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Enjoy a Safe Summer

Kids love the freedom and fun of summer, but summer can be dangerous too. The National Safe Kids coalition reports that nearly half of all injury-related childhood deaths occur between May and August, with July being the deadliest month of all. Dr. Faiqa Qureshi, MD, pediatric emergency specialists with Children's Specialty Group PPLC at CHKD, offer these tips to ensure that your child has a safe and carefree summer.

ATVs/Personal Watercraft Child Safety Seat Law Safe Boating: Remember the Life Jackets Have a Plan for Lost Children Hot Cars Playground Safety Pool Cleanliness Safe Play Dates Sun Sense Water, Water Everywhere More on safety

ATVs and Personal Watercraft

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and personal watercraft, such as jet skis, should be off-limits to children under the age of 16. Even then, with a high rate of accidents where the driver is thrown from the vehicle or collides with other vehicles or objects, children older than 16 should wear appropriate safety gear – helmets for ATVs and life jackets for personal watercraft – obey all speed limits and avoid riding at night.

Child Safety Seat Law

Child restraint devices are required for all children through age 5 (up to age 6) when they are in a moving vehicle. Also, the seat must be properly used and approved by Virginia’s Department of Transportation standards. The Virginia Code also states that children ages 6 to 15 (up to age 16) must be belted correctly in vehicle safety belts.

Further, anyone who provides transportation for a child - parents, grandparents, baby sitters, friends - is responsible for making sure the safety seat is properly used by children under 6 and that children 6 to 16 are secured in their safety belts.

If children in the car are not properly secured, a driver can be stopped and get a ticket even if no other violation occurs. So be sure your children have the best seats in the car and are secured with proper safety belts.

There are assistance programs for low-income Virginians who cannot afford a safety seat. Call 1-800-732-8333 for information.

Safe Boating: Remember the Life Jackets

If your family enjoys boating, make sure your children are wearing the proper life jackets before you head out on the water, in fact before they step on the boat.

Most life jackets are designed to turn a person from a facedown to an upright position. Some are designed for quick recoveries. All jackets are labeled by type and for either adults or children.

When choosing a life jacket, make sure it’s approved by the United States Coast Guard. The jacket should fit snugly and should be worn with all straps belted. It’s also a good idea for your children to know how to put their jackets on without help.

Your family’s boat or canoe should be equipped with a life preserver. The life preserver will be used to aid someone who’s fallen overboard, but is not a replacement for a life jacket. Never depend on air-filled water wings, toys, rafts and air mattresses as substitutes for life jackets or life preservers.

Have a Plan for Lost Children

If your family is planning a trip to the zoo, a local museum or amusement park this summer, develop a plan for what to do if your child gets separated from you - and practice it.

Teach your child not to wander if she gets separated from you, to identify and seek out employees or “officials” by their uniforms or badges and to stay away from strangers, especially those who entice the child with a gift or want help in finding a lost puppy.

Your child should know her full name, address and phone number as well as your full name so she can be reunited with you quickly if she becomes separated from you.

Hot Cars

In the hot summer months, the temperature inside a parked car can be as much as 35 degrees higher than the temperature outside. For a child, this could mean serious injury or even death. In a hot environment, a child’s body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s, which means that leaving a child in a car on a hot day, even for a few minutes, could have tragic consequences. Heatstroke, which often occurs within minutes, can lead to permanent disability or death.

Protect your child by following these guidelines:

  • Never leave your child in a parked car. Even with the windows down, the sun beating down on a car can cause the temperature inside to rise quickly.
  • Teach your children that playing in or around parked cars is dangerous. Sometimes, a curious child can get into a car, but can not get out.
  • Be sure to keep car doors locked – even when the car is parked in your driveway. Keep your car keys where your children can’t reach them.
  • Teach your child to never play in the trunk.
  • Pay special attention to make sure your child hasn’t gotten inside the car when you’re loading or unloading it.
  • Never let infants sleep unattended in the car.
  • Take a head count when you reach your destination to make sure that everyone is out of the car.

