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Safety first in summer

June 22, 2012
The Daily News

Summer is a great time to be a kid. No more teachers, no more books - and lots of water to splash in, sidewalks to ride on, parks to play in and sunshine to bask in.

There also are lots of dangers that lurk behind those summer pleasures, and parents and caregivers need to be on their guard to protect kids from harm.

Experts at the University of Michigan Health System say summer brings with it a different set of risks than the other seasons.

Those risks can cause everything from sunburns and scraped knees to drowning and brain injury.

Fortunately, many summer injuries can be prevented with caution and easy-to-use protection. Experts offer the following tips to a healthier, happier summer.

Water safety

Water, one of summer's biggest thrills, can hold some of summer's biggest dangers. For babies, toddlers, kids, teens and even adults, safety in the water comes from awareness.

Even small backyards pools are potentially dangerous. Infants and toddlers might enjoy sitting and splashing, but if you go inside to answer the phone, in just those few moments a child can become unsteady, fall over into the water, and drown.

Larger pools hold drowning dangers, too, and it's important for anyone with a pool to make sure that unsupervised children don't use it.

If your older children go in the water, make sure they know how to swim and that they develop a buddy system so that there's somebody looking out for them who will know if they get into trouble. That's true whether they're in a pool, a lake, a stream, or anywhere.

Bikes, skates

These days, kids have more ways than ever to have fun on wheels. From new scooters and in-line skates to familiar bikes, skateboards and roller skates, it's easier than ever for them to get around - and to get hurt.

The most important risk is head injury. We recommend strongly that children on any kind of wheels wear a helmet.

Parents should insist on it. No helmet? No bike, no scooter, no skates.

Head, or brain, injuries, which can kill or leave a child paralyzed or with brain damage, strike a million children a year - and falls and sports are leading causes.

Kids on wheels can also hurt other parts of their bodies pretty badly.

Wrist injuries are the most common type of injury from falling off bikes and scooters.

When people fall they tend to put out their hand to block their fall, and that reflex, combined with the angle and speed of the fall, can lead to wrist damage. Kids should protect their wrists with wristguards at all times.

Helmets aren't just for kids.

One of the more difficult things is for parents to try to tell their children that they need to wear bike helmets - when the parents aren't wearing helmets themselves. Kids learn by example.

Even with all the safety gear, experts say kids can still risk injury, and need adult supervision. Without proper supervision, children playing in the street is a recipe for disaster.

Sunburns

Everyone wants to get out into the summer sunshine, and catch it while it lasts. But, the effects of sun on a child's skin can be very damaging.

The more they're outside, the more important sunscreen becomes.

Experts recommend that kids wear sunscreen with a rating of 15 or higher anytime they go outside, not just at the beach or pool.

Dehydration

All the running and playing that kids do in summer can help make them healthier. However, if they don't get enough to drink, they could run into problems.

Dehydration is a condition in which the body doesn't have enough water to function properly. It sneaks up on kids, who may not even realize what's happening.

It's very easy to get dehydrated, and sometimes your body doesn't give you clues that it needs water until you're about to get sick.

Early signs of dehydration in kids include sticky or dry mouths, a drop in their need to go to the bathroom, and unusual thirst.

If they don't get water, they can become less alert or weaker, and even vomit or pass out. In short, a simple lack of water can lead to a medical emergency.

Children playing vigorously outside should get a cool drink every 20 to 30 minutes. Soda and juice can help replace the liquid their bodies have lost from sweat, but the best drink is water.

Facts about kids and injuries:

- Each year, one in four children have an injury severe enough to require medical attention. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in children between 1 and 21 years old.

- Drowning is a leading cause of injury death for young children ages one to 4, and the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death for people of all ages. For toddlers (children ages 1 to 4 years), swimming pools pose the greatest risk of submersion injury. For every child less than 15 years old who dies from drowning in a pool, another 10 receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries. Most kids under 4 who drown do so in home pools; more than half drown at their own home.

- A third of cyclists killed in crashes with cars are under 16; 97 percent aren't wearing helmets. Each year, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are treated in emergency departments, and more than 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries. Children 15 years and younger accounted for 59 percent of all bicycle-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency departments. Another 100,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for any kind of in-line skating injury, and 40,000 are treated for skateboarding injuries. Wearing a helmet reduces the risk of serious head injury from a crash by as much as 85 percent and the risk for brain injury by as much as 88 percent.

- Most of the million cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year in the U.S. are sun-related. People may receive up to 80 percent of their total life exposure to ultraviolet light by age 18.

 
 

 

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