Keeping our children safe is a fulltime job, and this is especially true during the long days of summer, when children are home all day and are often outside finding fun adventures. Fortunately, planning and preparation ahead of time can lessen the chances of an incident occurring.
Lowcountry Parent talked to the safety experts at MUSC Children’s Health to learn some of the safety measures and tips to help keep all children safe all summer long.
We interviewed Aynsley Birkner, pediatric injury prevention coordinator and Safe Kids Charleston area coordinator at MUSC Children’s Health, and Madeline Gehrig, MSN, RN, pediatric trauma program manager at MUSC Children’s Hospital. Both work passionately to identify potential safety issues for children and educate parents and caregivers about ways to keep children safe.
Summer fun often happens outside on sunny days. Too much sun exposure can be dangerous for everyone, but this is especially true for children since the majority of skin damage occurs in childhood, according to Gehrig. She offered several recommendations to minimize sun damage:
- Even on a cloudy day, wear a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15, and SPF 30-50 is preferred.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after leaving the water, or perspiring and toweling off.
- Keep children under six months of age out of the sun.
- Limit sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when sun rays are most dangerous.
- Use a broad spectrum SPF.
- Swim shirts with UV protection should be used along with sunscreen and not as a substitute for sunscreen.
- Water proof sunscreens still require reapplication.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside.
- For children with sensitive skin, it is best to test the sunscreen on an area of the child’s back first.
- Remember to keep your child hydrated.
Birkner offered plenty of good safety tips for children who enjoy the water during the warm months, which she said are especially important in a water-locked area like Charleston.
“Drowning is the leading of cause of injury-related death in children ages 1-4,” she said. “Drownings can happen to any child in less than a minute, and they are usually silent.”
She urged parents to survey their homes to identify potential water problems including bird baths, pools, buckets, coolers of ice, baby pools and other areas where water can accumulate.
Among her water safety tips:
- Never leave a child alone around any water.
- When you are outside with your child in or near the water, avoid distractions like reading a book, talking on the phone or doing any other activity that takes your eyes off your child.
- If you are outside where children are in the water, assign a “watcher” whose job it is to supervise the children. Switch watchers every 15 minutes and consider placing a wrist band on the watcher.
- For home pools, install 4-sided barriers that are at least 4 feet tall isolating the pool, install door/gate alarms and pool covers.
- Keep a telephone near the pool area.
- Keep toys out of the pool when no one is using them.
- Enroll children in swim lessons.
- Make sure parents and watchers know how to swim.
- Remember that even lessons cannot prepare a child for tides or water drop-offs.
- Keep in mind that life guards are not baby sitters. Their job is to rescue, resuscitate and save lives.
- Children should wear U.S. Coast-Guard-approved personal flotation devices on a watercraft. These should also be worn in and around water by children who do not know how to swim.
- Model safe behavior for your children.
- Make sure all parents/adults know how to administer CPR.
In addition to water and sun safety, Gehrig and Birkner offered safety tips for wheeled sports like bicycles and others that use rollers.
- Use a helmet at all times for wheeled sports activities.
- Make sure your child has the correct helmet for their activity and that they know how to put it on correctly. The helmet should meet U.S. Consumer Product Safety standards.
- There are two types of helmets: bike helmets and multi-sport helmets. Each protects the child’s head for different activities.
- Children should know and understand the rules of the road before venturing out.
- Parents should model and teach safe behavior.
- When riding at dusk, use lights and reflectors.
One last safety tip was directed to parents. Vehicular heat strokes or hot car deaths have continued to grow around the country, with South Carolina among the highest states, and they are completely preventable. These deaths peak during summer months.
Birkner urges all parents and caregivers to ACT:
- Avoid hyperthermia-related deaths by never leaving your child alone in a car and locking all doors and trunks.
- Create reminders and habits to ensure you don’t forget your child. (Leave a purse, wallet in the back seat, look before you lock, have a plan in place for child care providers to call if a child doesn’t show up.)
- Take action if you see a child unattended in a car and call 911 immediately.
Should your child have an accident and your pediatrician is not available, MUSC Children’s Health offers three After Hours Care Centers in Mt. Pleasant, North Charleston and Summerville or the main campus in Charleston has 24-hour emergency care service.
To learn more about summer safety tips, visit musckids.org or safekids.org.