Summertime is finally here. Swimming pools, lightening bugs, ice cream , and all kinds of outdoor fun. Parents naturally want their children to enjoy these summertime treats, and make memories that will last throughout their lives as they grow and explore the world around them. But summer can also be a dangerous time of year. In fact, most sport related injuries occur in the summer months. July is the deadliest time of year for unintentional injuries among children. The key to a safe and fun summer is simple awareness and prevention.
Obviously, swimming pool safety is a no-brainer. But a parent of young children needs to also be cautious about baby pools and slip-n-slides. An infant can just as easily drown in a wading pool as a large swimming pool. Children can break bones, and even their necks if not properly monitored on slip-n-slides. When at the beach or in a boat, children and toddlers need to wear good quality life jackets .( U.S. Coast Guard actually approves some brands and types.) Look for life jackets that buckle not only around the chest and waist, but between the legs as well. This will keep the life jacket in its proper position. Make sure to steer clear of areas with strong tides or currents as well. During pool parties, or trips to the beach where there may be a lot of children and even more confusion, designate an “observer”. It may even be helpful to attach the responsibility to an object, such as a whistle or wristband. Whoever is wearing the wristband is the adult keeping an eye over little swimmers.
Another danger is heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Little bodies love to run around, and always seem to be in motion. ( Don’t you wish you could have that kind of energy?) In the summer months, when the average high in south Alabama is well into the 90’s, it can be easy to fall victim to heat exhaustion. If the air is hotter than the skin ( about 98 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius) the body will absorb more heat. High humidity also makes it harder for little bodies to rid themselves of excess heat. Children are more susceptible to heat stroke and exhaustion because their bodies do not regulate themselves as well as adult bodies, and they lack the self-control needed to stop playing and rest. Babies especially are at risk because they absorb more heat from their environment , produce more heat when they exercise, and sweat less than older kids and adults. To combat this, try to find shady areas for your children to play. Keep them well hydrated with water, or water-based beverages such as Gatorade, PowerAde, or even Kool-Aid. If necessary, call a time-out on outdoor activities if the temperature during the mid afternoon hours is higher than 98 degrees, and plan outdoor activities during the cooler morning or evening hours.
When playing sports or riding bikes, make sure your equipment is up to date and functional. Little bikers should be wearing a properly-fitting helmet, and elbow pads don’t hurt either. Always monitor young athletes carefully, and make sure you know your child’s limits. Most sport-related sprains and muscle tears occur when kids push themselves beyond those limits.
Another key to a safe summer is making sure you are caught up on your first aid. Have a kit ready in an easily accessed spot in your home. Make sure it has all the essentials such as bandages, alcohol pads, ointment, etc. Many drug stores have prepackaged kits you can buy. Just make sure to restock it if you use an item. If you are not already CPR certified, make it a priority to take a class. Even if you think you know how to perform CPR, you should take a class as the procedure differs for infants and young children. The American Heart Association recently changed it’s ventilation to compression ratio.( That’s how many times you breathe air into the patient and how many times you pump their heart)
As a parent, you want your children to be as safe as possible. Inevitably, accidents can and will happen. A little preparation goes a long way. With some simple steps, you and your kids can both enjoy all the treats and excitement of summertime. So grab a water bottle, and get out there. Make some ( safe!) memories with your child you both will treasure for a lifetime.