Summer officially begins June 21st, which means more time outdoors, more travel, and more safety issues to be aware of. As with anything kids do, there are dangers, but think about some of the risks involved in activities that are new to your kids or that they haven’t done for a while. This is a good time to prepare them and you for summer’s fun and dangers and make sure your kids have all the right equipment, stay in touch and know what to do in case of an emergency.
Sports and Physical Activities
Before performing any sports, make sure your kids stretch first, wear protective gear such as helmets and proper shoes, and use safe and reliable equipment. Also be sure they are playing in a safe area, drink plenty of fluids such as water and sports drinks to stay hydrated and are prepared for emergencies with a fresh first-aid kit and emergency phone numbers to call for help if needed.
If you plan to be outside a lot, don’t forget sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher that protects your entire family against damaging UVA and UVB rays from the sun that can cause burns, blisters, and lead to cancer. There is no such thing as a safe tan, so follow the directions on the sunscreen of your choice to stay safe and reapply often especially after going in the water. Don’t forget hats too because the sun can make you squint which can cause a headache as well as burn your head, face, ears, and damage your hair as well. Add a pair of sunglasses that meet your particular needs and protect your eyes from the same damaging rays that sunscreen protects you from. Your eyes can be damaged too, causing cataracts, blindness, and other disorders as well as wrinkles on your face from squinting from the bright sun.
Going somewhere with lots of mosquitos or other bugs? Be sure to bring a repellant that is safe for kids and follow the directions on the label for use. Bites from infected mosquitos and other insects can cause serious illness and death.
Instates like California, Florida and Arizona, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death to children under five. CPSC offers the following tips for pool owners:
- Never leave a child unsupervised near a pool.
- Instruct babysitters about potential hazards to young children in and around swimming pools and the need for constant supervision.
- Completely fence the pool. Install self-closing and self-latching gates. Position latches out of reach of young children. Keep all doors and windows leading to the pool area secure to prevent small children from getting to the pool. Effective barriers and locks are necessary preventive measures, but there is no substitute for supervision.
- Do not consider young children “drown proof” because they have had swimming lessons; young children should always be watched carefully while swimming.
- Do not use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision.
- Never use a pool with its pool cover partially in place, since children may become entrapped under it. Remove the cover completely.
- Place tables and chairs well away from the pool fence to prevent children from climbing into the pool area.
- Keep toys away from the pool area because a young child playing with the toys could accidentally fall in the water.
- Remove steps to above ground pools when not in use.
- Have a telephone at poolside to avoid having to leave children unattended in or near the pool to answer a telephone elsewhere. Keep emergency numbers at the poolside telephone.
- Learn CPR.
- Keep rescue equipment by the pool.
Diving injuries can result in quadriplegia, paralysis below the neck, to divers who hit the bottom or side of a swimming pool, according to CPSC. Divers should observe the following precautions:
- Never dive into above-ground pools. They are too shallow.
- Don’t dive from the side of an in-ground pool. Enter the water feet first.
- Dive only from the end of the diving board and not from the sides.
- Dive with your hands in front of you and always steer up immediately upon entering the water to avoid hitting the bottom or sides of the pool.
- Don’t dive if you have been using alcohol or drugs because your reaction time may be too slow.
- Improper use of pool slides presents the same danger as improper diving techniques. Never slide down head first-slide down feet first only.
Additionally, Make sure your kids use good hygiene so they don’t spread germs. Encourage them to wash hands and be clean before entering the pool and be sure the little ones who aren’t potty trained wear disposable diapers made for swimming to be sure not to spread illness. Don’t let them in the pool if they have diarrhea which can make others sick or open wounds that can get infected. Chlorine doesn’t keep us safe from germs and is hard on skin, which means your kids can get sick with eye, ear, respiratory, skin or digestive illnesses from the water just by being in it. Be sure they know not to swallow the water or even get it in their mouths for the same reasons. Be sure to have them rinse off after swimming to protect their skin and reapply sunscreen before going back out in the sun. If your kids are prone to ear infections be sure to clean their ears as recommended by their pediatrician after swimming and use swimmer’s ear prevention drops as recommended. Do you need to have your kids wait 30 minutes before swimming? No, though foods that are higher in fat rather than carbohydrates are harder to digest, causing the body to use more energy which may make children less energetic. This can be dangerous if they are not properly supervised or cannot get out on their own.
