Summertime is an exciting break from school and the hum-drum daily routine. Families spend warm summer days swimming by the pool, playing at the park, and celebrating various events of the season.
Sadly, among the hundreds of fun activities to do over the summer, dangers lurk around every corner. Parents of young children and teens in Maryland should be familiar with the top summer hazards linked to their favorite hobbies and the steps to preventing severe accidents that could turn deadly.
Recreational swimming is an ideal summer pastime for Marylanders when the weather gets hot, but also one of the most dangerous.
This past Memorial Day, an 11-year-old boy from Joppa was pulled unresponsive and not breathing from a private swimming pool. After first responders administered CPR, the Harford County boy was transferred to the hospital in critical condition before succumbing to his injuries a few days later.
This tragic accident is not an isolated incident. According to the Maryland Department of Health (M.D.H.), drowning was the second leading cause of death in our state in 2015 for children ages four and under. Nationwide, an average of 3,500 dies from unintentional drownings every year, about 10 people a day. One in five of these drownings are children under the age of 14. And for every child who dies from a drowning accident, another five receive emergency medical care for near-drowning injuries.
What You Can Do: It doesn’t take long for a child to drown. Even when children are well trained in how to swim, accidents happen. The M.D.H. recommends taking these precautionary steps every time your children plan to swim this summer:
- Gate and lock the pool: If you or your relatives have a pool, it’s critical to invest in gates that will keep young children from sneaking in when no one is watching. Make sure the gates lock and that children cannot simply climb on a chair to climb over or unlock the door.
- Know who can swim: If your child cannot swim well, make sure someone is in the water with them or that they are wearing life preservers when near the water. If you are watching someone else’s children in the pool, talk to the parents beforehand about how well they can swim.
- Don’t misuse flotation devices: Pool flotation devices such as inflatable tubes and pool noodles are not made to prevent drownings. These devices are toys for the pool and should not be substituted for lifejackets and puddle jumpers for children who cannot swim.
- Supervise at all times: If you need to step away from the pool area, have another parent take over supervising. If there is no one else to supervise children in the pool when you leave, have the children take a break away from the pool where they will be safe.
- Know CPR: Emergency services do not always arrive in time to save the life of a child who is suffering a drowning injury. Learning how to perform CPR effectively can save someone’s life if their airway is full of water.
- Stay sober: You cannot correctly supervise children or react to an emergency if you are drinking. If your job is to supervise swimming children, make sure you are sober enough to do the job before accepting the responsibility.
Hot Car Deaths
The summer heat can make a car unbearable to be in when the air-conditioning is off. If your children are left alone in the car too long in this excruciating heat, the consequences could be deadly.
Despite the many safety efforts and increased awareness about leaving children in hot cars, more children died last year of vehicular heatstroke than in any other year in our nation’s history. The National Safety Council report 52 children died from heat-illnesses in 2018 and 11 more have died so far this year.
Since 1998, Maryland has experienced 14 child vehicular heatstroke deaths. The most recent accident, occurring in South Carolina, involved a 4-year-old Maryland boy who died of heatstroke after locking himself in a hot car while visiting relatives.
What You Can Do: Child vehicular heatstroke deaths are 100 percent preventable. According to NoHeatStroke.org, these are the safety measures parents should be following to prevent fatal heat illnesses in the car:
- Never leave a child unattended in the car: Even on a cool summer day, the temperature in a vehicle can raise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. Never load your children in the car before you are ready to leave. Even 15 minutes of extreme heat can have fatal consequences.
- If you see a child unattended, call 9-1-1: You don’t know how long the unattended child has been in the hot vehicle or when the parents are coming back. Do not take a chance- call for help.
- Check your vehicle before you go: Make sure every child that came with you in the vehicle is out of the car before you enter the house or building. Sleeping children can be easily be forgotten after a long ride. Always do a thorough look before you leave your vehicle.
- Lock your cars and hide your keys: Children love to play in the car but can accidentally lock themselves in. Lock your car when you are at home and put the keys out of reach of children so they cannot unlock it without you knowing.
- Missing children could be in the car: If you cannot find a child in your home, check the pool, car, and trunk first. Children are very sneaky, even when being supervised. If you have a child who continually sneaks off, consider door alarms.
- Create reminders: Use stuffed animals, your phone, or other personal possessions to remind you to look back before you leave the car. Placing things on the passenger seat as a reminder or in the backseat where you have to look to reach for the items can help you get you started.
- Use your backups: Make it a habit for family or school supports to text or call you promptly if your child does not arrive at an expected destination. This way, if a spouse forgets a child in the car, you will be able to step in sooner.
Summer is full of opportunities for children to sustain critical and life-threatening burns. From campfires to fireworks, to grills and hot metal on recreational vehicles, burn hazards are everywhere.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.), burns and fires are the third leading cause of death in the home. Over 300 children ages 19 and under are treated for burn-related injuries every year, with at least two dying from unrecoverable damages.
