Go out and play the safe way
It's summertime. School is out and the weather is warm. It's a great time to be a kid, but this time of year can also put more kids in harm's way.
Help your children have a safe summer by following these tips from Erin Summa, child safety educator for the MultiCare Mary Bridge Center for Childhood Safety.
Swimming and boating are great summer activities, but they also can be dangerous. Fortunately, a few simple precautions can help keep kids safe at the pool, beach, lake, or river.
Thanks to ongoing snow melt in the surrounding mountains, "One thing to remember about swimming outdoors in Washington is that the water is very cold," Summa said.
Swimming in cold water can cause life-threatening changes to breathing and coordination. Children can't always be counted on to pay attention to how cold they’re getting. If you see a child shivering uncontrollably or with lips turning blue or purple, it's a clear sign that it's time for a break.
Children should always wear a life jacket in open water, whether swimming or boating, and be under direct parental supervision, said Summa.
"That doesn't mean sitting on the beach reading a book," she added. "It means literally standing there watching them."
Even in a pool setting, Summa advises parents to put life jackets on children who can't swim, and she notes that swimming lessons can help reduce the risk of drowning.
Washington state has no statewide laws requiring helmets for bicyclists, but many cities and counties do, including King County, Pierce County, Tacoma, Gig Harbor and Puyallup. (Take heed, parents — these laws apply to all bicyclists, not just children!)
Children should also wear proper helmets for other wheeled sports, such as skateboarding and riding scooters.
Summa cautions parents to choose the right helmet for the sport their child is doing. Helmets rated for bicycling must be replaced in the case of a crash. But multi-sport helmets, which are used for higher-impact sports such as skateboarding, are designed to withstand multiple impacts.
"Many parents look at the style of the helmet and assume it's a bike helmet or skateboard helmet, but they need to look at the rating, not the style," she said.
Open windows can be a serious summertime hazard for children, especially little ones age three and under.
"I think we saw more than 50 window falls last summer," said Summa.
If you have young children at home, she continues, open your windows no more than four inches and use window locks to keep them in place. (Window locks are available at the MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Health Center in Tacoma, as well as other outreach sites.) Be sure to keep furniture and other climbable pieces away from windows, and, as an extra precaution, place shrubs and other plants under windows to help cushion a fall, should the worst happen.
Finally, Summa warns parents not to be lulled into a false sense of security by window screens.
"The screens don’t matter at all," she said. "Screens keep bugs out — they don’t keep kids in."
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Maura is our senior content editor. She writes extensively about health and wellness topics, from fitness and nutrition to medical insurance. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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