It’s that time of year again – school’s out, no more homework and children have lots of free time to have fun. But during summer, with the constant outdoor play – including water activities and, of course, the hot weather – we should be extra cautious about potential threats to children’s safety. Here are some important tips that can help keep your children out of danger – and out of the emergency room.
• Never leave a child alone in or near the water, not even for a minute. Children – even those who are good swimmers – should swim only with adult supervision.
• Floatation devices and inflatable toys are just that – toys. They do not replace adult supervision in the swimming pool, a kiddie pool or a bathtub. It only takes seconds for a child to drown.
• If you have a backyard pool or live on the water, you need to have layers of protection to safeguard your children. These include: window and door locks/alarms, self-latching and self-locking pool fencing, a Shepherd’s Hook or rescue ring, and a telephone nearby (with emergency numbers and your address by the telephone).
• No diving into the water – always go in feet first to protect the head and neck.
• Select swimming sites that have lifeguards available. Never swim in unguarded lakes or canals because there may be many dangers just beneath the surface of the water.
•Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Due to the time it may take for paramedics to arrive, CPR skills can make the difference between life and death.
• If you see someone in trouble in the water, “Throw Don’t Go.” Do not jump in any body of water to rescue someone, because they may pull you under. Throw them a rope or rescue ring.
• Always wear a helmet when bike riding. It’s the law, and it can prevent head injuries and even death from a bicycle crash. Helmets and other safety gear should also be worn when skateboarding, skating, and riding scooters and ATVs.
• Stay in control, be predictable and do not let more than one person ride a bike. No towing!
• Watch out for hazards, such as loose gravel, potholes, broken glass, and stray dogs. Make sure your children wear bright colored clothing when biking. Teach them that just because they see a car, it does not mean the driver of the car sees them.
• Observe all signs, traffic lights, and street and sidewalk markings; ride single file; and use a steady front white light and a steady rear red light as well as reflectors when riding after dark.
• The sun is strongest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., so try to keep your children out of direct sunlight during this time of day.
• Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to all children over six months old – and reapply it every two hours, or more if swimming. Use sunscreen even when you’re in the shade.
• Children should drink plenty of fluids; they are susceptible to heat exhaustion and dehydration.
• There are many different types of insect repellents available including aerosol, spray, liquid, cream, and sticks. Protection and duration vary considerably among products and insect species.
• Apply safe and effective insect repellents to the outside of clothing and exposed skin. Insect repellents containing DEET should not be used on children under two months old.
• Do not allow children to handle insect repellents.
• Apply repellent to your own hands and then put it on the child’s exposed skin.
• Never apply the repellent directly to children’s hands and faces. Rub it into their necks and ears, staying away from their mouths and eyes.
• Dusk and dawn are the worst times for bugs, so stay indoors during these times or wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
•After returning indoors, wash your child’s treated skin or bathe the child.
• Clothes exposed to insect repellants should be washed with soap and water.
Cindy Magnole is the injury prevention coordinator at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and a registered nurse in the Chaplin Family Pediatric Emergency Room at Holtz Children’s Hospital. She is also chair of the Miami-Dade County Injury Prevention Coalition. Cindy can be contacted at cmagnole@ jhsmiami.org.