Children of all ages can sustain burn injuries over the summer. The C.D.C. reports young children are more likely to sustain a burn injury from hot liquids and steam, while older children are more likely to become burned from direct contact with fire.
What You Can Do: Parents can protect their children from burn and fire injuries most effectively by being prepared. When it comes to preventing burns from a house fire, families should be installing and maintaining smoke alarms, practicing home escape plans, and reviewing fire safety with their children to reduce the chance of fires in the home. To prevent other types of summer burns, Stanford Children’s Health recommends the following safety steps to avoid summer accidents:
- When cooking with hot liquids, keep your child safely away and stay alert in case they sneak up on you.
- Keep pot handles turned inward on the stovetop.
- Do not hold your child while cooking over hot surfaces such as a grill.
- Shut grills when in use and keep children at a safe distance away.
- Supervise children near fireworks and only buy legal products to avoid accidents.
- Do not allow children to sit on motorcycles, ATV’s, and dirt bikes after they have been running to avoid burns from hot metal.
- Keep children far from campfires and remove tripping hazards around fire pits.
Playground injuries have been on the rise in recent years. According to the C.D.C., over 200,000 children ages 14 and younger are treated annually for playground injuries. Children ages 5 to 9 were considered at highest risk for playground injuries, with climbing structures rated as the most dangerous pieces of equipment.
While most playground accidents resulted in broken bones, abrasions, and contusions, at least 20,000 accidents on the playground lead to traumatic brain injuries. These types of injuries can alter the course of a child’s life in an instant. Swings, slides, monkey bars, and climbing equipment were all associated with higher rates of brain injuries.
It’s not common for playground injuries to result in death, but it can happen. Between 2001 to 2008, 40 playground-related deaths were reported in the United States. Of these, 27 deaths were due to strangulation by slides, swings, jump ropes, or clothing drawstrings, while six of these deaths were caused by falls.
What You Can Do: Children will pretty much play on any playground, safe or not. It’s up to Maryland parents to find the safest playgrounds in your area and take preventative steps to reduce accidents, such as:
- Checking the playground materials: Some playgrounds still use wood chips, mulch, and people for padding. If you have younger children, try to visit the playgrounds with rubber mulch or sand bases which are softer in the case of a fall.
- Reading playground rules: Most modern playgrounds have warning signs on equipment with age limits. Pick the equipment that is age appropriate for your child to limit accidents from slip and falls.
- Look for tripping hazards: Equipment, bags, strollers, and other hazards can cause your child to trip and fall. Remove any tripping hazards you see near your child to prevent a fall injury.
- Inspect the playground: Before you let your child loose, quickly inspect the equipment to look for broken or lose pieces, missing guardrails or sharp objects that could cause harm.
- Supervise: If you have a daredevil child, supervise them on the playground at all times. Stand close by when they are climbing or getting too near moving equipment to stop an accident before it occurs.
Fatal Seatbelt Mistakes
Every hour, approximately 150 children between the ages of 5 and 19 die in traffic accidents. According to the C.D.C., crash-related fatalities are the leading cause of death for this age group, and improper seat restraints are often to blame.
Back in February of this year, five Maryland children were killed in a vehicle crash in Bowie when their car veered off the road and hit several trees. The children, ranging in age from five to 15, were ejected from the vehicle- none of them appeared to be wearing seatbelts.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (N.H.T.S.A.) reported only 89.6 percent of Americans wore their seatbelts in 2018. In 2016, nearly 50 percent of individuals killed in traffic accidents were wearing their seatbelts, and about 38 percent of children killed were riding unrestrained.
What You Can Do: No matter how far you are going this summer, your children should always be buckled up or restrained in an appropriate car seat. The N.H.T.S.A. provides these safety recommendations for protecting children in the car:
- Find the right car seat: Your child is not adequately protected unless they are sitting in the correct car seat for their weight and height. For more information on picking the right car seat, click here.
- Stay away from second-hand car seats: Car seats lose their effectiveness over time, especially after a crash. Whenever possible, buy a new car seat or borrow from a friend whose car seat is still within the six-year limit and that has never been in an accident. And never take a car seat from the curb!
- Install the car seat correctly: Make sure your car seat is installed correctly. A seat that is too loose could be ejected from the vehicle in an accident. A seat that is too tight or incorrectly placed could cause trauma injuries from the force of a crash.
- Know before you transition: Do not transition your child to a regular seatbelt until they are ready. If your child cannot sit correctly in their seat (back against the seat, knees bent, feet flat on the floor) your child may not be mature enough to ride with a regular seatbelt.
- Make buckling up a habit: Make it a habit not to leave the driveway until everyone is buckled up correctly.
- Wear your seatbelt: Set a good example for your children and always wear your seatbelt in the car. Your children will not always be riding in the car with you. Teaching them about seatbelt safety early can help protect them when riding with others in the future.
Stay Safe This Summer
Summer is not as much fun if you have to spend it in the emergency room. Take the time to prepare and don’t sacrifice safety for a good time. Get the whole family involved in keeping each other safe to help reduce unnecessary accidents this season.
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