Summer brings warmer weather, offering a great opportunity for you and your little one to get outside and explore the great outdoors. With all of the fun in the sun, it is important to remember that summer also brings a number of safety concerns. Below you will find common concerns and suggested ways to keep your little safe and healthy while enjoying summer fun.
Water play is a big part of summer. Creating safe environments for children around water is the first step to making sunny-day family memories that will last a lifetime. Approximately 40 percent of all childhood injury deaths occur between the months of May and August. Unfortunately, about 90 percent of these accidental deaths are preventable. Pool related injuries and death are a serious issue. If you have a swimming pool or if your child will be near one, it is crucial to put multiple safety measures in place to keep kids safe. *NOTE: Many of these safety measures can be applied to all bodies of water including creeks, lakes, rivers, oceans, etc.
•Put barriers around the pool to restrict access. Use doors with locks and alarms to keep kids out when adults are not present. A high fence (at least five feet high) surrounding your pool, with a self-latching gate, can prevent 50 to 90 percent of accidental drownings.
•Never leave kids unsupervised. Supervise children within arm's reach, even in shallow water and do not leave the area without adult supervision if children are in or near the water.
•Remember that drownings can happen silently. You may not hear splashing or a call for help—a drowning can happen in minutes and may be silent.
•Learn CPR. You may never need to use it but knowing CPR for adults and for kids is something that can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.
•Do not assume that a teen or relative will be watching. Talk to them about not using cell phones, texting, or allowing other distractions while supervising kids in the water.
•When choosing a flotation device, go for a child-size life vest. Little arms are less likely to slip out than they are with water wings. And when compared with using a swim ring, there's less chance of tipping over.
•Enroll children in swim classes: The American Academy of Pediatrics says parents should not enroll children under age 4 in formal swimming lessons that teach water survival skills.
•Know the signs of secondary drowning. While rare – making up to only 1-2% of all drownings, secondary or “delayed” drowning happens when a child inhales water into his or her lungs, causing inflammation or edema (swelling). Symptoms include coughing, chest pain, trouble breathing, and/or feeling of extreme exhaustion. If your child is displaying any of these symptoms after getting out of the water, seek medical help.
Knowing how to protect your infant and toddlers from the sun is a crucial way to keep your little one safe this summer. When possible, avoid being in the sun between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM, when the sun is at its most intense peak, and try to stay in the shade as much as possible. Dress your children in hats with wide brims, sunglasses (99 to 10 percent of UVA and UVB rays), and tightly woven cotton clothing or clothes that have SPF built in. For infants younger than 6 months, if the adequate shade isn't available, put sunscreen in small amounts on exposed surfaces of skin. For kids 6 months and older, use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 (SPF 30 and higher is even better) that offers both UVA and UVB protection. Always apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside -- even on cloudy days -- and reapply it every two hours. Even waterproof sunscreen loses its effectiveness after about 80 minutes of swimming or sweating. If your child does get a sunburn, the best remedies are cold compresses, over-the-counter pain relievers, and aloe preparations.
Heat Related Illnesses
As temperatures rise, heat related illnesses become a big concern with infants and toddlers. More than 70% of heat stroke deaths occur in children under age 2. The body temperatures of children can increase three to five times faster than adults, so it is important to identify symptoms immediately. Symptoms include fatigue, extreme thirst, and muscle cramping. If a child doesn't cool down and rehydrate, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke (signs are headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and lack of sweat), which is potentially fatal. If you notice heat illnesses in kids, spray them with cold water from a bottle or hose, fan them, and get them into the shade. Ice packs to the groin and armpits can speed up the cooling process even more. Some things to keep in mind: Heat stroke can occur when the outside temperature is as low as 57 degrees. The Heat Index = the temperature the body feels from the combined effect of heat and humidity. Exposure to direct sunlight can increase the heat index by as much as 15° F. If you suspect heatstroke, call 911.
Traffic-related injuries are the second leading cause of death for toddlers, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accident rates often peak in the summer when families hit the road for vacations. The first step to kid safety on the road is making sure your toddler is properly restrained in a car seat each and every time you turn on the ignition. Be aware of your surroundings as you enter and exit the car with your child to avoid accidental injuries involving another car. NEVER leave children unattended in the car, even for a minute. Even with the windows open an inch, a car’s temperature can reach over 100 degrees in 10 minutes on an 85 degree day. Leaving the windows cracked or rolled down does not slow heat acceleration, nor does it cool the interior, especially on wind-free days. Sun exposure on a parked car has the same effect, even in mild outdoor temperatures. Never leave a child (or a pet) in a parked car, even just for a minute.