Playground Safety

Playgrounds are wonderful outlets for your children, but they can also represent an accident waiting to happen. In fact, playground injuries are frequent causes for emergency room visits. Before you allow your children to climb, slide and swing, take a few minutes to check out the following:

  • Look for adequate soft-surface material beneath the play equipment. Sand, rubber tiles or coarsely chipped mulch can cushion falls. The recommended depth is at least six inches.
  • Make sure equipment is anchored securely to the ground to keep it from tipping over.
  • Look for sharp corners, edges or pinch points or anything that could snag on loose clothing and potentially choke a child. Remove all drawstrings from your child’s clothing.
  • Make sure there aren’t any strangle points - openings on the equipment where a child’s head could get stuck.
  • Make sure the equipment is free of peeling or chipping paint.

Safe Play Dates

Before you allow your child to visit a friend’s home, be sure you’ve spoken to the other parent at least once on the phone and again preferably in person. Here are five basic – but very important – questions to ask:

  1. Who will be supervising the children? Adequate supervision is the single most important factor when it comes to your child’s safety, wherever he or she is playing. If you’re not comfortable with the answer to this question, postpone the visit to another day, or invite your child’s friend to your home instead.
  2. How can I reach you in an emergency? Exchange phone numbers with any parent or caretaker who will be supervising your child.
  3. Are there guns in the home? If the answer is yes, find out how they are stored. Guns and ammunition should be stored separately in locked cases. Children should not have access to the keys.
  4. Do you have a pool? Pools should be surrounded by a fence to prevent kids from falling in. If the kids will be swimming, make sure the person supervising them knows CPR and will not leave the children alone in the pool, even if the children know how to swim.
  5. What activities are planned? Knowing what your children are doing is just as important as knowing where they’ll be doing it. Are the activities age-appropriate? Are they safe? Do they require any special skills? If you’re not comfortable with any answers, don’t be afraid to say no.

Sun Sense

Make sunscreen (at least SPF 15) a must whenever your child is outdoors this summer. Use hats and sunglasses for even more protection. Keep your children hydrated and energized with frequent breaks for water and snacks. Watch for signs of heat-related illnesses - such as flushed or red face, dizziness, lightheadedness or dehydration. For more information on keeping your child safe in the sun, read our Sun Safety Tips.

Water, Water Everywhere

Not all bodies of water are the same. Swimming in a lake or pool is nothing like swimming in the ocean. And the temperament of the ocean can change not only every day, but literally from minute to minute.

If you’re going to the beach with your children this summer, check weather forecasts, rip tide warnings and surf advisories. An ocean that looks calm and serene at first glance can quickly become tumultuous and dangerous.

With small children, it’s best to closely supervise their play at the ocean’s edge and to watch for crashing waves that can knock a little one off his feet. Use the “arm’s length” rule to stay within immediate reach of small children.

Make sure that your older child is a strong swimmer before letting him go into deeper water. Explore the water yourself first, looking for dangers such as sudden drop-offs and strong currents. Rip currents (strong, unpredictable currents beneath the surface of the water) make it difficult for swimmers to get to shore. Teach your child to swim parallel to the shore until he is out of the current, then swim ashore.

Drowning is the number one danger to children during the summer. Always supervise children around water, including spas, bathtubs, toilets and buckets. Keep an eagle eye on swimmers, even when there’s a lifeguard on duty. Personal flotation devices are also a good idea for non-swimmers at the beach or the pool, but they are not a substitute for constant parental supervision near water.

If you own a pool, make sure it is surrounded by a safety fence that children cannot unlock without an adult’s help. Don’t leave toys in the pool; children have been known to reach for them and fall in.

Parents who want to keep their children safe around water often start them in swimming lessons at an early age, but the American Academy of Pediatrics warns against this practice for several reasons:

  • Children younger than 4 rarely have the developmental skills necessary to understand the dangers of water.
  • Most children younger than 4 lack the physical coordination to learn in-water and poolside safety skills.
  • Swimming lessons for children under age 4 often attempt to reduce a child’s fear of the water, which may encourage them to enter the water alone.
  • Swimming lessons for very young children may give parents a false sense of security about their child’s safety in water.

Important: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.