While summer days filled with swimming, bike riding and toasting s’mores are every child’s dream, each of these activities can quickly become a parent’s worst nightmare if the proper safety precautions aren’t taken. Here’s a look at some common sense ways to keep your kids safe this summer.
According to the CDC, drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 4. Even non-fatal drowning injuries can lead to devastating health issues for children such as brain damage and learning delays. While community pools may seem like the major culprit, home pools are actually the source of most childhood drownings. It is important that parents establish safety measures anytime their children are around water.
Beth Tharp, director of the Learn to Swim lesson program at the IU Natatorium shares her expert opinion on water safety. Tharp emphasizes that getting children acclimated to water as early as possible, teaching them to float on their backs and having conversations about water safety are critical steps that parents should take by enrolling their child in a swim class like those offered at the IU Natatorium. Beth points out that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children aged 1 to 4 years. However, even if a young child has learned some swimming skills, parents should never leave them around any level of water unattended. It only takes as little as an inch of water for a child to drown. Parents should also make sure that the flotation devices that their children are using are Coast Guard approved. Inflatable water wings, foam noodles and water toys are not approved safety flotation devices, and they should never be substituted for adult supervision.
Physical activity is incredibly important for children, and one of the best ways to get active in the summer is by biking. Dr. Sarah Gangadhar, a pediatrician with Franciscan Physician Network says that the most important rule for bike safety is that a helmet MUST be worn every time and all of the time that a child is on a bike. Children ages 5-14 have an increased rate of injuries compared to older children even when they are just biking in their own neighborhoods, and many of these injuries include head trauma. Gangadhar also says that children should not ride their bikes at night. They should never carry another passenger with them, and they should keep both hands on the handle bars at all times unless signaling a turn. Staying on the sidewalk is a great way to avoid injuries, but in neighborhoods where sidewalks aren’t an option, parents should teach their children to follow the rules of the road: stopping at stop signs and lights, always assuming that cars do not see them and learning to signal appropriately.
While campfires, s’mores and fireworks all scream summer fun, these activities can also lead to severe injuries. Dr. Gangadhar emphasizes that the 4th of July is a great time to talk with children about fire safety plans. Parents can use this as an opportunity to discuss the dangers of playing with matches or fireworks, how to react in case of a fire, how to get out of the house and where their designated meeting spot will be in the event of a fire. Parents should enforce a “safety ring” of about 3-5 feet away from any fire pit or open fire. Toddlers who are still a little unsteady should be kept at a safe distance from fires just in case they happen to trip and fall. Even the ash from a fire that has been out for over 24 hours can still lead to severe burns.
Injuries do happen, even when well-intentioned parents and caregivers are attentive to the safety recommendations listed here. But, many injuries can also be avoided. For more on summer safety tips for children, check out the CDC’s recommendations and fast fact sheets.