Summertime safety guidelines for children

Summer weather makes it much easier to motivate your kids to get off the couch and away from their screens. But while summer is a great time for families to spend time enjoying the outdoors, it is also the time of year when kids age 14 and younger are most frequently injured.

When you and your kids are enjoying the summer weather -; by biking, hiking, swimming, at the playground, or just in the backyard -; be sure to follow these guidelines to keep your family safe.

Wear a helmet!

When biking, skating, or riding a scooter, make sure your kids are always wearing a helmet. Helmets can help absorb and cushion blows to the head and reduce the risk of serious head and brain injury by 85 percent.

When choosing the right helmet to wear, make sure it is snug (the helmet does not slide side-to-side, forward, or backward), level (the helmet does not tilt, fully covers the top of the forehead, and sits squarely), and stable (the chinstrap fixes the helmet in place and it does not rock back and forth). Get a helmet your kids like, as this will make them much more likely to wear it. Lead by example and wear a helmet yourself.

It's important to always ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, and wear high visibility gear. Avoid riding at night.

Heat and sun safety

If your kids are going to be spending time in the hot summer sun, take proper steps to avoid conditions such as heatstroke, dehydration, and sunburn. Supervise your kids and make sure they get enough to drink -; water is always the best choice -; especially if they are running around in the sun or sweating in the heat.

Always apply sunscreen on your kids' skin before they go outside. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using SPF 15 or greater and reapplying at least every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

Insect safety

One of the hazards of the outdoors is insect bites or stings. These can be painful, cause allergic reactions, contain toxins, or even transmit illnesses such as Lyme disease. There are several ways to protect kids against insect bites and stings, including:

  • Use an insect repellent that contains between 10 percent to 30 percent of the active ingredient DEET. Always check that you are using the appropriate amount of insect repellent based on age, and reapply it after swimming according to instructions. Do not use insect repellent with DEET for infants younger than two months old.
  • Avoid wearing flowery clothing, bright colors, and perfumes as these can attract insects.
  • Many experts think that ticks need to be attached for at least 24 to 48 hours to cause tick-related illnesses such as Lyme disease. So check your kids for ticks every night to reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses.

Water safety

Playing in the water can be a lot of fun for kids and families, but it is also one of the most dangerous activities for children. Drowning is one of the leading causes of injury deaths in the U.S., and kids -; particularly age five and younger -; can be especially vulnerable. To keep your kids safe around water, follow these guidelines:

  • If you have any type of water near your house, make sure kids cannot get outside on their own. Keep pools fenced in and make sure doors and gates are self-locking.
  • Do not leave kids near water unsupervised. If your child is five years old or younger, practice "touch supervision" around water, always keeping your child within arms reach.
  • Adult supervisors should have CPR training.
  • Be careful around inflatable pools because kids may lean on the sides and fall in.
  • Avoid stagnant water. Mosquitoes and water-borne diseases thrive in and around stagnant water. Contact your healthcare provider and local health authority if you think you or your child may have contracted a water-borne disease.
  • When boating, the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that kids wear life jackets. In Connecticut, all children 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times on a boat.
  • Always seek emergency medical attention after a near drowning, especially if your child was submerged for more than five minutes; life support (e.g., CPR, rescue breathing) was administered 10 minutes or more from the time of the event; or resuscitation took more than 25 minutes from the time of the event.

Neighborhood safety

Taking your kids to neighborhood hangouts and local events is a great way for them to meet peers, make friends, and learn how to be a part of the community. It's important to make sure that these events and locations are safe for your children.

Playgrounds. Playgrounds can seem like the most child-friendly places to go -; after all, they are built for kids! But each year in the U.S., more than 200,000 children are treated for playground-related injuries. Most of these injuries are fall-related and occur on swings, monkey bars, or climbing sets.

To reduce the risk of your child being injured at a playground, make sure that the ground underneath and around the play area is a soft material such as rubber, mulch, sand, or wood chips. Make sure the playground is clear of tripping hazards, like tree stumps, and has guardrails that are in good condition. Supervise your child, particularly when on swings, monkey bars, or climbing sets.

Fireworks. Kids and adults alike love watching fireworks. It can be tempting to go over to your neighbor's home to watch them set off a display, or even purchase fireworks yourself. However, fireworks -; even "safe" fireworks such as sparklers -; can reach temperatures exceeding 1,800 degrees and cause serious burns.

One-quarter of fireworks injuries to kids occur when they are bystanders, and many of the rest occur while they are playing with fireworks under adult supervision. If you and your family are going to enjoy fireworks, the safest way to do so is by attending an event managed by trained professionals. Avoid buying fireworks for home use.

Trampolines. Bouncing on a trampoline may be your child's dream, but trampolines are one of the most common causes of serious, even catastrophic, injury. According to the latest data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2014 alone, there were more than 100,000 trampoline-related injuries that had to be treated in an emergency department.

The AAP does not recommend trampolines in any setting. However many kids use them anyway. So while I also do not endorse trampoline use, the following information might be useful to lower injury risk. Make sure the trampoline has a net and shock-absorbing pads covering the springs, hooks, and frames. Allow only one person on at a time, do not allow kids under age six to use a full-size trampoline, and prohibit your kids from doing somersaults or flips. Keep kids from going under the trampoline where they could be injured by someone bouncing above them. Always supervise your kids on a trampoline. And if you own a trampoline, verify your insurance covers trampoline-related injury.

Enjoy summer!

Put down the devices, enjoy the great weather, and spend family time outdoors. Have a safe, healthy, and fun summer!


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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