Summer Hazards You Never Thought About + How to Stay Safe
Summer means sunshine, fireflies, corn on the cob, …and unfortunately several common hazards for children, as well. Summertime tends to be the “injury season” in my job because the weather is conducive to being out and about, and with kids out of school there’s more time for them to get hurt. We make a lot of noise about water safety and sunburns, but there are a few common but lesser known scenarios that arise at PM Pediatric Care and other urgent cares and emergency departments yearly. Let’s review a few of those as well as the big ones that deserve as much awareness as possible–
Some typical – and not-so-typical – scenarios I see each year, and ways to prevent or avoid them:
I’ve seen some kids come into PM Pediatric Care with burns on the bottom of their feet due to accidentally stepping on charcoal that was thrown in the grass post-grilling. I know it takes longer for the coals to cool down if left in the grill, but I would highly recommend keeping that charcoal inside the grill and letting everything cool completely before discarding. Encourage kids to always walk forward, not backwards, around a grill or campfire so that they don’t accidentally back up over hot briquets or embers.
Cars heat up very quickly on hot days, dangerously so. And heatstroke kills. On average, 38 children under the age of 15 die each year due to heatstroke from being left in a hot vehicle for too long.* This is an incredibly scary and sad scenario that emergency medical professionals see every year during the hot summer months, so I feel I have to bring it up. The stories we hear in the news about young children left in cars by their caregivers aren’t typically ones about neglectful parents. Often times, sleep-deprived parents of young infants or adults out of their regular routine quite simply forget they have a sleeping baby in the backseat and heatstroke occurs as a result. It seems almost too far-fetched to happen, but it unfortunately occurs yearly and happens to good parents and people. Set an alarm on your phone, activate the child-reminder feature in your navigation app, leave a shoe or your bag in the backseat next to the car seat – take an extra step to make sure this tragedy doesn’t happen to you.
DO NOT allow children to go anywhere near fireworks or even sparklers. Each summer we see a number of firework-related injuries including burns, eye wounds, hand/finger/face fractures. I’m not a fan of at-home fireworks – it’s just too risky – but if you are set on having sparklers at your summer event, keep them out of reach from small children and no matter what have a hose ready and/or a full bucket of water nearby before they are lit.
A child who does not know how to swim should of course be accompanied by an adult in a pool, even in shallow water where they can stand. A child can drown in as little as six inches of water if they are submerged. Use the “arm’s length” rule – keep your child at arms length at all times in case they start to go under. Also, not all flotation devices should be trusted. These Coast Guard-approved Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) can help you determine if the PFD is appropriate for your child based on their size, swimming ability, and where they’ll be swimming (shallow pool vs lake or ocean). Floaties or “water wings” can give a false sense of security because they are not life-saving. Additionally, ankle and foot injuries can be serious if jumping into an above ground pool and of course there should be a very strict “no diving” rule enforced for shallow or above ground pools to avoid accidents that could cause spine or head trauma.
One question I get every year from parents is the concern about “dry drowning” if their child experiences a scary water event and swallows a lot of water in the process. Dry drowning is not an accepted medical term! Drowning is either fatal or it is not. I would urge parents, instead, to check for rapid breathing or an inability to speak in full sentences immediately following the event. If you do not notice a cough or any respiratory difficulties after about 4-6 hours, it is unlikely that a breathing concern related to the water event will occur.
Flip-flops can be quite hazardous when performing certain summertime activities. I’ve seen a lot of cases of bad lacerations from childrens’ feet getting tangled in the spokes of a bicycle wheel. I’ve also seen some REALLY bad lacerations and injuries as a result of kids or teens mowing the lawn or riding on a mower while wearing flip flops. When it comes to physical activities, or activities that require the use of machinery like a mower, stick to sneakers or other closed toe shoes.
And please, do not operate a riding mower with your child on your lap. Everything NO about this.
With these safety measures in mind, let’s all continue to remain vigilant about watching our kids (and each other’s) when it comes to kids’ safety so we can enjoy all the great things summer has to offer!
*Source: National Safety Council