It’s no surprise that accidents happen, even when we’re trying to be careful. But because we’re outside more and the days are longer, summer can be an especially dangerous time of year. According to SafeKids Worldwide, there’s an 89 percent increase in children drowning in the summer months and a 45 percent surge in bike-riding deaths.
Fortunately, making your child’s summer a safer experience just takes a few precautionary tweaks. Since small risks can lead to big problems, here are ways to avoid them.
SLIP UP: Leaving your child alone in the car.
Each year, an average of 38 children die from heat stroke after being left unattended in motor vehicles, according to kidsandcars.org. The inside of a car can heat up quickly — to as high as 122 degrees F in less than 20 minutes on an especially hot day.
PLAY IT SAFE: Never leave your child in the car, even with the windows “cracked,” or for just a few minutes. Remember, too, that a change in routine or a bad night’s sleep can lead to the unthinkable — driving to work with your sleeping baby in the car and forgetting to drop her off at daycare. To help remember baby is in the car, put a soft toy in the front seat. Or secure something you need, such as a purse or backpack, in the backseat near your baby.
SLIP UP: Tossing charcoal after a BBQ.
Cleaning out the grill and disposing of coals in a remote section of your yard or at the beach may seem like a good idea because it’s far away from everyone. Trouble is, kids run all over the place in the summer and they’re often barefoot. “Charcoal can get up to 1,000 degrees F,” says John Drengenberg, consumer safety director at Underwriters Laboratories, in Northbrook, Illinois. Even if the coals have cooled and don’t look hot, they can retain their heat for hours. It only takes a moment’s contact with a scorching coal to seriously burn a child’s foot.
PLAY IT SAFE: Whether you’re at home, at the beach or camping, cool down hot coals before disposing of them by dousing them with a garden hose or a bucket of water after cleaning out the grill.
SLIP UP: Assuming someone is watching the kids.
"At pool parties, many parents assume somebody else is watching. Mom assumes Dad’s watching. Dad assumes Mom’s watching and it’s easy to get distracted,” says Phyllis F. Agran, M.D., M.P.H., professor emeritus of pediatrics at the UCI School of Medicine, in Irvine, California. Even a few unsupervised minutes in the water can be deadly for a young child.
PLAY IT SAFE: Assign pool duty. At pool parties with children present, assign a supervisor and make it clear by saying to your spouse, “Okay, you’re on duty while I’m chatting with our friends.” Don’t think it’s enough to make your older kids, who are having fun too, keep an eye on your younger ones. Make that supervisor your spouse or another adult.
SLIP UP: Letting your child ride his bike without a helmet.
Studies show that kids ages 11 to 15 tend to wear helmets less often than younger ones.
PLAY IT SAFE: Be on helmet patrol. A bike helmet can reduce the risk of bicycle-related traumatic brain injury by up to 88 percent. So protect them with a properly fitted helmet whenever you ride. Keep on your older child to always wear one.
SLIP UP: Keeping the wading pool filled.
“Young kids can drown in an inch of water or less,” says Drengenberg, so don’t think the water in your child’s baby pool is harmless.
PLAY IT SAFE: "Dump the wading pool when you’re done with it," he says. "And turn it upside down so it doesn’t catch rain water.” In fact, empty all outdoor containers of water after use, including five-gallon buckets and insulated coolers; they’re all formidable drowning hazards. Don't forget too, that standing water breeds mosquitos.
SLIP UP: Leaving medication on the hotel night stand.
"When we’re traveling, it’s often much easier for youngsters to get into things that might be safely stored at home,” says Soloway. We stow medication and vitamins in suitcases, on night stands, places that are accessible to children, she says.
PLAY IT SAFE: If you don’t have access to a locked cabinet, store your medication and vitamins out of your child’s reach just like you would at home. Do the same at Grandpa and Grandma’s house, too, and make sure any medication or vitamins they take aren’t accessible.