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Must-read tips to ensure a safe summer for kids

Posted on Jun. 16, 2011 ( comments)

Laura Miccile is supervisor of the Center For Childhood Safety, MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center.

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 nearly 30,000 children each year.

Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for children 14 and younger. These tragic accidents may appear to be random and outside our control, yet they tend to follow predictable patterns and often are preventable.

The statistics on childhood injuries are just the tip of the iceberg – many injuries are treated at home and go unreported. Here are some simple ways you can keep your child safe this summer.


Statistics: 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.

Don’t let your child be a statistic:

Short-term loaner life jackets are available for free. 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. State boating regulations require children 12 and younger to wear life jackets on boats less than 19 feet.

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.


Statistics: 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.


Statistics: From 2005-2009, bicycles accounted for 98 injury hospitalizations for youths ages 19 and younger in Pierce County. Bicycle injuries are the second leading cause of injury hospital stays for Washington state children ages 5-14. Head injury is the most common cause of death and serious disability.

Don’t let your child be a statistic:

Correctly wearing a bicycle helmet reduces the risk of head injury by 85 percent.

Wear the helmet low on the forehead, just above the eyebrows. Helmets should not slide or wobble.

Teach by example. Always wear your helmet and follow rules of the road when you ride.

Teach rules of the road by riding along and explaining and practicing each rule.

Data from the 2006 Washington Healthy Youth Survey show that 45 percent of sixth graders report they wear a bicycle helmet either always or most of the time when they ride. However, by the 12th grade, only about 13 percent of students report wearing a helmet always or most of the time when riding.


Statistics: In Pierce County, falls are the leading cause of unintentional injury that requires a hospital stay for a child. Stairs, furniture and baby walkers present a risk to infants. Playground equipment is a leading cause of fall-related injuries for children up to age 14. Toddlers face the greatest risk from window-related falls.

Don’t let your child be a statistic:

While increased supervision can often prevent stairway tumbles or playground accidents, window falls are preventable by following these simple steps:

Move furniture away from windows and balconies.

Every year, many children fall out of open windows with window screens. Window screens will not keep your child from falling.

Monitor window safety at your child care location and anywhere children visit.

If you must open a window within a child’s reach or climbing distance, install an operable window guard. Window guards have horizontal bars no more than 4 inches apart that screw into the side of a window frame.


Statistics: Pierce County hospitals treated 51 fireworks-related injuries in 2008, and 785 firework-related injuries or fires were reported to the state Fire Marshal that year.

Bottle rockets and firecrackers lead the list of illegal devices causing injuries.

Children ages 4 and younger are at the highest risk for injuries from sparklers.

The leading cause of fireworks-related injuries is “holding,” which caused 56 injuries in 2008.

Don’t let your child be a statistic:

Burns account for more than half of all fireworks-related injuries and primarily occur to the hands, eyes and head. In 24 percent of the incidents involving children, there was no adult supervision.

Follow local laws – fireworks are banned in many cities. Purchase only legal fireworks, available at approved stands.

Only a designated adult should light fireworks.

Never throw fireworks and never hold fireworks in your hand.

Be sure all unused fireworks, matches and lighters are out of the sight and reach of children.

Consider alternatives to fireworks: Watch a public display, use glow-in-the-dark sticks or fiber-optic flashlights. Play with streamers, noise makers, bubble machines or pinatas. Provide patriotic food and music.


Statistics: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of fatal injury for children 14 and younger. Many children are not riding in car safety seats or not using seat belts correctly. Before a summer road trip – or if children are riding with visiting grandparents or relatives – it’s important to ensure that restraint systems are properly used.

Don’t let your child be a statistic:

It’s estimated that 80 to 90 percent of car seats are improperly installed – is yours one of them?

A properly installed car seat reduces fatal injury by up to 71 percent. Washington state law requires that children younger than 8 years old or under 4-feet-9-inches tall must ride in an appropriate child restraint system, such as a car seat or a booster seat, and children under age 13 must ride in the back seat.

To get a free car seat inspection by a certified technician, call the Mary Bridge Car Seat Help Line at 253-403-1417. Weekly Car Seat Safety Inspections are offered every Tuesday from 9-10:30 a.m. at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital Safe and Sound Building, 1112 S. Fifth St. (corner of South 5th and L Streets), Tacoma.


Statistics: After so many months of grey skies, it’s easy to forget that the sun exists. 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. The urine of well-hydrated children should appear the color of lemonade, not apple juice.

Don’t let your child be a statistic:

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.


Statistics: Summer is the perfect time to get a jumpstart on childhood vaccinations that are required by the state before schools starts again this fall. Additionally, consider vaccinations if travel plans will take you overseas. During the first 19 weeks of 2011, 118 cases of measles were reported in the U.S., the highest number reported for this period since 1996. Children older than 6 months are eligible to receive MMR vaccine and should be vaccinated before overseas travel.

Don’t let your child be a statistic:

Children are due for a series of immunizations between the ages of 4 and 6, and again at between the ages of 11 and 12, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For teens who are about to head off to college this fall, the CDC now recommends a second dose of meningitis vaccine. The Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital Mobile Immunization Clinic travels throughout Pierce County and provides free immunizations to all children from birth through 18 years of age. For more information about the Mobile Immunization Clinic, call 253-403-1767.

Laura Miccile is supervisor of the Center For Childhood Safety at MultiCare Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital & Health Center in Tacoma. For more information, call 253-403-1234 or visit


Mary Bridge Center for Childhood Safety: 253-403-1234 or

Safe Kids Pierce County: 253-403-7911

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