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A boy receives a cast in the Emergency Department at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital.
Hidden heat dangers: 5 simple ways to help your kids avoid the ER
If you ask the folks who work in the Emergency Department at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, they’d really prefer not to see your child this summer. Unfortunately, warm-weather activities can lead to childhood injuries that require treatment in the region’s only Level 2 Pediatric Trauma Center.
The Mary Bridge Emergency Department treats more than 30,000 children each year.
Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for children 14 and younger. These accidents may appear to be random and outside our control, yet they tend to follow predictable patterns and often are preventable.
Here are some simple ways you can keep your child safe this summer:
Window screens keep bugs out, they don't keep kids in
As the Pacific Northwest settles into the hottest days of summer, it’s important to remind parents and caregivers about the hidden danger of children falling out of open windows, even in cases where there’s a window screen.
“Every summer, we’ll see 20 or more kids who fell out windows, and I guarantee we’ll get one or two in the next week,” said Dr. Tom Hurt, pediatric physician in the Emergency Department at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. “Every single year this will happen, and the season is just getting started. These kids can break their skull and be horribly injured.”
Since we don’t often get hot weather in the Northwest, many people don’t have air conditioning.
“So when it gets warm, we open our windows, and we have tons of kids who fall out of second-story or third-story windows,” Dr. Hurt said. “A child might be jumping on a bed next to an open window, or they’re leaning on a screen. These kids will push right through it, and the whole thing falls out.”
In Pierce County, falls are the most common unintentional injury that requires a hospital stay for a child.
Remember: Window screens keep bugs out, they don’t keep kids in.
Don't leave kids (or pets) in cars
When we talk about preventing heat stroke in children, people often think of sunscreen, proper hydration, and always making sure kids have a shady spot to sit.
"Since it’s rare for the Pacific Northwest to have days hotter than 100 degrees, people often forget about the hidden danger when children are left in cars," said Dr. Sara Ahmed, pediatric physician in the Emergency Department at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. "On a warm day, it doesn’t take long for the inside of a car to get over 130 degrees."
If a parent doesn’t want to take a child into a store, they’ll often roll up their windows, so nobody will take their child.
"They might intend to rush in quickly, but they may bump into a friend or get stuck in a line," Dr. Ahmed said. "It’s innocent. But by the time they come out, their kid is in really bad shape. They've baked their baby."
And it’s not just kids: don’t leave pets in the car, either.
How to spot and prevent dehydration in kids
Even in the Northwest, sunburn, dehydration and other heat-related illnesses can be a problem, especially for active children. Indicators of dehydration include: Headache, irritability and dizziness.
"An easy indicator of dehydration is urine color," said Laura Miccile, supervisor of the Center For Childhood Safety at Mary Bridge. "The urine of well-hydrated children should appear the color of lemonade, not apple juice."
4 easy ways to avoid sunburn and dehydration:
- Schedule activities at the coolest time of the day. The hottest time of the day is usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
- Use sunscreen SPF 30 or higher, wear clothing and hats that protect from the sun.
- Limit sun exposure. Don’t stay outside for too long.
Near lakes and rivers, beware of cold water, currents
Drowning is the No. 2 cause of unintentional injury death among children in Washington state. In 2009, 19 people age 18 and younger died of drowning in Washington. About 75 percent of drowning deaths occur in open water, such as rivers, lakes and Puget Sound. Ninety percent of those who drown were not wearing life jackets.
- Pick up a free loaner life jackets: The Mary Bridge Center for Childhood Safety in Tacoma, as well as other locations, offer free loaner life jackets for both kids and adults. Call 253-403-1234.It’s estimated that 85 percent of boat-related drowning incidents could have been prevented if the victim had been wearing a life jacket.
- Drowning doesn't look like drowning: “There was complete silence,” said Tracy White, an LPN at Mary Bridge Pediatrics in Maple Valley, who saved a boy from drowning this summer at Steele Lake.The boy didn’t look like the typical “drowning” victim that’s depicted in TV shows and movies. He didn’t struggle. He didn’t splash. Read more about Tracy's story: "He went limp and sank - Nurse saves the life of drowning boy" “We have a lot of lakes around here, and lifeguards aren't always present,” White said. “It’s important to promote safety, and loaner life jackets are one way to do that.”
- Know the water. The state’s lakes and rivers are cold, even in the summer, and currents are strong enough to overwhelm even the strongest swimmers.
- Check water conditions. Never dive or jump into unfamiliar or shallow water. Swim in designated areas only. Stay out of coastal waters with rip currents.
Near a pool, always keep an eye on kids
In Washington state, most pool deaths involve children younger than 4. Among this age group, most drownings occur in residential swimming pools. Most young children who drowned in pools were:
- Last seen in the home.
- Had been out of sight less than 5 minutes.
- Were in the care of one or both parents at the time.
Don’t let your child be a statistic:
- Poor supervision was considered a factor in 68 percent of the deaths of children younger than 5. Constantly supervise children near water – and stay within arm’s reach.
- Enroll children in swimming lessons. Local pools and YMCA’s offer classes for children as young as 6 months old (with a parent). Children are usually ready to learn to swim by age 5.
- Empty the wading pool or remove ladders when it’s not in use. Ensure proper fencing around larger pools.
- Teach your child safety rules and make sure they are obeyed.
COOLING CENTERS IN TACOMA AND PIERCE COUNTYLocations around Pierce County that people can go to cool down include movie theaters, local malls, and other large stores, as well as Pierce County libraries throughout the region. Other facilities that are open include:
- Sprinker Recreation Center, 14824 C St. in Spanaway 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Anderson Island Fire Department, 12207 Lake Josephine Blvd. 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Fife Community Center, 2111 54th Ave. E 8:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. Mon-Tue
- City of Buckley Multi Purpose Center, 811 East Main 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Mon-Tues
- Mid County Community Center, 10205 44th Ave. E in Tacoma 8:30 a.m. - 8 p.m. Mon-Thurs
- Steilacoom Community Center, 2301 Worthington St 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. Mon-Thurs
- Bonney Lake Senior Center, 19304 Bonney Lk Blvd 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mon-Fri
- Lakewood City Hall, 6000 Main St. SW 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Mon-Fri
- Chapel Hill Church, 7700 Skansie Ave. in Gig Harbor Entrance C or D 7:30 a.m – 9:30 p.m. Mon-Thurs
- Lowe’s – all stores, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Petsmart – all stores
- VCA Pacific Avenue, 10324 Pacific Ave in Spanaway, open 24/7
Posted on Jul 1, 2013 in Kids' Health