Summer safety tips: A guide for a safe summer break
By Aldrea Speight
Rowan County Health Department
Summer is here. This means it’s time to dust off the bikes, open up the pools, bring out those travel plans and spark the grills.
As you make your summer plans, it’s important to be aware of potential dangers that are associated with some of our favorite activities.
Did you know that the period from May through August that many refer to as vacation and outdoor season is also referred to as “trauma season” by many in the health care profession due to the increased risk of unintentional injuries?
In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that unintentional injuries were the leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 1 and 19.
The summer is the most dangerous of the year, with nearly 3 million child medical emergencies and 2,550 deaths due to accidental injuries. According to a study by the National Safe Kids Campaign, deaths during this time of year represent 42 percent of the average annual number of deaths.
No need to retreat indoors, for many unintentional injuries can be prevented by simply being cautious and aware of a few safety practices. Below are three of the top leading causes of unintentional injuries and tips to ensure that you and your children can be safe in the summer sun.
Motor vehicle travel
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among U.S. children and young adults ages 5 to 24. In North Carolina, such accidents are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 14.
There are a number of factors that contribute to these statistics. When school is out, there are more teens driving, more cars on the road, more families on vacation, ongoing construction zones. With hotter temperatures, there is the risk of worn tires blowing out — all increasing the likelihood of a car accident.
There are obvious ways to prevent or reduce the risk of injury from these accidents by practicing safe driving skills such as following the posted speed limit and eliminating distractions such as texting, talking on your phone and/or fidgeting with your radio.
In addition to practicing safe driving, parents should always use properly sized car and booster seats that are placed in the middle of the backseat. In a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the use of car and booster seats reduced infant and toddler injuries by 71 and 54 percent, respectively.
The N.C. Buckle Up Campaign suggests using either a rear-facing-only or convertible seat for children until at least 2 years of age or until the child reaches the maximum height and weight allowed by the car seat manufacturer, which is usually 30 pounds.
The use of a forward-facing convertible and booster seat should follow until the child is age 8 or at least 80 pounds, based on North Carolina law. When your child meets either the age or weight limit, then he or she is allowed to use a seat belt and sit in the back.
Please note that the use of seat belts can actually prevent 45 percent of all car crash fatalities, both in children and in adults. Overall, the back seat is the safest place for all children younger than 13.
Additional tips to keep in mind when practicing motor vehicle safety:
- Hot temperatures: It can take as little as 10 minutes for the interior of a stationary car to rise to life-threatening temperatures. Always check the back seat of your vehicle before you lock it and walk away.
- Power windows: Make sure that your child’s body, arms and/or legs are clear of the windows before raising them.
- Back-over accidents: Have children in the area stand to the side of the driveway or sidewalk so that you can see them as you are backing out of a driveway or parking space.
About one in five people who drown are children 14 and younger, making it the second-leading cause of unintentional, injury-related deaths after motor vehicle accidents. For every child who drowns, another five receive emergency department care for non-fatal, submersion injuries.
Research has shown that the fatal, unintentional drowning rate for African-Americans is significantly higher than that of whites, no matter what age. Recently, studies have shown that African-American children, ages 5 to 19, drown in swimming pools at rates five and half times higher than whites.
Whether one is cooling off in a home swimming pool, pond or ocean, an adult should always actively supervise children near water. The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education recommends when supervising infants, toddlers or unexperienced swimmers the ratio of adult to child should be one-to-one and the adult should be within arm’s length of the child.
One adult is also suggested for every four to six experienced preschool and/or school-age children swimmers when in or near water, even if a lifeguard is present. Always keep a charged phone near by. Ideally, at least one adult should know how to perform CPR in case of an emergency.
The best way to stay safe in the water is to learn how to swim. Swimming lessons, although they cannot make a child “drown proof,” can teach children how to swim and what to do if in a troubling situation.
Research has found that children ages 1 to 4 who take formal swimming lessons can reduce their risk of drowning by as much as 88 percent. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises that children as young as one may take formal swim lessons.
Additional tips for safety in and out of the pool include:
- Install a four-sided fence (4 to 5 feet high) with a self-latching gate to separate the pool area the pool area from the home or yard.
- Install alarms on pools or exterior doors leading to a pool or hot tub area.
- NEVER use air filled or foam toys, such as noodles or inner tubes, instead use snug-fitted Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
- Remember that a child can drown in as little as 2 inches of water! Always empty all buckets and kiddie pools of water immediately after use and store them upside down, out of a child’s reach.
Bicycling is a great way for children to stay active and be outdoors. However, bicyclists must take extra precautions. The CDC reports that people ages 15 to 19 years of age have the highest bicycle death rate. According to NHTSA, deaths related to bicycle accidents occur more between July and September. Studies have also shown a 45 percent increase in bicycle fatalities compared to the rest of the year.
Five- to 24-year-olds are also known to have the highest rates of nonfatal, bicycle-related injuries, which accounts for more than one-third of all bicycle-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency departments.
The “Child Bicycle Safety Act” requires that every person under the age of 16 wear an approved bicycle helmet when operating on any public road or path. Helmets should meet the standards of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), evident by a CPSC sticker inside the helmet. The helmet should fit low on the forehead, just two finger-widths above the eyebrows. In two studies, researchers found that bike helmets reduce the risk of head injury by at least 45 percent, brain injury by 33 percent, facial injury by 27 percent, and fatal injury by 29 percent.
Young children should always be supervised by an adult when riding a bicycle. Older children should use their eyes and ears to stay alert when cycling, with no distractions such as wearing headphones or using cellphones.
Always encourage riding on the sidewalk when one is available or riding in the same direction as traffic when not. The safest place for a bicyclist to cross the street is at a corner or intersection. If a child is crossing an intersection, they should get off their bicycle, look left-right-left, and then walk the bicycle across to the other side when no traffic is coming.
Additional tips to keep in mind when practicing bicycle safety include:
- Learn Your ABCs: Each time before riding, one should check the air pressure, inspect the brakes, check the chain, and ensure the crank bolts are tight.
- Follow the rules: Keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times and have only one rider per seat.
- Be visible: Wear bright colored and/or fluorescent clothing to be more visible to drivers during the day and at night.
Wishing you a safe, healthy, hydrated, and enjoyable summer. And one last thing — don’t forget the sunscreen (a SPF 30 or higher, of course).
By Jessica Coates firstname.lastname@example.org Salisbury resident Antonio Lee was killed Sunday morning at Grant Street Apartments in East Spencer. Two East... read more