Choose the health content that’s right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox.
Through a child’s eyes, summer looks like an endless array of long, playful days. But as a grown-up, you see things a bit differently. You also see the dangers that lurk outdoors that can lead to broken bones, burns, and bike crashes.
It’s hard to know which view to take: the free spirit or the safety cop. Stop trying to choose a side. You can strike a balance between your adult nature and your inner child (yes, the one that agrees that dirt doesn’t hurt). Know what safety steps are nonnegotiable for four popular kid pastimes. Check them off your list, then go have some fun.
Exploring the world on two wheels offers your child freedom, fun and a healthy dose of exercise. But each year, about 26,000 children worldwide are seen in emergency departments for traumatic brain injuries related to riding their bikes. There’s no need to rush your child off training wheels — most aren’t ready for a two-wheeled bike until age five. Choose one that fits properly, allowing your young cyclist to place the balls of both feet on the ground while sitting on the seat.
When biking, insist that your child wear a helmet for every ride. Choose one that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (check the inside label for the stamp of approval). In the event of a crash, helmets protect kids from more severe injury.
For many kids, the very definition of summer fun involves splashing in the pool, lake or ocean. But as many parents know, unintentional drowning is a real and very serious risk. More than 20% of drowning victims are children aged 14 and under.
It’s important to always supervise kids near pools or other bodies of water. Designate at least one adult who knows how to swim and can watch kids without distraction. For infants and toddlers, be sure to stay at arm’s length to provide touch supervision.
Swimming lessons may lower your little one’s risk of drowning. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends signing kids up when they’re ready, which can be as early as one year old. Still, even trained swimmers need a watchful adult nearby. And it’s always a good idea to keep safety equipment such as life preservers on hand.
While it’s true that joining the squad helps your child build friendships and learn sportsmanship, every year more than 2.6 million children end up in the emergency department with sports-related injuries. And as the mercury rises, so too does the risk of heat-related illness during practice, games or matches.
If your child wants to play a sport, take them to the doctor’s office to receive a pre-participation physical exam. Check that your little athlete has the right protective gear for the activity (helmet, wrist guards, knee pads, etc.), and help them train for their sport. Proper physical conditioning can protect them from damage.
To stay cool in hot temperatures, encourage coaches to schedule games and practices in the morning or late afternoon, instead of the heat of the day. Avoid heat illness by giving your child plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise. During practice or a game, kids should get a water break every 20 minutes.
Playing at the Playground
Swings, monkey bars and seesaws encourage kids to test — and extend — their physical limits, but even backyard swing sets pose safety risks. After hours in the sun metal, plastic and rubber equipment can scald your child’s skin, while wooden materials can be a source of splinters. Ropes and nets may trap small heads. And falling from a swing, slide or other structure onto a hard surface like concrete or asphalt can cause injuries.
Begin by installing equipment properly and safely, on a level surface and anchored firmly to the ground. Place energy-absorbent materials, such as safety-tested mats or wood chips, underneath. Make sure it covers at least six feet in all directions (even farther for swings and slides).
Before playtime, check the temperature of all equipment, and frequently inspect equipment for loose bolts, rusted chains and jagged edges that could catch a child’s clothing.
Stay Calm When Trouble Strikes
The sight of blood or the sound of a child crying can rattle any parent, but keeping calm when accidents happen helps you make better decisions. Your mood can also help put your child at ease. To maintain a cool head:
Plan in Advance
Talk with your child’s doctor about the signs and symptoms of a medical emergency. Create a checklist to guide you on when to go the hospital, when to call an ambulance and when you can just check in with them. If you do have to seek emergency care, complete a medical history form for your child and bring it, along with any medications your child takes.
Study First Aid
Learning the correct way to manage bleeding, shock and other disasters can help you stay focused and take swift action when an injury occurs. Taking a course through an organization like the American Red Cross can be a big help.
Keep a First Aid Kit Nearby
Store a clear, waterproof plastic container with medical supplies where every adult in the family can reach it. Include over-the-counter medications, bandages, gauze, adhesive tape, sharp scissors with rounded tips and related items.
Trust the Pros
Know that emergency medical personnel stay on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They’re trained to provide lifesaving care after you make the call to 911.
Tend to Your Child’s Emotions
Once immediate danger has passed, your child may feel anxious and scared. Ask what he or she is feeling and provide honest, realistic reassurance.