Summer Safety Advice from an Emergency Pediatric Specialist
Submersion-, bicycle-, and fireworks-related injuries grow more common during summer months.
As the days get longer and warmer, families spend more time outdoors, which means parents need to become more vigilant in watching their children as well as preparing for possible accidents that could occur.
“The summer brings a change in the reasons parents bring their children into the pediatric emergency center,” said Kent Denmark, M.D., pediatric emergency specialist at Saint Francis Hospital. “As you can imagine, this is related to an increase in outdoor activities and sometimes distractions for those in charge of supervising the activities.”
Dr. Denmark outlined some of the most common injuries and dangers that he sees in the emergency room during the summer months, and how to avoid them.
Pools, bath tubs, buckets as well as natural bodies of water present drowning dangers for children of all ages. Drowning is the leading cause of death of children between 1 and 4 years of age. It is the third leading cause of injury-related death for children under 19 years of age.
To avoid tragedies, Dr. Denmark advises that parents and caregivers should never leave a child alone in or near water. The majority of infant drownings occur in bathtubs or large buckets, and an infant can drown in as little as an inch of water.
Swimming pools are the most common site for drowning to occur in children between 1 and 4 years of age. More than 5,000 children sustain non-fatal but significant submersion-related injuries every year
Whenever there are infants or toddlers around the pool, an attentive adult should be within arm’s reach. This is not the time for multi-tasking. When multiple adults are present, it is important to implement something like the Water Watcher card, where an adult is designated for a 15-minute span to be the primary person responsible for supervising kids in the pool or body of water.
Do not rely on water wings or pool noodles for safety.
“Your toddler will eventually breach all barriers and make it to the pool/pond/creek,” Dr. Denmark said. “The goal in prevention is to place enough barriers and alarms to catch them before they get there.”
60 percent of all bicycle injuries occur in children, and for those between ages 5 and 14, bicycles are the most common sport leading to emergency department visits.
An appropriately sized helmet with a strap fastened is the most effective safety equipment. Children should be taught to ride on the right side of the road (with traffic), to always wear bright-colored clothing and use appropriate hand signals to let vehicles know their intentions. Up until the age of 10, it is most appropriate for children to ride on the sidewalk, not the roadway. Teach children to know and respect traffic laws.
While many parents may think that sparklers are harmless and child-friendly, that is not the case. Little arms are too short to hold sparklers, which can get as hot as 1200 degrees. Glow sticks are a nice substitute that are safe for younger children. If you are using fireworks, never wear loose clothing while in contact with them.
If an eye injury should occur, do not allow the child to touch the eye as this might make it worse.
Take the time to learn CPR:
“It doesn’t take very long to learn,” said Dr. Denmark, “and is the best intervention when given early in improving outcomes for children who stop breathing or have their hearts stop beating.”
Taking a few precautions to prevent accidents before they happen will help families enjoy a safe and healthy summer.
The Saint Francis Pediatric Emergency Center is the area’s only 24/7 ER dedicated to serving children. It is located adjacent to the Saint Francis Hospital Trauma Emergency Center at 6161 South Yale.