or a high activity level, children do not have the maturity to think ahead. Therefore, we have to be their eyes and ears. Here are the A,B,C's of summertime safety rules to keep in mind for a happy vacation season.
A, B, C Safety Tips
1. Automobiles -Parents, don’t leave young children (or animals) unattended in cars. Even with a cracked window for air, the heat index climbs to a degree that can be suffocating. It is against the law to abandon a young child or animal, while you shop without them. While this may be more convenient for you, it is unwise and unsafe. And remind children not to play near the street or between parked cars. Many children have been struck by unsuspecting drivers when they’ve impulsively chased after balls rolling into the road.
2. Biking -Check your child’s ability to handle the size of the bike he/she is using. Make sure that the tires are inflated to the proper air pressure. Monitor your child’s ability to follow the rules of traffic. Insist that your child wears a helmet and be an example for him by wearing one as well. Keep reflective clothing and proper bike reflectors handy when taking night rides. Biking is a fun summer activity for the whole family. Set a time aside each day, or a special day of the week to take a regular family ride.
3. Camping- Every summer brings opportunity for camp outs. If this is a first for your child, prepare them by setting the tent out in the backyard and having a sleepover with some friends. He or she will get used to sleeping on the ground while having the convenience of moving back into the house should it get too scary. Flashlights, compasses, and backpacks make great gifts to the novice camper. Another way to prepare them for the outdoor activity is by taking day hikes into state or national parks. If you are an avid camper who naturally feels at home in the wilderness, your child will follow suit. However, wandering off and getting lost is one of the many accidents that occur during summer vacation. Know your child’s particular impulses and stay tuned to where they are. Have a plan that you review with your child should he / she get separated from you.
Safety Tips: 'D' through 'H'
4. Drowning- Children frequently are victims of drowning for a number of reasons. Parents of very young children should always be aware of where their children are playing. Know which neighbors have swimming pools, and what safety precautions they have in place to keep children from wandering in. Teach your child to swim and be aware of negative swimming conditions at the beach or seaside: weather, riptides, your child’s level of swim strength, and how they are feeling that day, etc.
If you own a swimming pool, follow your city’s safety regulations for fencing and adhere to it. Young, inexperienced swimmers should wear a life jacket in pools and while playing around them. Always insist on a life jacket when your family goes boating.
5. Exploring- Children love to explore. From the time a baby is born he is becoming curious about his world. Babies constantly put anything they get their hands on into their mouths. Why? Because they are learning about their environment. It is up to us, their caregivers, to keep the environment clear of small items that can be swallowed. Coins are a favorite, and many an E.R. doc has reassured frantic parents that everything will come out alright in the end-it’s only a matter of time.
Older children want to explore on their own-they run ahead, wander off, separate from parents and cross streets unattended. The ‘big kids’ do it, so they think they can do the same thing. If you make your home a place that is inviting for your child to hang out with her friends, they can create an environment that is conducive to exploring and stay within the boundaries of the home locale. As parents, it is up to us to set the rules and be consistent with making sure they are adhering to those expectations.
6. Food- Food spoilage can occur at any time. Make sure that your picnic foods are safe by following the proper cooling conditions. If in doubt, don’t eat or drink it. Teach children who are old enough to handle their own lunches to return milk, mayonnaise and other fixings back to the refrigerator. Watch children for reactions to food allergies.
7. Garages- Garages can be a haven for all sorts of trouble. Extra freezers and refrigerators that are stored in the family garage have been a source of tragedy when young children have crawled into it in a game of hide and seek only to suffocate. Adults need to keep a lock or other means of preventing children from playing inside of them.
Additionally, there are often sharp tools, power equipment, paint and other poisonous chemicals housed in a person’s garage. Taking the care to see if your equipment is out of the reach of young children will ensure a safe and happy season.
8. Heat- Global warming has affected our planet’s ability to cool itself in the natural way it had. Depending on where you are living, the heat may be a factor that can cause sunstroke, nausea, fainting, sunburn, etc. Be sure your child is properly protected with sunscreen. Have her drink plenty of fluids, and take little breaks to cool off-in the pool or in an air conditioned area. If that is not possible-ice, a fan and a rest period will ward off becoming sick from being overheated.
Safety: 'I' through 'N'
9. Insects- Ever get bugged by the bugs that buzz, crawl and sting? Children who are sensitive to insect bites need to take precautions so they are prepared should they have an anaphylactic reaction. Parents should carry an ‘epi gun’ which is a prefilled, automatic injection of epinephrine to counter act a severe allergic reaction. Ask your physician to prescribe this, if your child has experienced a systemic response. Teach your child to administer this to himself in the event you are not with him.
10. Jellyfish- I love swimming and boogie boarding in the ocean. But, occasionally the fun is dampened by those nasty jellyfish stings. Adults need to be aware when the water isn’t safe for swimming, and follow the warnings given by the beach authorities. Warn your child of this hazard and know how to treat the sting, should it occur. A thorough rinse with vinegar is the start of the treatment. If none is on hand, rinse the afflicted area with sea water and seek further medical treatment.
11. Kid proofing- While every new parent understands the importance of ‘kid-proofing’ their home for the new baby, complacency frequently sets in as children get older. But, no matter how ‘safe’ you may think your home is it does not take much time to do a review of the home environment checking for potentially hazardous situations. Garages, (see #7), basements, and attics can hold toxic chemicals and sharp objects; overloaded bookshelves that are not secured to the floor or wall have a potential to crush should a toddler try to scale it; kitchen tools, including pot handles sticking over the stove, are enticing to young ones who don’t understand the dangers of reaching for them. Give your home a thorough inspection at least twice a year.
