Warm Weather Safety
By Megan Kelly
Summer time is in full swing, and the warm weather is here. Fun in the sun, picnics, swimming, and outdoor play are all enjoyable ways for children to spend the summer season, but safety should always be kept in mind. Since children spend much more time outdoors during the summer months, a higher number of unsafe situations can, and often do develop. It is very important for parents, and caregivers of children to educate themselves as much as possible about any summer time activities that their children may become involved in. While children can, and should also be taught summertime safety measures, it can be difficult to teach the concept of “safety” to a child. Children should be taught simple, easy to follow rules regarding summertime activities, such as: only walk on sidewalks, stay in the yard, and only go in the pool with an adult present. By following safety procedures both parents, caregivers, and children themselves, can make sure that their summer is spent both safely, and enjoyably.
One of the most popular activities of summer is swimming. Whether it be in a pool, lake, or river, it is very important to practice safety around water. Adults must remember that children need constant supervision around water. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury related death for children ages one to fourteen years old. Most children that drown in pools were out of an adults’ sight for less than five minutes, and were under the care of one, or both of their parents at the time of drowning.
In addition to constant supervision, children should be taught how to swim, and to keep themselves afloat while in the water. Many YMCA and town programs offer swimming lessons starting when children are three or four years old. There are also programs offered for children as young as six months old, who are accompanied by a parent or caretaker while in the water. Swimming programs for infants and young children focus mainly on teaching the child how to keep themselves afloat in the water, thus adding another layer of safety to swimming, and water activities. However, it is important to remember that a child’s ability to swim can never take the place of adult supervision around water.
The American Red Cross advises the following tips for water safety:
• “Always maintain constant supervision of children whenever around water.
• Avoid distractions when supervising children around water. Don’t read, text or talk on the phone while kids are in the water.
• Have children or inexperienced swimmers wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket around the water, but don’t rely on life jackets alone. Don’t use air-filled or foam toys such as inner tubes or noodles as safety devices.
• Block access to unguarded, non-designated swimming areas, and install a four-sided isolation fence with self-closing and self-latching gates around backyard swimming pools.
• Swim only in places that are supervised by a lifeguard.
• Learn life-saving skills, such as CPR and rescue techniques, in addition to the basics of swimming, including floating and treading water.
• Never play or swim near drains or suction outlets, especially in spas and shallow pools.
• If a child is missing, always check the water first. It takes only a few seconds for a child to drown.”
Safety precautions should also be taken because of the high temperatures in the summer months. According to the National Weather Service, heat is one of the leading weather related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year. Heat related illnesses can range from heat cramps, heat exhaustion, to heat stroke. Heat stroke can be fatal, and requires immediate medical attention.
To prevent heat related illnesses, make sure children are offered plenty to drink, especially while playing out doors on warm days and remind them to drink. Have children take breaks from vigorous play during the hottest parts of the day, either indoors in a cool room, or outside in a shady area. Always make sure that children wear waterproof sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Sunglasses that block harmful UV rays are also a good consideration for children that spend a lot of time in the sun and outdoors.
Safety issues regarding heat must also be taken into consideration when traveling anywhere with children in a car during summer months. The National Weather Service recommends the following safety practices regarding cars and children during the summer months:
– “Make sure your child’s safety seat and safety belt buckles aren’t too hot before securing your child in a safety restraint system, especially when your car has been parked in the heat.
-Never leave your child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows down.
-Teach children not to play in, on, or around cars.
-Always make sure all children have left the car when you reach your destination. Don’t leave sleeping infants in the car ever.
-Always lock car doors and trunks–even at home–and keep keys out of children’s reach.”
Another popular summer family activity is viewing fireworks displays. The safest way to view a fireworks display is to view them from a safe distance at a public event, where they are being set off by professionals, and to never use fireworks at home. Fireworks can cause serious burns, or eye injuries, and should never be handled by children. Do not allow children to pick up pieces of used fireworks after an event, the pieces may still be hot, or even ignited, and could still explode.
Keeping safety in mind at all times can go a long way towards preventing, and eliminating almost all accidents that most frequently occur during the summer months. By spending just a small amount of time educating themselves, parents and caregivers can make sure that their children’s summers are full of enjoyment, while being as safe as possible.