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Everyone looks forward to the summer, but if you have kids it can also mean an increase in your anxiety levels about their safety as they get outside to play. While their days will hopefully be filled with endless fun and laughter, as the responsible adult you will have a little more to worry about than when they are safely indoors during the winter months. Injuries to children spike in the summertime, and while most will end up being a minor inconvenience, some can be life-threatening. Many of these injuries, however, are unnecessary and can be easily avoided.
Falling when running causes most injuries, with more serious mishaps occurring when trees or man-made structures are climbed with a resultant fall – limbs are easily broken with a fall from quite a low height. However, the main safety worry is caused by the presence of a body of water to which the children have access. This can be in the form of a swimming pool, garden pond or natural water features in the neighborhood. These places act as a magnet to young children when the weather is hot. Children should be supervised at all times near water that is deep enough to be a threat.
It is very important to warn children about the potential hazards that exist in and around the area in which you live during the long, hot days of summer, but do not over do it. Kids need to explore and have experiences, including the odd scare that does no harm at all. The all-important thing is to ensure that injury does not result. Here are a few tips that will help you to ensure a safe and fun summer for everyone.
Here are a few tips that will help you to ensure a safe and fun summer for everyone.
1. Be prepared
The first and best tip is also the motto of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts: be prepared. Check your family first-aid kit and make sure that it is packed with adhesive bandages, anti-bacterial spray, cream or wipes, scissors, gauze, adhesive tape, a thermometer, a blanket and a list of emergency phone numbers. Have instructions in the kit or get training on CPR, the Heimlich maneuver and basic first-aid administration. Most local fire departments offer classes on all of the above free of charge, or for a minimal fee. Or use the RedCross’s search tool to find training in your area.
2. Take care around the water
Any time your child will be around water, stop what you are doing and keep an eye out. If the picnic lunch or volleyball game is a bit delayed, so be it. Every year children are injured or killed in and around rivers, lakes, streams and swimming pools. Explain water-safety rules to your child and hold him or her to them; a five or ten minute time out penalty for breaking a rule will demonstrate that you mean business, and help to reinforce the importance of water safety precautions.
3. Guard against the sun
Sunlight is much stronger today than it was even a generation ago due to the thinning of the ozone layer, and younger children’s skin – which is thinner and hasn’t developed a resistance to UV rays – can burn in just a few minutes. Ensure that your children use at least a 15 SPF sunscreen or sunblock (please consider using a natural sunscreen) while they are outside, remain in the shade when possible and wear sunglasses to protect their eyes. In general, babies and toddlers should not be out in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are at their peak.
4. Protective gear
Have protective gear available and make certain that your children understand how to use it properly. Flotation devices when in the water, a helmet when riding a bicycle or scooter and protective wrist, knee and elbow pads as well as a helmet when skating or skateboarding are all essential pieces of safety equipment and can help to prevent serious injury if worn properly.
5. Environmental dangers
Be on the lookout for hazardous plants such as poison ivy or poison oak, as well as insects including ticks, spiders, wasps and bees. As it will be almost impossible to avoid all of these hazards – particularly if your kids are playing in a wooded area – make certain to have calamine lotion, Benadryl or other anti-itch treatments readily available. Additionally, it is important to make certain that smaller children play well away from adults who are burning leaves or brush, mowing the lawn or playing games that could injure them, such as baseball or tennis.
It is important to check the environment inside the house as well as outside, and ensure that it is as safe as it can be. Make certain to regularly inspect your child’s play area for any damaged furniture or toys that could pose a potential risk of injury. Keep baby gates and door locks in good repair, and make certain to use them. Keep furniture and other things your child can climb on away from windows, particularly those above the ground floor level.
6. Spend more time with your children
If you spend a whole day or more cleaning your home, you’ll probably have to leave your children to play unattended. Instead, consider getting a professional service in to do the house cleaning during the summer months. You’ll not only eliminate an activity you don’t enjoy, but you’ll be replacing it with other activities that are far more rewarding and memorable.