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6 tips to keep kids safe and carefree all summer long

Tiffanie Drayton
July 11, 2018

Summer is here, and that means school is out, pools and beaches are open and many fun-filled adventures await families and their kids. But more fun can sometimes mean more potential for danger. The CDC reports that thousands of children die every year as a result of wholly preventable, unintentional injuries like falls, burns and drowning — and summer is the time of the year when such accidents are more likely to happen. For example, on average, 3,536 people die annually because of unintentional drownings, and about one in five of those people is a child younger than age 14.

So while parents are on the lookout for the most exciting activities for their kids this summer, they should also be extra vigilant about safety. Even just the watchful eye of a parent can mean the difference between a summer of fun and one overcome with tragedy. Here are six things to keep top of mind when your family’s having fun during the summer months.

1. Stay on high-alert near water

Drowning is one of the most common and preventable summertime dangers, and it can easily happen in the place you’d consider the safest: at home. According to the CDC, 30 percent of all unintentional deaths for toddlers between the ages of 1 and 4 were drownings, and oftentimes these children end up in such life or death circumstances in their own back yard.

“The majority of drownings and near-drownings occur in residential swimming pools and in open water sites,” says Natalia Bergmen, child safety expert and spokesperson for Boo Boo Busters, which provides professional baby-proofing and home safety services. The comfort of the home can give parents a false sense of safety and lead them to let their guard down. But where there is water and kids, parents should always be extra cautious.

“Make sure there are pool fences, door alarms, door locks, and we encourage swim lessons and CPR training.”

Still, even the most sophisticated fences, locks and alarms can fail. And even the most incredible kid swimmers are still kids who may be vulnerable in the water. So, it’s always important to keep a watchful eye on any open water and never get too comfortable, even when it seems like everything is under control.

2. Never leave kids alone in cars

Many families rely on their motor vehicles to get from activity to activity during the summer, but parents may not consider that all of that extra time in the car has dangers of its own. According to the safety organization Kids and Cars, an average of 37 children die each year in hot cars.

“It doesn’t have to be a hot, sunny day for temperatures inside a car to quickly rise to dangerous levels,” Bergmen says.

Children should never be left in cars alone. They may not know how or be able to exit the car on their own if it gets too warm.

Bergmen also recommends car seats be properly installed and seat belts worn at all times — whether on a road trip across the country or just a quick trip to the grocery store. And don’t forget: The back seat is the safest place for all children.

3. Carry SPF 30 and above to apply at all times

“Kids’ skin is more susceptible to damage from sun, so its very important that they wear hats and don’t spend too much time in the sun,” says Dr. G. Remington Brooks, medical director of the Princeton Wound Care Center. “If they do, they should always wear sunblock with an SPF greater than 30, and remember that it doesn’t last forever and should be applied every couple of hours.”

When possible, find shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun is the most direct, and always wear sunblock that offers both UVA and UVB protection. Though UVB rays only burn the superficial layers of your skin, they are responsible for most of the pesky sunburns you get in the summer sun, and are closely tied to the development of skin cancers. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and can lead to wrinkles and signs of aging. So it’s important to protect yourself from both kinds of sun rays.

4. Beware of burn hazards

According to the CDC. over 300 children between the ages 0 to 19 are treated in emergency rooms for burns everyday and two die as a result of being burned. There are the obvious culprits that involve open flames, like barbeque grills and decorative tiki torches. But there are other dangers you may not even have on your radar like your outdoor hose, which can pose serious burn hazards for kids at home.

In San Talley, Arizona, a 9-month-old child was hospitalized after he suffered second-degree burns on 30 percent of his body when he was sprayed by water from a hose that heated to scalding temperatures in the sun.

“Dangers are always around, and people have to be mindful to keep kids away from anything that gets very hot,” Brooks says.

Playground equipment and the metal parts of objects like seatbelts can also become incredibly hot if left in the sun, so teach your kids to exercise caution when coming into contact with them.

5. Brush up on the list of of poisons

Depending on the climate you’re in, the summer months can produce swarms of harmful insects. To combat this, we often douse ourselves in chemical-filled bug sprays, too much of which can cause reactions in those with the most sensitive systems. Similarly, it’s important to watch out for food-borne illnesses from things like undercooked meat at a family barbecue.  

“The summer presents its own set of unique challenges,” says Edward Walrod, a spokesperson for the American Association of Poison Control Centers. “Pesticide (bug sprays, cleaners, etc.), foods during summer celebrations, and even the weather presents dangers.”

There are ways to ensure you and your loved ones can enjoy a poison-free summer.

“Keep any and all medicines, pesticides and substances out of reach of children and properly stored, and make sure all food is properly stored and cooked all the way through,” Walrod says.

If you suspect that your kids have come in contact with a poison, do not hesitate to call the National Poison Help Hotline at 800-222-1222, or use the webPOISONCONTROL online tool. You can also text POISON to 797979 to save the number in your phone.

6. Make your home a safety fortress

For many kids, summertime means more time to spend at home. So parents have to be extra careful to secure everyday household items, stabilize furniture and keep doors locked. Also, keep your eyes peeled for unexpected safety hazards like cords, wires and sharp objects.

“The cords on blinds can be a hazard, because many times they hang too low and become a toy for a young child, leading to a strangulation problem,” says baby-proofing expert Jeff Gansky. “Installing a cleat to wrap the cord around will keep it out of reach.”    

While it isn’t necessarily practical to pad all the walls in your home with foam or to bubble-wrap your kids, keeping an eye out for these less obvious dangers can help you avoid accidents.

Whether you’re in your home or out and about, just staying educated and vigilant can help prevent catastrophe and keep everyone happy while they’re beating the summer heat.

Read next: Summer child care challenges for single parents

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