7 Tips for Kids' Summer Safety
Practice close supervision when children are swimming in pools or lakes. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member David Pagenhardt)
Summer is a time when children are out of school, more active in play and activities - and at increased risk for injuries.
To help parents keep kids safe during the summer, Angie's List spoke with pediatricians and children's health safety experts to glean how parents can prevent injury, what to do when injury occurs and when to seek medical help.
Staying safe when swimming
The No. 1 safety tip that pediatricians and health experts almost unanimously agreed on was the need for kids and parents to practice strict safety protocols when swimming in pools, lakes or other bodies of water during the summer.
"Parents need to be really cautious about making sure they're observing their kids when they're in and around water," says Susan Douglass, a registered nurse and director of the Child Health & Safety program at University Health System in San Antonio. "Drowning is a silent death; they just slip below the water and no one really sees it."
Beyond the most serious safety concerns of a drowning or near drowning, children who swim frequently in the summer may also develop swimmer's ear, a common skin infection of the outer ear canal.
Dr. Supriya Ramanathan, a Houston-area pediatrician with Texas Children’s Pediatric Associates, says the No. 1 way to prevent accidental drowning is by parents or responsible adults practicing strict supervision.
Even in public pools with on-duty lifeguards or at pool parties where large numbers of adults are present, a responsible parent or adult should always keep a keen eye on children while swimming.
"Children must always be supervised - be it in a pool, spa or outdoor body of water and not be left alone for even a moment," Ramanathan strongly cautions. "Rescue equipment like a shepherd’s hook, a life preserver and a portable phone must always be at hand."
Beyond vigilant supervision, parents who own their own pools should ensure that adequate layers of additional protection are in place to prevent a tragedy, Douglass adds.
"They need to take a look at the other barriers of protection: locking doors leading to the swimming pool when its not being used, making sure there’s a fence around the pool and making sure you have a splash alarm on the pool in case someone falls in," she says.
Children themselves should take swimming lessons to learn how to swim and self-rescue as soon as parents feel comfortable, and parents with swimming pools should be trained in providing first-aid and CPR.
"Don’t rely on kids using water wings or flotation devices," Douglass says. "It’s absolutely necessary that kids and parents know how to swim - the earlier they learn the better - and that parents can provide CPR and do rescue breathing until a first responder comes if something occurs."
Douglass adds that parents in the San Antonio area should consult with a San Antonio pediatrician if they're unsure if their child is ready developmentally to learn how to swim.
Preventing and treating swimmer's ear
Children who frequently swim during the summer may develop swimmer's ear, which many believe is caused by ever-present moisture producing an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.
"It can cause pain which can often be severe and it usually hurts to touch or press on the ear," Ramanathan says. "It can be prevented by instilling a few drops of alcohol and white vinegar mixed half in half in the ears after swimming."
If it occurs, he says parents likely need to take their children to their primary care provider since prescription drops may be required to remedy the infection. Swimming should be avoided for few days to allow the ear to dry out and heal, he adds.