Summertime Injury Prevention Tips

Avoid the Emergency Department This Summer

During the summer, emergency visits jump by about 20 percent at Harborview, and risks are especially great for children. Almost half of all unintentional injury-related deaths in the United States among children ages 14 and younger occur during the three months of summer.

Fortunately, by teaching and practicing injury prevention, parents and guardians can help their children enjoy the warm weather months more safely at home and outdoors.

At home: Every year, 30 to 50 children are treated for injuries caused by falls from windows. Window screens do not keep children from falling. They are designed to pop out for fire safety and can be pushed out by the weight of a toddler.

Supervise children and keep windows closed in upstairs rooms where they play. Also, consider installing window guards or stops to prevent windows from opening more than four inches.

Fire pits are becoming increasingly popular for outdoor entertaining. While some burn wood, others use propane or natural gas. Because they burn very hot, they should be treated like all other fires and campfires. Keep kids at a safe distance and teach them that fire pits stay hot long after the flames go out.

Lawn mowers are the major cause of foot and ankle amputations to children. Do not operate a riding mower when children are present. Do not let your children ride on a mower, even with an adult. Mowers should not be used at dusk or night when it is difficult to see.

In the water: Swimming risks increase in rivers and lakes where water is cold and swift, making swimmers tire more quickly. Precautions include wearing a life jacket, swimming with a buddy and knowing your limits. It’s always best to swim on a life-guarded beach in areas approved for swimming. Of course, young children should not be left alone, even for a moment, near pools or other bodies of water.

Boaters should wear life jackets, avoid alcohol and take boating education classes. Children ages 12 and younger are required to wear a personal flotation device on boats less than 19 feet in length that are moving.

On the road: Car seats for young children and seat belts for older passengers offer the best protection from injury and death in an accident. Once teens get behind the wheel, they should develop their driving skills by practicing in safe, calm and controlled situations. New drivers are granted an intermediate license that prohibits them from carrying other teens as passengers and restricts driving late at night. A sixteen-year-old carrying two friends in the car triples the risk of a crash. Add a third passenger and the risk is increased almost seven-fold.

For other activities on wheels, limit use of bicycles, scooters, skateboards and in-line skates to the daytime. Children should wear a certified helmet (bicycle or multi-sport) and other protective gear such as elbow pads, kneepads and sturdy shoes. While wrist guards are recommended for skaters and skateboarders, they are not suitable for scooters because they may interfere with gripping the handle and steering.

For pedestrians: Basic advice for pedestrians includes walking on sidewalks, using marked crosswalks, observing traffic signals and watching for turning vehicles. To be more visible to drivers, wear brightly colored clothing during the day and special reflective materials at night.

Pedestrians should be extra cautious about marked crosswalks without signal lights. They may not offer any more protection than an intersection without a crosswalk.

Finally, children younger than 10 should not be allowed to cross the street alone. They are often impulsive and may have difficulty judging speed, spatial relations and distance.

For more information about child pedestrian safety, visit Safe Kids Worldwide at www.usa.safekids.org.