Ah, the summertime. It’s that special and sacred time of the year when the days last a little longer, the water hose stays out all day long so kids can run through the sprinklers, and the freezer stays stocked with popsicles. For many families, this is a season of both play and rest. It’s a time to take life a little slower and more intentionally and, at the same time, make some of the most cherished memories of our lives.
1. Educate your family on water safety.
Getting in the pool or the ocean this summer is a great way to beat the heat and keep your kids physically fit. Yet, the CDC reports that drowning is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 14. While that statistic is scary, there are many things you can do to better prepare everyone in your family to be safe and smart around the water.
Enroll your children in formal swim lessons as soon as you feel comfortable, and ensure they’re properly fitted with the correct floatation devices until they can move about freely on their own. Even if your children can swim, ensure they don’t so alone, especially the younger ones. Keep a watchful adult around at all times, as even the most experienced and skilled swimmer can get tired, get a cramp, or get pushed underwater and need immediate help. If you’re on a boat, ensure that everyone is wearing a life jacket that fits and is designed for his or her age range.
To up your ability to respond in the event of an emergency, consider taking a CPR course offered by your community. It’s a key skill that could save someone’s life and the course can usually be completed in only one day.
2. Stay smart in the sun.
Infants and children up to 4 years old are at the greatest risk of overheating from sun exposure, according to the CDC. When your body becomes overheated, you can contract a heat-related illness as your internal temperature control system works in overdrive to regulate. Your best bet when it comes to avoiding heat exhaustion, heat stroke or another related illness is to prevent overexposure.
To that end, remember that under absolutely no circumstance should an infant, child or even a pet be left in a hot car, even if you have the windows open or cracked. If you’re planning to be outdoors for an extended period of time, resist the urge to dress your children in as little as possible to help them cool off. Instead, loose, lightweight clothes in lighter hues are ideal to protect their skin from the sun and keep them from getting too hot.
3. Keep bugs and ticks away.
It only takes one bite from one tick or mosquito for your child to contract a serious or deadly illness. From Lyme disease to viruses like Zika or West Nile, those tiny insects can wield serious damage. You might think that going outside to check on the garden quickly isn’t enough time for you or your children to become a feast for insects, but the damage can be done in an instant.
In addition to spraying yourselves with an insect repellant every time you go outdoors (especially in the early evening hours, when their activity tends to heighten), you can also take steps to make your yard as tick-free as possible. Clear all tall grasses and shrubs near your home, keep your grass mowed frequently, remove all accumulated leaf litter, and place a wood chip barrier between your woods and lawn to prevent pests from migrating into your play spaces.
4. Practice playground safety.
Summer is a great time for children to play on the playground. From ones at local schools and parks to the one in your backyard, there are plenty of options and parents love jungle gyms, slides and swings for their ability to tire a restless child out and provide physical fitness benefits at the same time. Yet, playground-related injuries account for the emergency room visits of more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger each year.
The most common causes of injury include falls, which can be as minor as a skinned knee or as serious as a brain injury or even death. Before you use a playground, make sure that the areas underneath the equipment are safe, soft and level. Even if your children are older, be sure to supervise them at all times, paying close attention around common fall hazards, such as the fireman’s pole.
Arm yourself with the knowledge of how to proceed if your child suffers a fall from a piece of playground equipment. Know the common concussion symptoms, what to do and who to call in the event that one occurs.
5. Suit up before sports.
Keep in mind that it’s not just playgrounds that can be risky this time of year. If your child plays summer sports, ensure that he or she is properly fitted with the correct safety gear, from shin and mouth guards to knee pads and helmets, before starting the game.
Yes, it’s hot and those items might be bulky and uncomfortable. But, they can also save your child’s life. Even if the game is purely for fun, such as a pick-up game of family football, practice safety at all times and wear protective clothing to prevent any accidents from occurring.
At the end of the day, summer should be about having fun. We should enjoy these longer days with family and soak up every moment that this season has to offer. Yet, it also pays to be as prepared as possible in the event of an emergency. This is one of the most glorious times of the year, but it can also be one of the most dangerous. By keeping safety top-of-mind, we can help make the kind of memories everyone will cherish for years to come.