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Enjoying Summer Safely

How To Ensure That Your Kids Enjoy Their Summer Safely

Summer brings with it swimming pools, beach outings and trips to the park. But it also brings increased numbers of drownings, sunburn, dehydration, playground accidents and other injuries. Do you know everything you need to know to keep your little one as safe as possible this summer? Find out!

1. Children are OK for a short time in a car if you roll the window down halfway.

True or False

1. False.
Never leave a child unattended in a car, and don't allow children to play in the car – they can become trapped and suffocate (or overheat).

2. Children should always be watched around water, no matter how small the amount.

True or False

2. True.
Toddlers can drown in just a few inches of water. Because of this, always supervise your child when in or around a pool. Even kiddie pools can be dangerous. Empty all pools and large basins (like a large water tub for dogs) when not in use. Larger pools should be fenced, and the gates should swing closed by themselves and have locks. Carefully scrutinize all fenced areas to make sure kids can't climb through or over the fence at any point. Even if your toddler has had swimming lessons, never leave him or her unattended in or around the pool for any length of time. If you have a gathering or party near the pool, do not be responsible for more than two to three children at a time. Get another adult to help you watch the kids.

3. There are very few plants that are poisonous to children, and they only grow in tropical climates.

3. False.
Did you know that many "average" outdoor plants are extremely poisonous? Daffodils, oleanders and wild mushrooms (which often grow in small patches in backyards), for example, can cause very severe symptoms when eaten. Teach your toddler to never pick berries, leaves or flowers without your permission. While it can be fun to explore the woods looking for edible berries and herbs, wait until your child is older so that he or she doesn't get the wrong idea. Ask your local nursery if the plants you have in your yard are dangerous. If something is deadly, consider replacing it.

True or False

4. Trampolines are a good choice for toddlers and preschoolers.

True or False

4. False.
"There are a number of reasons that have led the [American] Academy of Pediatrics to recommend that no child under the age of 6 use a trampoline," says iParenting expert Dr. John Dorsey, M.D., a pediatrician at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. "That goes for ones with or without sides. The risk of brain and body injuries is staggering. The statistics say that one in five children who use a trampoline will end up in the emergency room. It's a lot like diving into shallow water. It's an accident waiting to happen."

5. Chlorine kills all the germs that can make a child sick. If a pool is chlorinated, it's safe.

True or False

5. False.
People often assume that they can't get sick from swimming in pools because chlorine kills all the germs in pool water. However, this assumption isn't completely correct. Although chlorine does kill germs, it has a couple of limitations.

First, if a pool's chlorine and pH levels aren't maintained properly, the chemical can't do its job. So it's crucial for pool personnel to test the water regularly and add chemicals when they're needed.

Second, chlorine takes time to work. It doesn't kill all germs instantly, and certain germs, such as Cryptosporidium, are relatively resistant to it. (E. coli, on the other hand, is very sensitive to chlorine and shouldn't survive for more than a minute or so in a well-maintained pool.) Chlorine alone can't keep a pool safe. Swimmers have to do their part, too, by practicing healthy swimming behaviors. Parents of toddlers have an especially important role to play here, because children of this age are especially likely to have "accidents" in the pool.

6. In the summer months, fruit juice should be the drink of choice for children.

True or False

6. False. Experts say that drinking too much fruit juice can contribute to several health problems in babies and young children, including malnutrition, tummy troubles and tooth decay. This doesn't mean that juice is a bad food. It isn't. Fruit juice can be a healthy part of a child's diet, if it's used appropriately. The problem is that some children drink inappropriately large amounts of juice. And since parents usually perceive juice as a natural, nutritious food, they may not realize that they need to keep an eye on their children's juice intake. Plain old water is the best choice to keep children hydrated during the hot summer months – and always!

7. Sun exposure during childhood increases the risk of skin cancer in adulthood.

True or False

7. True.
Protection from sunburn is particularly important for children. In fact, recent studies show that excessive exposure to the sun during childhood increases the risk of skin cancer in adulthood. A young child's eyes are also susceptible to irritation from the sun's harsh glare.

A few things a parent can do to keep little ones safe during summer outings include avoiding sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; covering babies and children with a long, white shirt and wide-brimmed hat; keeping babies under large sun umbrellas at the beach; generously applying and reapplying sunscreen; and applying lip balm with an SPF of at least 15.

8. Swing sets and other play equipment can rust and deteriorate over the winter months.

True or False

8. True.
Be sure to check all bolts, screws and fittings each spring before use. If you plan to buy a swing for a tree or swing set, be sure to buy lightweight plastic ones that won't hurt a child if it strikes him. Rope or tire swings in trees should be able to hold an adult's weight (if more than one child gets on the swing, it could be a problem) and should swing freely in all directions. To ease falls, consider placing 8 to 10 inches of wood chips under and around all play equipment.

9. More than 400,000 children were reported missing in the United States in 2001.

True or False

9. False.
According to the FBI's National Crime Information Center, more than 840,000 children were reported missing in the United States in 2001. While out and about and enjoying summer, measures should be taken to keep your children safe.

  • Parent and child need to agree on a simple code word for emergency situations. A trusted adult who knows the code word can pick up your child, and your child knows it is OK to go with them.
  • Parents need to provide contact information to their children (phone numbers where they can be reached, including home, office and cell phone).
  • Parents should make sure that their children remember their own name, address and phone number.
  • Teach your children not to accept rides and gifts from strangers. Tell them it's OK to say no.
  • Teach your children to get permission before getting a ride or going anywhere with someone.
  • Have a plan in case your child gets separated from you in public.
  • Teach older children to stay in groups when going anywhere.

10. The most important ingredient for summer safety is sunscreen.

True or False

10. False.
While it is very important to keep sunscreen on your children at all times when in the sun, the most important ingredient for summer safety is supervision. It only takes a few minutes for a small child to get into trouble, which is why they need a constant, watchful eye on them.

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