Summer is here and if you're like us, you're ready to enjoy time with friends and family - whether that's in the pool, at a splash pad or on a summer vacation. Before you soak up the sun, it's worth brushing up on some summer safety tips to help keep you and your family happy and healthy all season long.
1. Water Safety
Drowning is a major cause of accidental death for young children. And did you know it can occur in just inches of water? The best thing you can do to protect your child from the dangers of water is to enroll them in swim lessons, if they're over the age of one.
If your young child cannot swim or isn't a strong swimmer, consider a Coast Guard approved, well-fitting life jacket anytime you are around water, whether you're boating, on a lake, at the beach or in a pool. A foam noodle or pool float should not be a replacement for a life vest. It's important to always be aware of your surroundings. If you have a child who isn't a strong swimmer, always practice “touch supervision.” In other words, stay within arms-length of your child anytime you are in or near water.
Drowning isn't the only water-related risk to be aware of. Many water activities families choose come with their own opportunities for mishaps. Use these tips to help keep your family safe wherever you choose to make a splash this summer.
- Private home pools should be enclosed with a safety fence that measures at least 4 feet high and has a self-latching gate.
- Pay attention to your surroundings and put down your cell phone! Never use a mobile device, even at home, while supervising children swimming.
- Use diapers designed for the water. They do not get as heavy, and they help prevent the spread of germs.
- Prevent children from diving through water toys to help prevent a possible orthopedic or spinal cord injury.
- The law requires everyone on board to have a life jacket available on the boat.
- Each lifejacket should fit the family member based on their height and weight.
- Remind children to keep all body parts inside the boat at all times.
- While swimming near a boat, keep everyone away from the motor, even if the boat's motor is not running.
Lakes and other bodies of water
- Always enforce the rule that children must inform a parent or supervising adult before they go swimming.
- Remind older children who are allowed to swim by themselves that they must be able to see the supervising adult at all times.
- When jumping into natural bodies of water, always jump feet first and be aware of sandbars and other hidden objects in the water to avoid injuries.
Because of their design, splash pads do not always meet the city or state definition of an aquatic venue, this means they are not always regulated and may not be required to disinfect the water with germ-killing chemicals. Splash pads can spread germs and make users sick if the water is not adequately disinfected. So, parents and caretakers of young users should take their own steps to stop the spread of germs.
- Don't swallow the water.
- Don't sit or stand on the jets; this can spread germs.
- If children are playing in a splash pad park, slipping can be a hazard. Wear water shoes to prevent falls.
- Be sure to rinse off after playing in a splash pad and clean hands before eating or drinking.
2. Protect Yourself Outdoors
Lather on the sunscreen
We all know that sunburn is a common, sometimes painful summer injury. But did you know that early and frequent exposure to the sun can also lead to skin cancer, including melanoma, which can be potentially deadly? Wearing sunscreen is one of the easiest summer safety tips to ensure you stay healthy now and in the future.
For the best protection, you should apply a shot-glass-sized amount of sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours or sooner if you are sweating or in water. This recommendation applies to people of all skin tones and ages, as anyone is susceptible to sun damage. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people of all ages use sunscreen that:
- Offers broad spectrum protection, protecting against both UVA and UVB rays
- Is water- and sweat-resistant
- Is SPF 30 or higher
Summer activities can be so much fun that staying hydrated ends up near the bottom of many of our priority lists. If you wait until you're thirsty to drink, you may already be dehydrated. Without adequate hydration, our bodies can't carry out their normal functions, and in severe cases, too little water can lead to heat stroke or even death. Signs of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating that slows down as the body's moisture depletes
- Light headedness
- Stomach cramps/abdominal pain
- Loss of consciousness
Dehydration doesn't discriminate, but older adults, infants and children, people with chronic illness like diabetes and kidney disease and those who work or exercise outside are at increased risk. Drink plenty of water or other hydrating liquids on hot summer days. Some people, like those with diabetes and kidney disease, have fluid restrictions, so check with your doctor about the right amount of water for you. Wearing light-colored and loose-fitting clothing and finding a spot in the shade can help prevent dehydration and heat stroke. Be especially cautious if you're going to be out in the midday sun; don't overexert yourself and take frequent breaks.
Beware of bug bites
Spending more time outside can include unwelcome party guests like bees, ticks and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes and ticks cause red, itchy bumps and can transmit diseases like Zika, West Nile virus and Lyme disease. You can help prevent tick and mosquito bites:
- Apply an EPA certified bug repellant that contains at least 20 percent DEET on bare skin and over top of clothing.
- If using with sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and allow to dry before spraying repellant.
- Wear pants, long-sleeve shirts, socks and close-toed shoes in areas with thick brush and vegetation.
Bee and wasp stings are another summertime concern. These insects often build their hives in trees and under roof eaves. Check these areas before your next gathering and avoid playing or congregating if nests are present. Cover as much of your body with smooth, light-colored clothing as possible and skip spraying perfume or cologne when you know you'll be spending time outside. And don't forget the cardinal rule—should a stinging insect buzz by you, remain still and calm.
