Tips for Keeping Your Family Safe This Endless SummerChildren's Health
Hot fun in the summertime. Blue-skied heat, hot sands, and an ocean surf to cool you down. Maybe even a county fair in the country sun.
What’s your family’s passion under the Florida summer sun? Whatever it is, make sure every adult and child follows safety precautions to keep the family fun from becoming a tragedy.
Sally Kreuscher, child advocate and Safe Kids Coordinator with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, says preventable injuries are the number one killer of children in the United States.
Kreuscher shares some tips to keep your summer activities safe and fun for everyone.
Southwest Florida’s extreme summer heat can cause illness, dehydration, and even death. Children, senior citizens, and those who play outdoor sports during the summer months are at the greatest risk for heat-related illnesses.
Just last year, the Zachary Martin Act was enacted, requiring all member schools of the Florida High School Athletic Association to act quickly when student-athletes show signs of heat-related illnesses.
The law was named after 16-year-old Zachary Martin, who died after suffering heatstroke following summer football practice at a Fort Myers high school in 2017. Among the law’s safeguards are cooling tubs on-site at all outdoor sports games and practices and enhanced temperature checks of the weather to ensure safe athletics.
Kreuscher, citing a 2018 study of the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, said that 64 football players have died since 1995 due to heatstrokes.
“Most of those deaths, 47, occurred at the high school level, of which 90% of the deaths happened during sports practice,” she says. “That’s why it’s imperative that we know how to identify someone who might be suffering from a heat-related illness, such as heatstroke, exhaustion, cramps, and severe sunburn.”
- NEVER leave children unsupervised in parked cars. Leaving a child alone in a car can lead to serious injury or death from heatstroke. Young children are particularly at risk because their bodies heat up three to five times faster than an adult’s, Kreuscher says. As with water accidents, these tragedies are mostly preventable.
“Parents need to set-up a system where you have something on the passenger seat or something on your car key ring to remind you to check the car everywhere, especially the back seat, to make sure you haven’t left a child inside the car,” Kreuscher recommends.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink plenty of liquids, regardless of your activity level.
- Wear lightweight clothing that’s light-colored and breathable.
As temperatures begin reaching well into the 90’s, remember to apply sunscreen, limit your exposure to the sun, and protect your eyes with sunglasses.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Wear clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to protect as much skin as possible.
- Seek shade when possible, and remember that the sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest between 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
“One of the first things related to safety that we see during the onset of summer is an uptick of water accidents and nonfatal drownings,” Kreuscher says. “Too often at family functions, we assume everyone around the pool is watching the kids. We recommend you designate someone as a ‘water watcher’—a person, preferably an adult, who accepts responsibility for watching the children.”
Most drowning incidents nationwide occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Kreuscher notes.
“Last year, Florida again led the nation in lives lost to drowning,” Kreuscher says. “Nationally, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children from 1 to 4 years of age. These deaths are 100 percent preventable.”
- Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa, and always watch children around any body of water. Designate a “water watcher” to supervise children in the pool or spa.
- Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.
- Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults.
- Keep children away from pool drains, pipes, and other openings to avoid entrapments.
- Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that meet federal safety standards.
Bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except automobiles, according to Kreuscher.
“Properly fitted helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by at least 45 percent—yet less than half of children 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet,” Kreuscher says. “When shopping for a child’s helmet, include your child in the process,” she says. “Children who pick out their helmet are more likely to wear it.”
To have your child properly fitted for a bike helmet, call Safe Kids Southwest Florida at 239-343-6199 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Always wear a safety-approved helmet and stop at all stop signs and stoplights.
- Ride on the right side of the road, with the flow of traffic.
- Use appropriate hand signals and make eye contact with drivers.
Car Passenger Seat Safety
Kreuscher says that choosing the right car seat for your child is important.
When installed and used correctly, child safety seats can reduce fatal injury by as much as 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers.
At Golisano Children’s Hospital, parents can schedule a car seat appointment with a bilingual child passenger safety technician to learn how to properly install child safety seats, and learn safety precautions, too.
Studies show ATV crashes have increased each year. In 44 percent of the crashes, children younger than 12 years old are injured, Kreuscher says.
“You want to make sure you have all the riding gear, such as a proper helmet, goggles, and gloves,” Kreuscher says. “We want to make sure all kids under the age of 16 are supervised at all times and that they take a safety course on how to ride an ATV.”
Kreuscher says Safety Sam, the ATV-riding robot, can help the students at your local school learn about ATV safety. The lifelike robot, wearing full safety gear, has glowing LED eyes and flashing ATV-strobe lights.
Safety Sam focuses on ATV safety, especially on the physical skills required for safe operation, but also discusses the laws and rules that apply to all ATVs and to kids who ride them, Kreuscher notes.
To learn more about ATV safety or take a hands-on ATV Rider Course and the free online e-course, visit here or call 800-887-2887.
To inquire about having a Safety Sam ATV presentation, e-mail Sally.Kreuscher@LeeHealth.org.
The Child Advocacy Department provides services at the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, the Golisano Nicklaus Children’s Health Center in Collier County, and the Hendry, Glades and Charlotte counties. In Lee County, call 239-343-6199. In Collier County, call 239-254-9560. In Hendry, Glades and Charlotte counties, call either number.