Ferreting out those giant lime-green beach towels? Swapping parkas and warm woolens for popsicles and water wings? While summer is about bold sunsets, bike rides, beach days, and boating adventures, envisioning it from the inside of an emergency room isn’t high on anyone’s agenda. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Red Cross, and the United States Lifeguard Association, a litany of pool, beach, playground, boating, backyard, park, and other accidents that happen every summer can largely be avoided if you follow these 8 easy steps:
Swimming Pool Safety: When it comes to summer, what child doesn’t crave the wave — even if it is caused by someone cannon-balling off the diving board?! Statistically, children ages 1 to 4 may have a lower risk of drowning if they’ve had some formal swim instruction. Also, beware of suction from pool and spa drains that can trap a swimmer of any size (adult or child) underwater, so take extra precautions to have drains inspected for missing covers. If using a community pool, be sure to ascertain if it is compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act. And if you have a large, inflatable above-ground pool, children can fall in if they lean against the side. Though inflatables are exempt from local pool fencing requirements (needs to be 4 feet high without openings or protrusions a child can slip through), an appropriate fence is key to providing child-proof protection around any pool.
Boating Safety: Children should be clad in properly-fitting, secured lifejackets at all times. Personal equipment such as water wings, rafts, swim noodles, boogie boards and the like are not considered adequate flotation devices as they may slip away and in general may not save lives. The AAP suggests adults also wear lifejackets to set an example.
Beach Safety: The best tip for beach safety is to teach kids to swim. Also, make sure the beach has a lifeguard and they swim near him or her. According to the United States Lifeguard Association, the odds of drowning at a public beach with a lifeguard are a whopping 18 million to one. Without a lifeguard presence, the risk of drowning is about five times as great, however. Also, never let a child (or adult!) swim alone, and never let her turn her back on the ocean as a strong wave can knock her over and cause injury. Tell kids to keep their eyes down when walking on the beach to avoid stepping on broken glass, sharp cans, jagged shells or stones, splintered ice cream sticks or other debris. Teach young swimmers about rip currents: They pull you away from the beach into deeper water. To get out of a rip current, do not fight the current by trying to swim to shore. Instead, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current, which will then allow you to safely and successfully swim back to shore. Finally, heed warning signs and flags, and when in doubt, ask the lifeguard.
Playground Safety: Your community playground should have safety-tested mats or loose-fill materials (shredded rubber, sand, wood chips, or bark) maintained to a depth of at least 9 inches (6 inches for shredded rubber). The protective surface should be installed at least 6 feet (more for swings and slides) in all directions from the equipment. Swing seats should be made of soft, pliable material. Metal and plastic products can heat up quickly in the summer sun and cause first, second, and third-degree burns; be especially careful of slides. Open “s” hooks or protruding bolt ends can badly cut fingers, hands, arms, legs, and more.
Bicycle Safety: Though parents like to surprise their youngsters with a bike on a birthday, etc., it’s best to bring the child along with you when purchasing the right bike. Oversized bikes that elude the child’s control and coordination level are a leading cause of accidents. Helmets should be worn straight — not tipped forward or back. The strap should be secure with a space for two fingers between it and the chin. Sizing pads can secure it if it is loose, though according to the AAP, “skin should move with it when moved from side to side.”
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