At this point in the school year, nothing excites students more than hearing two simple words – summer vacation! But, with the approach of “those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” (described so aptly by Nat King Cole in his 1963 hit of the same name), it is important to keep in mind that the season does not come without its dangers.
Experts refer to summer as the “trauma season” because of the typical rise in children’s injuries during this time of year. The majority of such injuries can be avoided if parents simply take some precautionary measures to prevent the accidents that cause them; oftentimes the age of the child is a significant factor in determining the best preventative strategies (http://betterkidcare.psu.edu/FTWT/FTWT0906Jun.pdf).
Consider some facts about these leading risks for accidents and injuries during the summer months:
- Heat stress involves a simultaneous rise in body temperature and shutting down of the body’s natural cooling system. The progressive symptoms of heat stress include thirst, fatigue, cramps, dizziness, nausea, headaches, and lack of alertness. Proper hydration is the key to prevention!
- Children who are participating in prolonged outdoor activities should be kept well-hydrated, dressed in lightweight and light-colored clothing, and encouraged to take periodic breaks.
- According to the CDC, nearly 400 people die each year from heat-related illness. The risk of heat exhaustion (which, left untreated, may progress to heat stroke) increases with physical exertion and certain health conditions (http://pediatrics.about.com/od/summersafety/a/heat_illness.htm).
- Skin cancer is an ever-growing concern in our environment.
- Always be sure children wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 or higher (and reapply every 2 hours or after prolonged periods of swimming or sweating); avoid sun exposure midday, when the sun is strongest; wear UVA/UVB treated sunglasses to protect their eyes; and wear a brimmed hat and adequate clothing to protect the skin.
- It is especially important to keep all of these precautions in mind for infants because their skin is very thin and, therefore, quite susceptible to sunburn.
- Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death among young children. Children should always wear life vests and be under adequate adult supervision when swimming or boating.
- Home swimming pools should be fully enclosed and securely gated. Keep in mind that the suction from pool and spa drains can trap a swimmer underwater; be sure these are covered by anti-entrapment drain covers (http://www.healthychildren.org/english/news/pages/summer-safety-tips-sun-and-water-safety.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token).
- Even the most-experienced swimmers should never swim alone!
- Children should always be properly restrained when riding in a vehicle. Extended summer road trips seem to bring the temptation to remove safety belts and/or allow children out of booster seats. Frequent stops to allow children to move around are advisable to avoid these temptations (http://www.health.am/ab/more/doctor-offers-tips-for-keeping-kids-safe/).
- Children should wear proper safety gear when riding bikes, inline skates, and skateboards.
- Boats should only be operated by properly-trained adults. Again, children should always wear life vests and be under close adult supervision whenever on a boat.
- Mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas can transmit a number of deadly diseases. They are more active in summer months.
- Be sure children are sprayed with an appropriate mosquito and tick repellant before playing outdoors. Warn them to avoid leaf-litter and high grasses as these tend to be tick-infested areas.
- Be sure to keep pets on an adequate flea and tick control program, too. Pets need to be dewormed; children can contract roundworm and/or hookworm from playing on soil contaminated by pet feces (http://www.cdc.gov/Features/MovingOutdoors/).
Your kids have looked forward to summer all school year long. It’s a time for making memories, not trips to the emergency room. Keeping a few simple safety tips in mind can help ensure such a wonderful summer vacation that “you’ll wish that summer could always be here.”