Ready…or not, here it comes. Many people are already making plans for the summer of 2021, especially after last year’s muted one, right? Darting dragonflies, long summer nights, and the delighted squeals of children as they play all signal the start of summer.
It feels like we have a lot to “make up for”, so this summer is full of promise! The COVID vaccine has been rolled out and the number of people vaccinated is increasing daily. Honestly, COVID-19 has changed us forever, but if you’re expecting another blog post on COVID-19, this is not it!
Summer is synonymous with outdoor fun and activity. However, it’s not the time to let down our guard regarding our most precious asset — our children. As parents, grandparents, or guardians, you’re probably reluctant to hold your charges back from living life to the fullest during these months, especially in light of our recent past. Because of that, let’s talk about a few dangers that require attention as children are primed for more freedom to run, play and explore this summer.
Drownings are the leading cause of accidental death among children of all ages. It’s also the number one cause of injury related death involving children age four and under. As hard as it is to believe, children can drown in toilets and buckets, as well as in pools and lakes. Education and knowledge are the primary ways to protect your family and prevent these horrible accidents.
Ways to prevent childhood drownings include:
Never leave children (even if they know how to swim) unsupervised near a body of water, including bathtubs.
Learn CPR, this is important for people who care for children.
Avoid alcohol while supervising children who are playing in or near water.
Place fencing around backyard pools, this is important for the safety of children and pets.
Obey “No Swimming” signs, always.
Use mechanisms to child proof restroom doors.
Empty buckets and containers of water.
Insect bites and stings are also common in the spring and summer. These bugs and other creeping things, like ticks, mosquitos, and spiders, are abundant in the places people love to hang out during the summer months. Along with the immediate discomfort of the bite or sting, there are often residual problems as well. This can range from diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease, and West Nile virus to allergic responses that can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions.
The elimination of mosquito breeding grounds is essential to preventing these negative effects. Precautions such as ensuring items that hold standing water are emptied, wearing light-colored clothes, and thinning out dense brush and bushes from near your home will aid in this effort.
Outdoor activities can also lead to heat exhaustion and sunburn, and proper hydration is essential for children during the extreme temperatures of the summer months. It would be unrealistic for me to suggest limiting the amount of time that children are outside, so let’s briefly talk about a few things you can do to decrease the chances of them suffering from heat exhaustion or sunburn.
First, make sure to apply (and reapply!) sunscreen. There are various levels of SPF sunscreen on the market that can be worn during outdoor activities that are also sweat and water resistant and even hold up to swimming. Second, wearing light colored clothes that are loose fitting and breathable will lessen the effects of the heat. However, even with these precautions we should still be on the lookout for the symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as weakness, fast heart rate, tiredness, muscle cramps, nausea and being flushed. Being able to quickly identify these symptoms and get help is important.
These are just a few areas to be mindful of during the dog days of summer and I’m not sure what getting back to normal looks like at this point considering we’re not out of the pandemic. However, finding a way to rest, restore, and reinvent after a year of uncertainty seems to be in order. My advice is simple. Evaluate every opportunity for safety as it relates to COVID-19 and other potential dangers for your family. Ultimately, have fun and make amazing memories!
Phyllis Riles, RN is a certified Infection Control and Prevention (CIC) nurse who specializes in educating GermBlast clients and staff on practical ways to prevent the spread of disease.