My husband and I have two visions of summer. In mine, the family is relaxing, soaking up sunshine, building sandcastles, and letting mint-chocolate-chip ice cream drip down our chins. My husband, on the other hand, is a natural worrier with a talent for imagining every worst-case scenario. His vision of summer features sunburns, kids with broken limbs, and terrifying bugs.
Summer should be a time for relaxation, but my husband is wise not to relax too much when it comes to safe behaviors. According to Dwayne Smith of Safe Kids Colorado, health and medical professionals do see a spike in accidents during the summer months. Take the following precautions and both the relaxer and the worrier will be better able to enjoy carefree summer days.
Teach Them Water Safety
Swimming is one of the best ways to exercise and beat the summer heat, but it can also be dangerous.
“We are lucky to have so many different options for swimming in our beautiful state, from indoor and outdoor pools and water parks, to lakes and streams,” says Gretchen Burdekin, aquatics program specialist at the American Red Cross.
However, Burdekin emphasizes it’s important to keep safety in mind for all bodies of water. She says that children can drown in a variety of locations including large buckets or tubs, bath tubs, toilets, natural bodies of water such as rivers or lakes, and man-made bodies of water including aqueducts, drainage canals, and ditches.
Backyard pools are particularly worrisome as children can wander outside and fall into a pool in the span of just a few minutes. If you have your own pool, be sure to install safety measures such as fencing, door alarms, and/or pool covers for protection.
To stay safe, the Red Cross recommends that you always swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards. Always swim with a buddy, and ensure that everyone in your family learns how to swim well.
Keep Them Hydrated
Drink to this: We live in a state with the highest average elevation in the country. Staying hydrated is particularly important in Colorado, in all seasons.
“Young athletes should drink about 10 gulps for every 20 minutes of play and teens should drink about 20 gulps,” says Smith. “Just because you don’t feel thirsty doesn’t mean that you don’t need water.” Symptoms of dehydration range from muscle cramping to faintness or dizziness, nausea, and rapid heartbeat.
Give Them a Shot
Of sunscreen, that is. Cover the kiddos in enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass before heading out and reapply every two hours. Children’s Hospital Colorado recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 and avoiding the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Consumer Reports recommends against using spray sunscreens until more research into their safety is conducted.
Be a Helmet Head
Your kids may wear many hats during the summer, but helmets are the most crucial, as they have been proven to prevent almost all (88 percent) serious brain injuries. Make sure your child has a proper fitting helmet (and wears it!) for all summer activities including biking, scootering, and skateboarding.
Avoid Accidental Injury
Aside from wheeled sports, falls and pedestrian injuries also increase during the summer months. More falls occur when windows are left open and children spend more time on balconies, sports fields, and playgrounds. To help protect against falls, use window guards and look for playground equipment with protective surfacing.
Pay extra attention near streets and vehicles. “Children are at a high risk of pedestrian injuries because they are impulsive and have difficulty judging speed, spatial relationships and distance, and cannot reliably do so until they are at least 10 years old,” says Smith. Pedestrian signage and crosswalk strips as well as low-speed zones and speed bumps are effective in reducing incidents. Parents can contact their local municipality to request improving the infrastructure. A significant number of injuries with motor vehicles occur in driveways when children are playing or walking behind a vehicle. Be aware, use back-up cameras, or walk around your car before backing up.
Don’t Get Bugged
Insects transmit Zika, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease, so use an effective insect repellent while playing outdoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of products containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535. Some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection. These ingredients are registered with the EPA, which means that the EPA does not expect the product to cause adverse effects to human health or the environment, when used according to the label. For more tips on fighting mosquitoes and other insects, visit fightthebitecolorado.com/index.htm.
Be Animal Aware
Dogs are great family pets but, doggone it, not all of them are friendly and safe to be around. Teach kids that when approached or chased by an unfamiliar or unattended dog, they should use the “be a tree” technique from doggonesafe.com: stop, fold in your branches (arms), watch your roots grow (put your head down), and count in your head until help comes.
If they are meeting a new dog, remind your kids of these tips from Dr. Ivy Rowling at Cherished Companions Veterinary Clinic in Castle Rock.
- Teach children to approach dogs slowly and calmly, allowing the dog to become comfortable before touching.
- Always ask the dog’s owner for permission to interact with the dog. Most owners know the limits of their pets.
- Owners should follow The Yellow Dog Program’s protocol by tying a yellow ribbon to a potentially aggressive dog’s collar or leash. This helps alert anyone not familiar with the dog to proceed with caution.
Keep Cold Food Cold
Picnics, park playdates, and camping all involve keeping food outdoors for long periods of time. As temperatures outside climb, the chances of food-borne illnesses also increase.
When serving food outdoors, do not leave perishable food out for more than two hours or less than one hour in hotter (90 degree) temperatures. Also, serve cold food in small portions, and keep the rest in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Visit foodsafety.gov for more summer food safety tips.
From swimming to picnics, safe practices for summer activities benefit everyone. Parents can relax knowing they’ve done all they can do, and kids get to go out another day for every day they come home safe and healthy.
Learn to Keep Others Safe
The Red Cross offers a wide variety of classes from CPR, First Aid, and AED training to prepare you to respond to emergency situations or even save a life.
More Water Safety Tips
- Never leave a young child unattended near water.
- Do not trust a child’s life to another child.
- Teach children to always ask permission before going near water.
- Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water, but do not rely on life jackets alone.
- Establish rules for your family when around water, and enforce them without fail. For example, set limits based on each person’s ability, do not let anyone play around drains and suction fittings, and do not allow swimmers to have breath-holding contests.
- Even if you do not plan on swimming, be cautious around natural bodies of water including ocean shoreline, rivers, and lakes. Cold temperatures, currents, and underwater hazards can make a fall into these bodies of water dangerous.
- If you go boating, wear a life jacket. Most boating fatalities occur from drowning.