Always wear a US Coast Guard approved life jacket when on a lake, river or ocean while boating, water skiing, jet skiing or tubing and warn your children about playing in canals or other fast moving water. Don’t allow your kids play behind the exhaust of boats and motor homes because the toxic fumes can lead to death very quickly.
Celebrations and Food Safety
Summer celebrations like the 4th of July involve fireworks which many people don’t realize can cause serious injury, damage and even death if not handled properly. Many states and localities prohibit fireworks, but it’s a good idea to teach your kids about safety in case they encounter fireworks anyway.
Foodborne illness also known as food poisoning does increase in the summer months, when the weather is warmer, because people have more picnics, barbecues and camping trips where there isn’t adequate refrigeration. Additionally, warmer weather and humidity enable bacteria to grow faster. Following a few simple rules should help you protect your family…
- Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often. Unwashed hands are a prime cause of foodborne illness. Wash your hands with hot, soapy water before handling food and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets. Be sure to keep cutting surfaces and utencils clean too. When eating away from home, find a source of clean water or bring water for preparation and cleaning. Pack clean, wet, disposable washcloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning hands and surfaces.
- Separate: Don’t Cross-Contaminate. Cross-contamination during preparation, grilling, and serving foodis a prime cause of foodborne illness. When packing the cooler, wrap raw meats securely and store separately to avoid raw meat juices from coming in contact with ready-to-eat food. When using the grill be sure to keep meats chilled until they go on the grill and wash plates, utensils, and cutting boards that held the raw meat or poultry before using again for cooked food.
- Cook: Cook to Proper Temperatures. Food is properly cooked when heated for a long enough time and at a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Use a meat thermometer to be sure that meat and poultry cooked on a grill is cooked thoroughly as it often browns very fast on the outside. Cook hamburger and other ground meats (veal, lamb, and pork) to an internal temperature of 160° F, and ground poultry to 165° F. Cook steaks and roasts that have been tenderized, boned, rolled, etc., to an internal temperature of 160° F for medium and 170° F for well-done. Whole steaks and roasts may be cooked to 145° F for medium rare. Whole poultry should be cooked to 180° F in the thigh; breast meat to 170° F. Cook meat and poultry completely at the picnic site. Partial cooking of food ahead of time allows bacteria to survive and multiply to the point that subsequent cooking cannot destroy them.
- Chill: Refrigerate Promptly. Holding food at an unsafe temperature is a prime cause of foodborne illness. Keep cold food cold! Cold refrigerated perishable food like lunch meats, cooked meats, chicken, and potato or pasta salads should be kept in an insulated cooler packed with several inches of ice, ice packs, or containers of frozen water. Consider packing canned beverages in one cooler and perishable food in another cooler because the beverage cooler will probably be opened frequently. Keep the cooler in the coolest part of the car, and place in the shade or shelter, out of the sun, whenever possible. Preserve the cold temperature of the cooler by replenishing the ice as soon as it starts melting. If a cooler chest is not an option, consider taking fruits, vegetables, hard cheeses, canned or dried meats, dried cereal, bread, peanut butter, crackers, and a bottle of refreshing beverage. If you don’t plan to eat take-out food within 2 hours of purchase, plan ahead and chill the food in your refrigerator before packing for your outing.
Food left out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours may not be safe to eat. At 90° F or above, food should not be left out over 1 hour. Play it safe; put leftover perishables back on ice once you finish eating so they do not spoil or become unsafe to eat. If you have any doubt, throw it out. HAVE FUN, BE SAFE, ENJOY!