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Keeping Kids out of the Emergency Department

separator Emergency room doctors call summer “trauma season.” It may seem dramatic, but facts are facts. Kids do find themselves in more unsafe situations during the summer months. Here are some practical things you can be aware of 

Sun protection
Children and adults should wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15. Babies under six months old should not spend time in direct sunlight. Try to keep them in the shade.

Outdoor activity in the heat

Make sure kids drink water before beginning prolonged activity. They should also have something to drink every 20 minutes or so during the activity, whether they’re thirsty or not.

Water safety
Don’t ever leave your children alone in or near a pool, and make sure children are supervised by an adult who knows life saving techniques and CPR. Be aware that inflatable devices, such as inner tubes, do not provide any great measure of safety. Kids who wear them still need constant adult supervision.

If at all possible, enroll your children in swimming lessons, even if they protest. It’s one of the best ways for them to learn to be safe around the water.

Window screens
Each year, about 4,700 children under 14 visit hospital emergency departments for window-related accidents, and 18 children age 10 and under die in this type of accident. It’s easy for a child to dislodge a window screen simply by leaning against it.

  • Consider putting guards on all ground floor windows.
  • Move all furniture away from windows. Children have been known to fall out windows that were open only about five inches.

Skateboards and scooters
Here are the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) most recent guidelines for children’s use of skateboards and scooters:

Unless an adult is supervising:

  • Children under 10 should not use skateboards without adult supervision.
  • Children under 8 should not use scooters without adult supervision.

Additionally, the AAP states that children under 5 should not use skateboards at all.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of non-motorized scooter injuries treated in emergency rooms increased sharply from 40,500 in 2000 to more than 84,400 from January 2002 through September 2002.

The AAP explains that young children are at high risk of injury because they’re unable to judge their own skills and strength accurately. Wearing protective gear and avoiding riding in traffic reduce the risk of injury. The same goes for bikes as well.

Adequate supervision is a key to safety
Summer is hazardous to kids because they have more free time and many parents are not able to keep a close eye on them. Children aged 10 to 14 are at risk because they’re at that in-between age where you don’t have to watch them like a hawk anymore. It seems normal to let them spend time unsupervised. But at this age, they’re likely to take bigger risks—to try things they know are wrong and that put them in danger. Kids who are 5 to 9 can be at risk because they don’t have good judgment about bike, swimming, pedestrian and play safety. They usually mean well, but you can’t rely on their sense of safety.

Even though it’s harder to keep track of what your kids are up to when they’re not in school, do what you can to provide some supervision. It may mean a few phone calls throughout the day, arranging to have a neighbor look in on them in exchange for some other favor from you, etc.

American Academy of Pediatrics; The Consumer Product Safety Commission; The National Safe Kids Campaign; Pediatrics, March 2002
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