Guard Against Burns
About half of all accidental burns that occur each year happen to kids under age 4. That's why you shouldn't leave a small child unattended around hot appliances, such as a grill or a stove (or oven, fireplace, or fire pit), and why you should keep kids at a distance while you're cooking. Be sure to turn pot handles toward the back of the stove. Be especially cautious with fireworks. Do not let toddlers handle or hold fireworks, including sparklers. Make sure your toddler is wearing shoes to avoid burns from hot embers on the ground and be sure to dispose of all spent fireworks immediately. Keep lighters and matches out of your child’s reach. First-degree burns are painful and red but don't blister. To care for these minor burns, hold the area under running cool tap water for about five to 10 minutes. There's no need to use topical creams or ointments, and don't apply ice, as this can lead to frostbite and delay healing. Place a loose, sterile dressing over the site, and keep it clean with soap and water as it heals. Second-degree burns are deeper and typically blister (don't pop the bubbles). Contact your child's doctor if you suspect this. Third-degree burns are even more serious and appear white, waxy, or black. Often, they are so deep that the area feels numb. These burns require immediate medical attention.
Poisonous Plants Safety
While exploring outdoors, it is important to remember that not all plants are safe for children to play or around in. Here are a few to keep an eye out for:
•Poison Ivy -- Poison ivy grows as a vine or shrub in the grass or on trees - Look for three-pointed, notched leaves per stem.
•Poison Sumac -- Poison sumac is a tall shrub or small tree found in wooded areas of eastern states - Six to 12 leaves grow in pairs with a single leaf topping stems.
•Poison Oak -- Poison oak grows only as a shrub, usually in the western United States - Looks like poison ivy, but tips of leaves are rounded.
If your child's skin comes in contact with one of these plants, you have a window of about 10 minutes to wash away the rash-causing oil. If you don't catch it in time, a rash may develop within 12 hours. The rashes (caused by oils from these plants) aren't contagious but can be transferred from indirect contact such as touching a dog who has been in recent contact with the plant. Once the skin has been washed and clothing is removed, the rashes can't spread. Use topical hydrocortisone cream and an oral antihistamine to calm the itch. If the rash involves the eyes or if it covers a large portion of her body, contact your pediatrician.
Bugs can be pesky! Arming yourself with the right knowledge to prevent these pests is important this season! When outside, cover children with lightweight clothing and use mosquito netting over strollers and infant seats. Light colored clothing tends to attract fewer bugs than other colors. When choosing bug repellents, know that the most effective products contain DEET because it's proven to repel both mosquitoes and ticks but it is also toxic and should be used sparingly. Products with a DEET concentration of less than 30 percent are safe for kids, but not for babies under 2 months old. Apply the repellent once a day and don't use combination sunscreen/bug repellent products. All-natural repellents, such as lemon eucalyptus and citronella, aren't proven to protect against ticks, nor should they be used in children younger than 3 years. Topical antihistamine preparations can help relieve the itch of mosquito bites. Ticks like moist and humid environments so check your child's body for them at the end of each day spent outside – checking under the arms, between the legs, around the waist, inside the navel, around the hairline, and on the scalp. Be extra vigilant when your child is playing in grassy or woody areas. Never try to remove a tick with your bare hands. Use tweezers to hold the tick and pull it out in an upwards motion. Ticks have to be embedded in the skin for about 24 hours to transmit germs. If you suspect a tick has been on your child for this long, contact your pediatrician. Bees are attracted to flowers, so don't put fragrances or floral-patterned clothing on kids. Likewise, don't leave out open containers of food and drink, and if your kid's clothes get stained, change them. Should a bee land on or next to your child, remain calm and gently blow it away. If your child gets stung, brush the stinger away with the edge of a credit card. Bee stings often look worse the next day -- skin reactions are normal and may last up to a week. But some people have severe allergic reactions to bee stings that include all-over hives, difficulty breathing, dizziness or fainting, and swelling of the lips and tongue. These can be life-threatening reactions that require immediate medical help.
Foodborne illnesses increase in the summer because bacteria grows faster in warmer temperatures and in humidity. On top of that, more people are eating and preparing food outdoors, at picnics and barbecues, where refrigeration and places to wash hands are not readily available.
To prevent foodborne illnesses:
•Be sure to wash your hands before preparing or serving any food. Make sure your children wash their hands, or at least use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, before eating.
•Never cross-contaminate. Do not allow any raw meat or poultry to come into contact with any other food or plates or utensils.
•Consider the temperature. Use a thermometer and be sure to cook all meat and poultry to the correct temperatures to kill any harmful bacteria. Keep all perishable foods in the refrigerator and do not keep leftovers unrefrigerated after one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90 F., or after two hours any other time. The FDA recommends keeping cold food at a temperature of less than 40 F.
