For many children and families, summer means plenty of fun in the sun. From regular trips to a local beach or swimming pool to evening walks or bike rides, getting outside to enjoy warmer weather is a must – especially if you live in the Upper Midwest or other cold-weather states. But as a parent, you know that summertime can also mean seasonal safety hazards for kids – from trampolines to fireworks.
At Regions Hospital’s Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center, summer is the busiest time of year for traumatic injuries to kids. But the good news is that the most common summertime injuries are preventable.
So, what are the most common summer safety hazards for kids? And what safety tips should parents follow to keep their kids safe in the summer?
Read on to find out.
Summer safety hazard No. 1: Burns
Burn hazards come in a few different forms, such as sunburns, burns caused by barbecues or grills, and burns from campfires or bonfires.
Sun safety tips
- Choose the right sunscreen or sunblock for your child’s age – Direct sunlight and sunscreen or sunblock are not recommended for children 6 months old or younger. For kids older than 6 months, dermatologists recommend mineral sunscreen since it can be less irritating on their skin.
- Apply sunscreen or sunblock anytime your kids will be outside for more than a few minutes – While applying sunscreen or sunblock can be a pain, it’s an effective way to protect your kid’s gentle skin. If you choose a spray-on sunscreen, take extra care to make sure to cover the skin evenly. Some sunscreens and sunblocks even appear as a color until rubbed into the skin, making application a little more fun.
- Dress children in protective clothing – Sun-protective clothing like sun or swim shirts, hats and sunglasses are also recommended to provide the best possible sun protection.
Other sun safety tips
The sun can also toast things in your kids’ environment. Be mindful of hot playground equipment and toys that have spent some time in the sun. Plus, teach kids to be cautious of hot seatbelts and car seats – bare legs and hot leather seats are not a fun combination.
Grill safety tips
There’s nothing quite like grilling in the summertime, but kids (and adults) need to be cautious around grills:
- Explain to kids about how to be extra careful around open flames.
- Model appropriate behavior by not wearing loose clothing while you’re grilling to prevent fire accidents.
- Keep kids away from the grill so that the only things getting burned are the hot dogs.
- Avoid using gasoline to accelerate the fire.
- Instead, consider using a chimney starter. This is a metal cylinder that you light charcoal briquettes in. The chimney starter draws oxygen up from a mesh bottom, allowing the fire to light in a more controlled, safer environment. Light a chimney starter on the grill top or in a safe area away from kids.
Fire pit safety tips
Don’t assume a fire pit is cool, even the morning after a campfire. Seemingly cool logs can cause third-degree burns and ignite flammables such as gasoline. Never let kids or pets wander over an open fire pit even if it appears as if embers are cool and gray. Each year, Regions Hospital Burn Center sees an average of 10 children with serious campfire burns.
Roasting marshmallows over a fire? Assist kids with their roasting and make sure they don’t swing a freshly roasted marshmallow around on the end of a stick – it’s perfect for a s’more but could burn tender skin.
Summer safety hazard No. 2: Fireworks
Fireworks are dangerous. Period. Even sparklers can cause burns and blindness. Mishaps with larger fireworks can end in the loss of fingers and toes, limbs and even life. Nationally, more than half of firework injuries happen to children younger than 19 years old.
Firework safety tips
We have many suggestions to keep kids (and yourself) safe when using fireworks:
- Make sure kids and pets are always supervised – If you’re lighting off fireworks at home, always supervise kids and pets. This means keeping them at least 20 feet away from fountain-style ground fireworks and at least 40 feet away from the launch site of fireworks that shoot into the air.
- Also, don’t let children light fireworks. Only a responsible adult who hasn’t been drinking alcohol should light fireworks.
- Never re-light a firework that “didn’t go off” – It’s possible that the fuse is taking longer to ignite. Instead, wait at least 30 minutes before approaching a firework that didn’t go off and soak it in water for an extended period of time before throwing it away.
- Keep a bucket of water or a hose nearby in case of fire – When you’re finished, soak both used and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before throwing them away.
Alternates to fireworks
If you’re celebrating at home and want a safe alternative to sparklers, consider glow sticks. As a bonus, they stay glowing for much longer than sparklers do.
It’s also an excellent idea to leave the fireworks to the professionals. Going to a professional show is safer and often much more spectacular than an at-home fireworks show. If you go, consider ear protection for the noise.
Summer safety hazard No. 3: Lawnmowers
Lawnmowers and kids don’t mix. Both riding and push mowers have the potential to cause serious injuries if proper safety steps aren’t taken. The dangers of a spinning blade may be obvious, but kids can also be seriously hurt falling off riding mowers.
Lawnmower safety tips
Keep kids safe when you’re mowing the lawn by following these tips:
- Keep young children inside the house while anyone is mowing – This can help keep them safe in case there is flying debris.
- Make sure kids are old enough to operate a lawnmower – Mowing the lawn is a common chore, but children should be at least 12 years old before operating a push mower and at least 16 before operating a riding mower.
- If they’re old enough, make sure they’re wearing close-toed shoes and tight-fitting clothing to avoid toes or clothes getting caught in the blades.
Summer safety hazard No. 4: Trampolines
The things that make trampolines fun are also the things that make them dangerous. