Summer is a time for vacations, barbecues and outdoor activities, but it also brings weather-related dangers and injuries. Follow these summer safety tips designed to help protect your family this season.
Children and Cars – Heatstroke
One of the biggest summer dangers for children is heatstroke. On average, every eight days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle.
“Most times, these are tragic accidents that occur when there is a variation in the normal routine — an extra stop on the way to day care or a different person taking a child to school,” says James Young, MD, pediatric emergency medicine physician at Levine Children’s Hospital, part of Carolinas HealthCare System.
Children become overheated three to five times faster than adults. In the summer, parents should stay vigilant to avoid tragedy and follow these heatstroke safety rules:
• Never leave a child alone in a car, not even for something like a quick stop inside a convenience store. “Car temperatures can quickly increase by 20 to 30 degrees within 15 minutes,” says Young.
• Always lock your car, especially at home. “Nearly a third of the heatstroke-related car deaths are due to children getting into unlocked cars without the parents’ knowledge,” says Simone Lawson, MD, pediatric emergency medicine physician at Levine Children’s Hospital. “Children get into an unlocked car and cannot get out.”
• Remember, it doesn’t have to be hot for a child to become overheated in a car. A child in Georgia died in a vehicle earlier this year when the recorded temperature was only 58 degrees.
• Make sure the staff at your day care or school knows you will call if your child is not coming in that day. In return, tell the staff to call you if your child is not present.
• If you see a child left alone in a car, call 911 immediately.
Vehicle deaths by heatstroke often get the headlines, but they are only one of the summertime safety hazards. Here are more ways to steer clear of common summer dangers:
“Nearly half of all water deaths in North Carolina occur from June through August,” says Lawson. For safe swimming this summer, remember:
• Know where all the water is in your community — pools, lakes or rivers — and teach children basic water safety.
• Always supervise children in or around water. “Use touch supervision, not just sight, to keep kids safe,” says Lawson.
• Children over age 3 should take swimming lessons, and parents should know CPR and know how to swim.
• Install a four-sided fence with a locking gate around all pools.
Biking and Walking Safety
“Warmer weather brings out more walkers and bikers, many of them children,” says Young. “Adults should be mindful of this and slow down while driving, especially in areas with increased foot and bike traffic.” Other tips to remember:
• Wear a properly fitted bike helmet.
• Make sure kids know the rules of the road, like looking before crossing the street and biking in the direction of traffic.
• Never cross a street or ride a bike while wearing headphones or using the phone.
“Car crashes occur more often in the summer among younger drivers because they’re out having fun without a defined destination,” says Lawson.
Parents and teens should sign a vehicle safety contract that covers the following:
• Always wear a seatbelt.
• Do not use a phone in the car while driving.
• Do not speed or take any risks as a driver.
• Be a good passenger and don’t encourage drivers to take part in risky behaviors.
• Have a “way out” if a teen finds himself or herself in a situation where a driver might have been drinking, such as at a party or during a night out with friends. Make sure the teen knows to text you for a pick up. “If they do call, don’t judge or ask too many questions, but do have a talk the next day about potential risks,” says Lawson.
(This column is one of a regular series submitted by Carolinas HealthCare System’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion. For more information, go to www.carolinas.org.)
Written by: Cathy Hein, Carolinas HealthCare System