Between no school, longer days and gorgeous weather, there are lots of reasons to love summer. But, even though the season tends to inspire a carefree attitude, there are important safety guidelines to keep in mind while enjoying fun in the sun. “With warmer temperatures and more time spent outdoors, summertime involves a number of safety hazards for children,” says Lorrie Lynn, injury prevention manager at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego’s Center for Healthier Communities. “Fortunately, a few simple things can help families significantly reduce kids’ risk.” Read on for some top tips on creating a safer summer for the whole family.
While not all drownings are fatal, they always have the potential for serious and long-term health effects. Teaching kids to swim at a young age goes a long way for drowning prevention, but taking it one step further and ensuring they can exhibit specific skills is key. Safe Kids Worldwide (for which Lynn, and Rady Children’s as a whole, lead the San Diego chapter) recommends that in order to be competent in the water, kids should be able to do the following without assistance:
- Enter the water, submerge their heads and come back to the surface
- Tread water or float on the surface for a full minute
- Make a complete circle and identify an exit
- Swim at least 25 yards to an exit
- Leave the water, including doing so without a ladder if swimming in a pool
Lynn also advises using life jackets when children are exploring open bodies of water. “Swim lessons plus Coast Guard-approved life jackets will help kids stay water-safe,” she says. In addition, Safe Kids San Diego and their drowning prevention partners emphasize the importance of designating an adult to keep watch on swimming kids at all times, and suggest using Water Watcher Tags as a helpful tool. Developed through Safe Kids San Diego’s Drowning Prevention Task Force, the tags outline a Watcher’s responsibilities on a waterproof card attached to a wristband, and are available for free at locations throughout San Diego County.
Road trip! Our warmest season offers a great opportunity for families to embark on adventures together, and cars are a go-to way to travel near and far. Before starting your journey, take a few minutes to double-check that safety seats are installed according to recommended standards. The Center for Healthier Communities provides the following overview, and if you need hands-on assistance with selecting or setting up a seat, you can always connect with the experts from our Transportation Safety Program:
- Infants should ride in a rear-facing car seat as long as possible, and until they weigh at least 30 pounds or reach 2 years of age. Take your baby out of their seat as soon as you reach your destination — sleeping in a car seat outside of a car can be dangerous.
- Children between approximately ages 2 and 5 can ride facing forward in a car seat with a five-point harness. In some cases, these seats can support children up to 80 pounds, so be sure to familiarize yourself with and follow the parameters for your child’s seat.
- In California, kids must ride in an appropriate safety seat until they’re 8, or reach a minimum height of four-foot-nine.
- Infants and children should ride in the back seat of the car until age 13, when the risk for airbag injury tends to decrease.
- Even when kids are old or tall enough to be out of safety seats, ensure they’re properly wearing their seatbelts at all times.
Window Fall Prevention
Approximately 50 kids visit Rady Children’s Emergency Department each year after falling from a building. In 2018, 25 of the 55 children who experienced falls were between 0 and 4 years old. Of the 55, 39 percent fell from a window, and about a quarter of those falls were from at least a second story, Lynn reports.
On a national level, Safe Kids states that more than 3,000 kids are hurt in window falls annually — and that’s just kids under 5. A large portion of falls occur during summer months, when families are more likely to leave windows open. “Window screens aren’t designed to contain people,” Lynn explains. “A child innocently peeking out a window or climbing on furniture positioned too close to a window can quickly become dangerous.”
So you can safely let in the summer breeze, the Center for Healthier Communities offers the following guidelines, especially for homes with very small children:
- Avoid setting up furniture close to or directly under a window.
- Ensure windows can’t open more than four inches with the help of window stops, or install window guards to enforce and block screens. Both are available in the Center for Healthier Communities’ Safety Store.
- Open windows from the top rather than the bottom, if possible.
- Use measures that prevent young children from accessing rooms on higher floors of the home without supervision, such as baby gates or door knob covers.
Play it Safe
When kids play outside during summer, excessive sun and heat are big areas of safety concern. Amplify protection with the following Center for Healthier Communities tips:
- Ensure kids use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 every day, and reapply every two hours. Also, allow 30 minutes between the initial application and sun exposure.
- Use hats, sunglasses, and long sleeves or pants for additional sun safeguarding — however, keep clothes lightweight and light-colored to reduce the risk of overheating.
- Keep infants 6 months or younger out of the sun as much as possible.
- Limit your time spent outside between 12 and 4 p.m., which tends to be when the sun is most powerful.
- Stay hydrated and know the symptoms of dehydration; which include headache, dark urine and feeling irritable; and heat exhaustion, which include feeling lightheaded or nauseated, muscle cramps, and heavy sweating. If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, place them in a cold water bath, and seek emergency medical attention if their symptoms don’t quickly improve.
With more bandwidth for favorite activities, kids are also likely to spend free time on bikes, skateboards, roller skates and roller blades, and scooters — and they should always be wearing a helmet. In fact, in California, it’s illegal for youth under 18 to use any of these transportation modes without one! The Center for Healthier Communities advises on the following key dos and don’ts when choosing the right helmet for your child (and remember to closely supervise kids under age 8):
- DO make sure the helmet is approved by either the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the American Society for Testing and Materials; is replaced immediately after any damage; and features a strap that will withstand impact.
- DON’T select a helmet that can be pulled off, even with significant effort; that can shift more than an inch; or that has an “aero tail.”