Author: Abbigale B. Fredrick, Richmond, VA Attorney
School is out and students are excited for the weeks ahead. Summer provides children with ample amounts of time to enjoy the outdoors while hiking, riding bikes, swimming, or playing with friends.
While it is important for kids to enjoy this special time in their lives, parents need to be reminded of the potential dangers that summer may bring. It is also important that caretakers are aware of the potential illnesses and injuries that may occur so that they are less likely to happen.
What you need to know:
Windows safety: Opening your windows to enjoy a summer breeze can be lovely, but make sure that you have installed window guards on all windows above your first floor. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that about 12 children ages 10 and younger die each year from injuries related to falling from windows. Additionally, more than 4,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for these injuries annually. Most of the deaths and injuries happen to children under the age of 5.
Choosing a summer camp: Consider a camp program that offers healthy food choices, physical activity, learning, and exploration. Make sure the camp has a fully screened, qualified, and well-trained staff.
Water safety: Children need to be carefully supervised at all times when they are around bodies of water, such as pools, streams, lakes, rivers, oceans, bathtubs, baby pools, or even toilets and buckets. When children are around water, the caregiver should be free of distractions (no cell phones!), and within arm’s reach of the child at all times.
Fun (and safety) in the sun: Whenever possible, choose hats, clothing, and sunglasses to physically block out the sun’s rays. Try to find shade or umbrellas when available. Thirty minutes prior to sun exposure, apply sunscreen of at least SPF 30, even on cloudy days. Swimming and sweating can cause sunscreen to wear off. Reapply sunscreen every two hours under these conditions.
Plant safety: Poisonous plants can cause an allergic skin reaction upon contact. To protect yourself and your family from the poisonous oils, go online and learn the identifying characteristics of poisonous plants you may encounter outdoors. Poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac are common plants parents and caregivers should learn to recognize. Any time children are in overgrown or brushy areas, they should have protective clothing to help decrease skin exposure to these poisonous plants.
Fun on wheels: Helmets save lives and protect children (and adults) from serious injury. Appropriate and properly-fitting helmets should be worn anytime a child is “on wheels” (a.k.a. scooters, tricycles, roller skates, skateboards, bikes, etc.). Caregivers should set an example by wearing a helmet every time they are “on wheels”, as well.
Drink your water: Remind your children (and yourself) to drink plenty of water before going outside, while out in the heat, and after coming indoors. During the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., avoid strenuous activities, look for shade, and take lots of breaks. If you or your child feels thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
Tick bites: A number of serious illnesses and diseases are linked to tick bites. You can still have fun outdoors and prevent tick bites by wearing protective clothing and an insect repellant intended for mosquitoes and ticks, performing “tick checks” on all family members after a day outside, avoiding sitting directly on the ground, and by not walking through deep brush areas. If you are bitten by a tick, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible, and pulling upward with steady, even pressure, being sure to remove the head of the tick. Ticks can continue to attack humans even if their body is detached from their head. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands. Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet. Call your doctor any time you have concerns about a tick bite.
Preparing for emergencies: Caregivers should assemble a first aid kit at home (and one for the car) in the event of illness or injury. Routinely check the items to see if anything needs to be restocked or if any medications have expired and need to be replaced. Your first aid kit should also contain a list of important phone numbers, such as EMS (usually 911), your doctor’s phone number, your dentist’s phone number, poison control, and some emergency contacts in case the child’s parents cannot be reached.
Summer is a time for kids to get outside and be carefree. By planning ahead and making yourself aware of the most common serious injuries to children during the summertime, we hope you can make the most of this fun time.