By Robin Dyson, M.D. at Lee’s Summit Physicians Group
Covid-19 is throwing this summer for a curve. Family trips, baseball games, amusement parks, local hangouts, and even public pools are either closed or limited access. Trying to find creative ways to enjoy this time off can be challenging. But it definitely has slowed the pace of life and reduced the stressful rush of having a zillion things scheduled and little time to get them all done. As a Pediatrician, I’m always concerned with keeping my patients safe while they enjoy being kids.
The number one killer of children is unintentional injury and some of our favorite summer activities top those lists:
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Who doesn’t love a good summer vacation road trip, or just a visit to your local custard stand? Babies and toddlers have a larger head-to-body ratio which means that when forward facing, that bigger head can cause more head and neck injuries. So keep those littles facing back for as long as possible and make sure their straps are fitting correctly. My 2 year and older children need those 5-point harnesses to keep them safely strapped in, and my elementary kiddos need booster seats to make sure the shoulder strap doesn’t wrap around their neck and strangle them in accidents.
Kids should sit in the back seat until at least 13 years old due to the hazard of air bags which can cause crush injuries. Kids should know to stay strapped in the entire time the vehicle is in motion. Parents, please be defensive drivers and try not to be too distracted by the kids. Being an occupant in a motor vehicle is the leading cause of injury death in kids 5-19 years of age!
Pedestrian and Bike Accidents
Please teach your children to be safe on their bikes and in the roads and parking lots. Children should wear helmets on bikes, scooters, trikes and other vehicles. This will help protect from brain damage. They need to ride safely and not out into traffic. In addition, teach kids to avoid running into the street after a toy/ball. They should not be playing in the street either. Parking lots are like streets, and drivers may not see a smaller child behind them—hold hands and do not let children run through parking lots.
My favorite thing to do during the summertime when I was a child was swimming. Splashing around a cool pool on a hot summer day is the bomb, but not without risks. Little baby pools are a drowning risk and do not require a 4’ fence around them like other pools. This means that if they are left out, and a toddler sees some water in it (maybe after it rained, or it was not emptied after last time), then they might wander out to the pool unattended and potentially drown. In backyard pools, we need to make sure that kids are being supervised and don’t rough house or try to dive in a shallow pool.
Remember floaties and noodles and other inflatables are only toys. They do not teach our kids to be good swimmers—in fact they can hold children more upright (the drowning position) vs. horizontal (the floating position) which gives children a false sense that they are safe. Children are best with parents in the pool with them, helping them feel comfortable floating, getting their face under water and blowing bubbles, and learning to kick to the side to get out. Certainly, everyone needs to be wearing a life vest on open water—even the best swimmers can die when knocked unconscious from falling off a water vehicle. Drowning is the leading cause of injury death in ages 1 to 4 years of age!
Although not necessarily seasonal, it’s worth talking about suffocation because it is the #1 cause of injury death in children less than 1 year old. Co-sleeping is a huge risk of suffocation for babies—which is why they need their own sleeping environment. Babies can’t always push themselves away from pillows, fluffy blankets, bumpers, and even the parent sleeping next to them on a couch or bed. Watch those lazy summer afternoon naps and evenings and put those babies in their own cribs please!
We’ll be celebrating our country’s independence with fireworks. And wouldn’t you know, kids get burned every year! Sparklers are the leading cause of injury. They should not be pointed at or touched to anyone else. Kids should not touch the burning end or they will hurt their fingers. And they should not be lighting them or playing with lighters and matches. Adults should make sure they are properly disposed of to avoid catching something/someone on fire.
Kids should also stay away from any of the other fireworks being lit—some of the rocket fireworks travel 150 miles per hour and can cause severe injuries. Many places recommend that kids should avoid playing with any fireworks altogether—doing glow sticks and watching professional fireworks displays instead.
And when discussing burns, don’t forget sunscreen! Skin cancer risk increases with each childhood sunburn.
Hope you all have a fun Summer this year, despite restrictions, and BE SAFE out there!