Summer is a special time in Western New York. With our long, harsh winters, we especially appreciate our warm weather months. Our social calendars quickly fill up, squeezing in all the adventures and activities possible before Labor Day arrives.
The urge to get outside and play is particularly strong in kids, who often run out the door without so much as a good-bye. Yet, as a pediatric surgeon, that’s how some of the worst injuries and tragedies I’ve seen have occurred – beginning with what seemed like a harmless beginning. Here are some tips that you can follow to keep the kids in your life safe this summer.
- Always Wear Bicycle Helmets
In 2019, kids (under 20) accounted for approximately 10% of all bicycle related deaths, with males comprising roughly eight of every nine, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Although this is a 90% improvement from 1975’s levels, 62% of those deaths involved riders who were not wearing a helmet, while one third occurred in the months of June, July and August.
Make sure your child always wears a bike helmet, even if they’re just in your driveway or some other seemingly safe place. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute reports that the impact of a typical bike crash occurs with a force which equates to a three-foot drop or a falling speed of 10 miles per hour – more than enough to cause a fracture or concussion. It doesn’t take much to cause a severe injury.
Also, make sure you lead by example. While child bicyclist deaths have declined over the years, deaths among bicyclists age 20 and older have tripled since 1975, with males again leading the way at 77%. It’s just as important for your kids’ safety that you stay healthy and able to care for them.
- Pedestrian Safety While Crossing the Street
Safe Kids Worldwide, a not-for-profit dedicated to child safety initiatives, reports that pedestrian accidents are the fifth-leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S. for children between 5 and 19 years old. Perhaps surprisingly, teenagers are now at the greatest risk – a direct result of their use of cell phones, ear buds and other portable electronics. Teen deaths are now twice that of younger kids and comprise half of all child pedestrian deaths.
So how can you help keep them safe?
- Start by teaching them to make eye contact with the driver of approaching vehicles. If they don’t make a connection, it’s best to wait until that vehicle passes before stepping off that curb.
- Speaking of curbs, keep them on sidewalks, and cross at traffic lights and within crosswalks, as much as possible.
- Make sure they look left, then right, then left again before they cross – and not to goof around or waste time getting to the other side.
- Don’t let them dart out between parked cars, where visibility is limited.
- Teach them to be alert for cars that are turning or backing up.
- Also, kids under 10 should always cross with an adult. Most are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until that age.
- If your child will be near traffic, have them wear brightly colored clothes or reflective gear.
- And make sure they keep those cell phones, headphones and other devices in their pockets or backpacks, so that the likes of TikTok and YouTube aren’t competing for their attention.
- Lawn Mowing Safety
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 2,900 injuries from lawn mowers happen each year to children under 14, with another 8,700 attributed to lawn and garden equipment. Adults must remain vigilant in knowing where children are as they mow. Ride-on mowers are especially dangerous. A well-intended offer of a “ride” can quickly become disastrous when a child slips off and becomes trapped or run over in a matter of seconds. Indeed, smaller children are most prone to amputations and other severe foot/limb injuries. A recent NBC News report stated that children under five comprised 70% of reported victims between 1990 and 2014. More than 1,600 accidents occurred due to mowing in reverse, which compromises an operator’s vision and response time, according to an American Journal of Emergency Medicine study.
With blades that spin up to 200 miles per hour, it’s easy to see how quickly an injury can occur. Keep kids inside the house or far away from your yard when you mow. Clean the area you mow of sticks, stones and debris that could be shot out from the under carriage and cause harm. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should be at least 12 years of age to operate a walk-behind mower and 16 for a ride-on mower. Make sure you provide thorough operating and safety training for teens – and never use a hand to clear out clogs. Use extra caution when mowing on a slope and avoid mowing on wet grass or during limited daylight, all of which increase the chance of injury.
- Supervised Swimming
Swimming and summer go hand-in-hand — but swimming safety is paramount to preventing tragic drownings. According to the Centers for Disease and Control, drowning kills more children between the ages of one and four than anything else except birth defects. Many victims are out of parental or caregiver sight for less than two minutes, according to the Pool Safety Foundation. Even kids who are good swimmers must be monitored, as slips and falls can lead to unconsciousness, during which even an Olympic swimmer would drown.
The American Red Cross lists numerous swimming safety tips, and some of their highlights include:
- Never leave a child unattended near water.
- Teach children to always ask permission to go near water and constantly supervise them.
- Swim only in designated, supervised areas, and never swim alone.
- Have young children or inexperienced swimmers wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets around water.
- Make sure everyone in your family can swim well. Enroll them in learn-to-swim courses, and make sure the teens and adults in your home complete first aid and CPR/AED courses.
- If you have a pool, secure it with appropriate barriers like fences and gates, and install gate or door water alarms.
- If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
- Have appropriate equipment, such as reaching or throwing equipment, life jackets, a first aid kit and a cell phone.
Summer is the time to make lifelong memories ,and if you follow these guidelines, you can help ensure that those which you create will be only good ones.