Summer is usually a happy time for Sammamish families. The weather can provide lots of opportunities for kids to be outdoors - camping, swimming and riding bikes with friends. Unfortunately, there are also lots of opportunities for sometimes life-threatening accidents this time of year. They include: Drowning in local rivers and lakes, burns and injuries related to falling off a bike, skateboard or scooter while not wearing a helmet.
Here are some tips from two local doctors that will help you keep your kids safe and healthy this summer, and hopefully out of the emergency room, while enjoying time outside.
Douglas Diekema, a doctor, is the Director of Education for the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children’s Hospital. He is also attending physician in the Emergency Department at Seattle Children’s. Diekema also has specialized training in wilderness medicine and his family spends their free time enjoying the outdoors camping and hiking. He and his wife are the parents of two teenagers.
Diekema said that parents should be aware when around water, be it a resort pool, lakes, the Puget Sound or local rivers, that two high risk groups are toddlers and adolescents – regardless of whether they have had swim lessons or are in or just around water. “Open water, including lakes, are especially dangerous because, unlike a swimming pool, you may not be able to locate the child in a murky lake or fast-running river until it is too late. Children near open water must be watched constantly,” Diekema said.
The rule when his own children were toddlers was that whenever they were around water they had to have a personal floatation device on. This is a good rule to follow regardless if you are camping or at a resort pool.
Diekema explained: “Adolescents are also at more risk in open water than in swimming pools. They tend to take risks, such as attempting to swim in a fast moving river or jump from a height into water. Parents should continue to emphasize the risks involved with all water and message 'don’t do anything you might regret.'"
Toddlers can get into swimming pools so be vigilant at all times and do a survey when visiting someone’s home with a pool, making sure that the gates to the pool are closed and locked and/or has a sensor to indicate when it has been opened. “Sadly, we see a lot of drowning deaths that occur when a toddler wandered off near a pool or body of water and by the time the parents realized the child was missing it was too late,” he said.
“Every year, we see injuries related to explosive fireworks and hot fireworks including serious hand and eye injuries. There is no such thing as a safe firework,” Diekema said. He doesn’t let his own kids light off their fireworks. “I’m not a big fan of fireworks. I see the downside when kids come in with firework-related injuries. Once you’ve seen a few of those, you realize that it’s just not worth it.”
Bikes – Wear Your Helmet If You Want Your Child To Wear His or Her Safety Headgear
“Kids must wear a helmet at all times when riding a bike. The best way a parent can influence a child to wear his or her helmet is by wearing their own when riding a bike,” Diekema said.
His 15-year-old is not allowed on a bike without one. Also, he said, remind your kids to wear them when skiing, skakeboarding or riding a scooter. And skateboarders should also always wear padding.
Trampolines – Super Fun But Often Cause Serious Injuries
Diekema recently saw a couple of injuries related to trampolines and said that it is common for children to suffer serious injuries from trampoline-related accidents. “There is no such thing as a safe trampoline,” he said.
Allowing only one child at a time on the trampoline will increase safety. “When you have two kids on a trampoline, that is when we see lower extremity fractures of the tibia of a severity that we usually only see in car accidents.” Heavy, older kids will accidentally “launch” a younger child or land on top of him or her. His 12 year old is lobbying for a trampoline this summer and he refuses to get one.
Watch Kids Around Hot Grills and Campfires
Diekema said it is ironic that “parents often super baby proof their house but go camping or to the beach and don’t childproof the camp.”
When cooking outdoors on a grill, either at home or when you camp, he cautions to be especially aware of where children are at all times as grills can get super hot. Toddlers can touch grills or fall into a fire pit resulting in horrible burns. He is “like a hawk” when his own family is cooking outside.
Heat – Why You Should Never Leave Your Child or Pet In A Hot Car
Do not leave your kids and pets in cars, ever, Diekema said. “The inside of a car can become 50 degrees hotter than the outside. With the windows closed, it's like you are creating an oven in there. On a hot day the inside temperature of a car can quickly climb to 120 degrees," he said.
"A 15 year old can be left in a car and if it gets too hot inside, he or she can figure out that they should lower a window or get out of the car, but a toddler or baby can’t lower windows and can’t get out. The risk is too serious to ever make the choice to leave a young child in a car unattended, even for short periods of time.”
Janie Leonhardt is a dermatologist practicing at the in Bellevue and Seattle. She also is a mom. She cautions parents that sun protection should be taken seriously and she has treated skin cancer in patients as young as age 16. Leonhardt said melanoma is the second most common cancer in women ages 20 to 29 in the United States and that, according to the American Cancer Association, the incidence of melanoma increased 690 percent from 1950 to 2001.
“The best protection for children against the harmful effects of ultraviolet light is avoidance by limiting midday sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., seeking shade whenever possible and by wearing sun protective clothing. There are quite a few companies on the market including Seattle-based Sun Precautions,” she said.
She recommended that parents look for sunblock that offers “broad-spectrum protection against ultraviolet A and B light with a SPF of 30 or higher.”
“The biggest mistakes people make when applying sun protection is not applying enough or often enough. You should apply, for the average adult, one ounce with each application, approximately the amount in one shot glass, over the entire body and it should be rubbed in completely," she said.
For children, Leonhardt recommended that "a thick application be applied to every exposed area of the skin. When out enjoying the sun, the sun protection should be reapplied every two to three hours or after coming out of the water.”
Diekema also said: “Remember sun glasses and tinted goggles if your kids sped lots of time in the sun. If you are out there for several hours in bright sunlight, there is the potential to damage your eyes.”