First-Aid Kit Essentials
Summer is the perfect time to stock up on first-aid items. While you can't prevent all accidents, you can be prepared. Here is a list of helpful things to include:
•Antibacterial gel or foam
•Sterile gauze pads
•Infant and children's Motrin or Tylenol
Summer Bag Items
Add these items to your diaper bag or create a “summer bag” to keep the following close by.
•Water bottle or Bottled water
Watch some of our favorite educational videos on summer safety.
With warm days in full swing, there are important reminders to make sure your children stay safe by the pool this summer. From teaching kids to swim at an early age to and keeping a watchful eye on them at all times to keeping rescue equipment within easy reach, you’ll be better able to keep them safe all summer long.
Animated instructional video for keeping kids safe around water
You already know that a trip to the beach can give you a nasty sunburn, but the nitty gritty of sun safety is actually much more complex. Wrinkle-causing UVA rays and burn-inducing UVB's can pose a serious risk to your health (and good looks). So what can you do? Kevin P. Boyd makes the case to slap on some physical or chemical SPF daily.
How do I keep my child safe around water?
At what age can my little one war sunscreen?
When should you apply sunscreen to children?
How can you prevent heat-related illnesses?
What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?
What are the symptoms of heatstroke?
What are the symptoms of poison ivy?
What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
How do I avoid food poisoning?
- CDC - Utilizing this site, you can find information to promote a healthy pregnancy through pregnancy preparation, ways to stay healthy during pregnancy, and how to prepare for life after birth.
- American Red Cross - Get Your CPR, First Aid, and AED Certification
- Summer Safety Tips: A comprehensive resource - Summer often implies warmth, fun, and sunshine, but it can also bring heat overexposure, heat exhaustion, heat-induced illnesses, sunburn, poison, and stings. Learn how to protect yourself with these summer safety tips.
- 10 summer safety tips for kids - Make summer smart with these tips to keep children healthy and happy
- AAP Drowning Prevention Toolkit - Making Water Safety a Priority
Take a tour of the park: Holding baby in your arms, show him all the cool things in your park or yard: Here’s the slide—want to touch? Here’s the garbage can, it’s stinky! This is a rose bush, let’s have a smell! Give him the chance to explore what’s safe to touch—like shaking a branch or grabbing the swing.
Try tummy time on the grass Lay a towel or blanket on the grass outside and then place baby on her belly. Lie down facing her, if you’d like.
Show baby all the new textures around her Let her feel the grass with her hands and feet. Let her feel sand and dirt. Don’t worry about germs. You can always give baby a bath when playtime is over. A bath will also wash away any outdoor allergens that baby picked up.
Bugs Show baby little ants, caterpillars, and other safe bugs. Give baby the impression that these are curious and fun, instead of scary. Let baby touch any bugs you feel are safe.
Naming game Give a name to every new thing you and baby see. “There’s a bird!” “The doggy says woof woof” “See the airplane?” This will expand baby’s vocabulary and interest in the outdoors.
Ball play Bring along balls of various sizes so you can have a fun game of catch or kick.
Bubbles Blowing bubbles are a toddler favorite to make your outside time more creative.
Color games Show baby all the interesting outdoor colors such as the green grass and blue sky.
Stop and smell the roses Flowers are a favorite curiosity for toddlers. Teach baby to experience the sense of smell by showing her how to enjoy the fragrance of flowers. These are also great for learning colors.
Wading pools Fill up a baby pool in your backyard and introduce your toddler to a splashing good time. Get wet with your baby. Make sure your don’t leave baby unattended, of course. Drain the pool when you are finished.
Backyard Scavenger Hunt Scavenger hunts in your back yard are a great way to spend some time exploring the outdoors and interacting with your children. No fancy tools needed!
Have a backyard toy wash Gather up toy cars and trucks, washable dolls, child-safe plates/cups, and more. Fill a plastic container part way with water. If you want bubbles, add dish soap or hand soap. Offer your child sponges, brushes, or dish rags to use as cleaning tools. After sponging them down make sure you dry them well and I let them sit upside down so no water gets stuck in any crevasses. (Supervise all water activities carefully and pour water out when your child is done playing.)
Evening walks Take a walk around the block together several evenings each week. This is a great time to talk about life, and get a little exercise in the process. This will also help your kids make friends with the neighbors.
Play with a water table or make your own!
Have a picnic. Lay a blanket or towel on the ground outside and enjoy a meal or snack under a bright blue sky. Bring a few books to share, sing some songs. Lay on your back to look at the clouds or lay on your bellies to look at each other.