Summer Safety Tips for Divorced Parents
Growing up, the summer was the best time of the year for me and my friends. Staying up late to play outside and being surrounded by the laughter and music ringing out through the neighborhood made my childhood one to remember. But it wasn’t always fun and games. Staying safe was our parents’ number one priority while we were out and about without a care in the world. Now, I work with a lot of parents who find themselves divorced and single. Some of these parents only have custody of their children a few times each year. It can be easy to forget some of the key safety practices that help kids stay safe when you are a little rusty. Here are a few reminders for all of my recently divorced parents out there.
The National Safe Kids Campaign estimates that every year, one in four kids ages 14 and younger will sustain an injury that requires medical attention. Forty percent of those end in a trip to the emergency room, and 42 percent of all injury deaths happen between May and August. That’s a pretty big number. But did you know that we can prevent 90 percent of those injuries from happening in the first place? Here are a few tips to keep your kids safe this summer.
If you plan to spend time outside that means spraying yourself and your kids down with insect repellent. Now it’s important to remember that repellents don’t kill insects, but they can help reduce bites from mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and other bothersome bugs. There are different types of repellents: those that contain DEET and those that don’t. Use insect repellents containing DEET on kids sparingly, never use repellent on infants, and check the levels of DEET in the repellent before applying it to your older kids. DEET can be toxic to them. Repellents that have 10 to 30 percent concentrations of DEET can be used on exposed skin, clothing, and shoes but do not apply it to faces or hands. If you want to avoid DEET, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends repellents that contain picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus, both are non-toxic and able to reduce mosquito bites just as well as formulas with low levels of DEET.
With all that time spent outside on a sunny day, don’t forget that staying hydrated in hot weather can help reduce the risk of heat-related illness. Keep water or sports drinks with electrolytes (I love a good slushy Gatorade) on hand to maintain hydration, and try to stay in a shady or air-conditioned location during the hottest parts of the afternoon. Kids are more susceptible to heat illnesses than adults are because their central nervous system isn’t yet fully developed. Strenuous activity and dehydration make it difficult for young bodies to regulate changes in body temperature, and chronic health conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease and medicines such as antihistamines also increase the risk. Kids are also at risk for heat illnesses if left in a hot car — even if the windows are cracked and even if it’s only for a few minutes. Never leave a child unattended in a car.
Did you know that if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already mildly dehydrated? Relying on thirst as a reminder to take a drink leaves you at risk for dehydration. So to be sure your kids are OK, look for these other signs, instead, which can indicate that a child is dehydrated:
- Dry mouth
Help kids avoid becoming dehydrated by reminding them to drink often throughout the day. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends drinking about every 20 minutes if kids are active in sports.
When it comes to pool safety, according to SafeKids, in 2006 more than 3,700 kids younger than 5 years old were injured in near-drowning incidents, and every year, more than 830 kids ages 14 and younger die due to unintentional drowning. I know I’ll sound like a recording of every other safety person out there, but it’s good advice that should be followed anyway: Never leave kids alone near the pool, no matter what their ages or swim capabilities are. Parents can and should take precautions around home pools, in addition to closely supervising kids while they swim. Installing fencing around pools, at least 5-feet high, all the way around and with a self-closing, self-latching gate, can prevent 50 to 90 percent of accidental drowning incidents. Pool and gate alarms — they alert you to when the pool water becomes agitated and when the gate is opened — add another layer of protection.
Whether or not you wore a helmet while riding your bike as a child (I know I didn’t), it’s a must for kids these days. Nearly 300,000 kids make a visit to the emergency room every year with bike-related injuries, some resulting in death or severe brain injury. Wearing a helmet can help reduce your child’s risk of making such a visit. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sets standards for helmets, so be sure to choose one with its safety seal on it.
This is only the tip of the iceberg on what you can do to help your children stay safe this summer. You can also check out the National Safety Council’s website at www.nsc.org, for more tips on staying safe this summer.