3. Stay a jump ahead of injuries
Trampolines - fun as they are - can also be extremely dangerous. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, thousands of people are injured on trampolines each year. Most of these injuries happen on home trampolines and children younger than 6 are at greatest risk of injury. And the more people on a trampoline, the more dangerous it is. Follow these safety tips, if you or your children use a trampoline:
- Insist on adult supervision at all times.
- Allow only one jumper on the trampoline at a time. If there are going to be two, make sure they stay separated.
- Do not allow flips or somersaults to avoid neck and back injuries.
- Make sure the protective padding and netting is in place and in good condition.
- Water and trampolines do not mix. Do not add a sprinkler or a hose on a trampoline.
4. Bicycle safety
Summer is the perfect time to pull out the bike and take a ride as a family. Bike riding is a great way to get exercise. But before you and the kids start pedaling, be sure you're up to date on how to do it safely.
- Use your head. Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride. The helmet should be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and fit correctly.
- Rules of the road. All bicycle riders should follow the basic rules of the road, which also apply to skateboards, scooters and other non-motorized vehicles:
- Ride on the right, in the same direction as traffic using bike lanes when available.
- Stop and look both ways before entering the street.
- Stop at all intersections, whether marked or unmarked.
- Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
- Before turning, use hand signals and look in every direction.
- Don't talk on a cell phone or text while riding and avoid other distractions like eating.
- Maintain your bike. Show children how to check tire air pressure, brakes, and seat and handlebar height and do these things at least once a year.
5. Lawnmower Safety
This is the time of year where we crank up the lawn mower every weekend. If you don't already know, lawn mowers are extremely dangerous for children of all ages. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, thousands of people are treated each year for lawn mower-related injuries and children under age 19 account for more than 10,000 of these injuries.
Most lawn mower injuries can be prevented if you concentrate on your task and use common sense. Below are some basic tips for staying safe:
- Teach children to stay away from all lawn mowers, even those that are not currently in use.
- Never allow a child, or any other passenger, to ride on a mower, even with parents. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, doctors commonly see children with severe injuries to their feet caused by riding on the back of a rider mower with a parent or grandparent.
- Look behind you when backing up on a rider mower to avoid hitting children who may be playing behind you.
- Children should be at least 12 years old before operating a push lawn mower and 16 years old to operate a riding lawn mower.
- Always make sure you're wearing proper shoes when using the lawn mower - boots or close-toe shoes, never flip-flips or sandals.
6. Summer Travel Safety
There's nothing like a summer trip! If you're preparing to travel by car, check out these helpful tips:
- Buckle up! It's a given, but make sure everyone wears a seatbelt at all times.
- Make sure your car is road trip ready by checking the tires, oil and wiper blades. If you do encounter a mechanical problem on the road, find a safe space to pull over and use your hazard lights.
- Carry a spare and know how to change it in a safe space.
- Drive with your headlights on—it quadruples your visibility.
- Never drive under the inﬂuence of alcohol or drugs. Make sure you're well rested when you hit the road.
- Have your GPS handy in areas that you're not familiar, but use it safely.
- Check the weather ahead of time and plan for breaks in your trip.
Having your car break down is no picnic, especially when you're far from home. To prevent common roadside problems from ruining your summer trip, keep these items in your car.
Scooters are a fun way to get around town while on vacation, but they come with risks if not used properly. Injuries from scooters, particularly electric scooters, include broken wrists, fractured arms, bruised or broken ribs, even head injuries. Because it's a motorized vehicle, take safety steps:
- Wear safety gear like elbow and knee pads, and helmets to help protect you if you fall.
- Start off slowly.
- Just like driving, put down the distractions like your phone or coffee.
- Ride solo on the scooter and don't let kids double up either.
- Never drink alcohol while operating an electric scooter.
Summer First Aid Kit
It's a smart idea to be prepared with a personal first aid kit to help tend to common summer injuries. You can buy a pre-assembled first aid kit online or build your own with:
- Soft gauze, tape and antibiotic ointment for minor cuts and scrapes
- Sunscreen for frequent application in the sun
- Bug spray to ward off mosquitoes and bug bites
- Aloe vera to soothe sunburns
- Hydrocortisone cream to ease itchiness and irritation from insect bites or poison ivy
7. Indoor emergencies
Poisoning is a concern all year, but in summer we see products become more easily accessible to children, especially young children. As you start gardening, remember that the fertilizers or poisons for outdoor use that were once stored deep in the garage or house come out in spring. Post the National Poison Center number by each phone in your home, in the garage where the supplies are and program it into your cell phones: (800) 222-1222.
We hope you and your family stay safe this summer and make memories to last a lifetime. If you do find yourself injured or ill and in need of expert medical care, you can find an ER near you on our Emergency care page.