12. Lightning -Every summer approximately 100 people are struck by lightning because they do not follow one of the cardinal rules: never stand under a tree if there is a lightning storm. With Florida leading the United States in the number of deaths by lightning strikes, it is imperative that children understand this important information. If you find yourself outdoors in a lightning storm, take cover at a low point on the ground, avoid metal, drop to your knees and place your hands on them, but do not lay flat on the ground. If you are in your home, stay off the phone because lightning can enter your home via this conduit.
13. Motor scooters- Known also as trail bikes, or any motorized two wheel device is a potential hazard. While many young people love the sounds and speed of the cycles too often there is a lack of attention to where they are racing; as well as improper head gear. In many cases, impulsiveness will lead to accidents. Make it a commandment that they always wear a helmet before the roar of the engine takes them away. As a nurse, I have seen my share of regretful adolescents who have permanent brain injury due to sustaining a head on crash without wearing ample head gear.
14. Nails- When was the last time YOU had a tetanus shot? Summer is prime time for running around barefooted. Along with that luxury come the potential for stepping on nails or other things that may cause a skin puncture. Should that occur, a trip to your local medical office for a tetanus shot would be the plan of action. Don’t let your child be a victim. Keep an eye on the footwear and insist that they avoid areas that have potential dangers, such as old buildings or construction sites.
Swing Set Safety
Rock climbing for all ages
From 'O' to 'T' Summertime Safety Tips
15. Online Safety- One would think that every parent is now aware of the dangers that lurk between children & teens and predators on the internet. Some basic safety rules: be aware of who your child / teen is interacting with; know your teen’s password and spot check; stay tuned for any erratic or sudden changes in their behavior; many families keep computers in a ‘common’ area of the house.
16. Poisonous Plants- Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac are some of the common plants that can cause irritating skin rashes. Teach your child what these plants look like and to avoid them when walking through woods or parks.
17. Quad Runners- these off the road recreational toys are potentially lethal to many young people today. Most accidents that occur with adolescent males. Not wearing helmets is the number one reason for injury. Use of alcohol and drugs that impair judgment is another frequent problem. Children under the age of 16 should not be operating these without adult supervision. Setting a good adult example is part of teaching good safety.
18. Rock climbing- This activity, growing in popularity, can be an exciting challenge. Training and practice prior to actually taking an outdoor climb is essential. Wearing proper, well fitting gear is essential. Warming muscles up before a climb is important. Another safety tip: have your child practice ‘falling’ in an indoor rock gym. Rest between climbs and be sure they don’t overexert to avoid strained muscles.
19. Snakes, spiders and scorpions- Summertime will bring vacationers to areas inhabited by reptiles and arthropods that many are unfamiliar with. Even the locals, who will spend more free time outdoors playing and hiking, can run into them. Children need to be reminded that they are invading the creature’s natural environment and what to look out for while having fun. If a bite occurs, seek medical treatment at once.
20. Tree climbing- Children love to climb. Whether it is a fence, playground equipment or a tree in their own back yard, they will find reasons to get higher than anyone. Broken arms, scrapes, and concussions from falls are some of the common injuries from falling out of trees. Until they are older, stronger, and are more aware of where they are placing their hands and feet, young children need to be assisted by adults or older children.
Please take this poll:
What do you think is the highest area of injury for children?
Safety Tips for Families: 'U' -'Z'
21. Ultraviolet rays- Too much sun without proper sun block cause burns that can result in second (and third) degree blistering. Damaged skin and the symptoms that follow a burn can be avoided. Young babies and children are particularly susceptible. People with fair skin should take extra precautions.
22. Varmints- Those cute little furry creatures we see scurrying around through parks and woods, such as squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, and opossum can be enticing to young children who would like to get close enough to ‘feed the animals’. Although it is infrequent that a child is bit, wildlife animals are unpredictable.
23. Water sports- From swimming, to jet skiing there are many types of water sports and water crafts. Safety advisory for handling water crafts, including the popular personal water craft, or PWC, such as sea doo or jet ski activity requires proper fitting life jackets and a knowledge/experience of handling this machine. Never allow young children to operate one without supervision. A cardinal rule for water sports: wear life jackets.
24. X marks the spot- When visiting tourist spots, or when traveling with a group, decide on a designated area to meet, if you are separated. Teach your child who to approach if they do get lost. Keep an index card with pertinent identification information and cell phone number of parents, on your child.
25. Yellow jackets- this wasp like insect can be a big problem when outdoor meals are going on. If your child is allergic take the proper precautions in case they are stung. (See #9).
26. Zoo- What child or adult does not like to visit the zoo? This popular summertime activity is usually enjoyable and harmless. However, there are safety rules to follow to avoid any misfortune. Follow the rules the zoo authorities have posted. Feed the animals with caution. Do not allow children to climb up areas that are barriers, or go under gated partitions. Respect the animals that are caged by not allowing children to throw things at them, and thus, not provoking them.
Summertime can be much more enjoyable when everyone remains safe. Tragedies and injuries can be prevented by following proper safety precautions. Children learn best by example. By showing your child that YOU also follow the rules they are less likely to balk. I hope this guide serves as a quick reference with some simple facts. Stay safe!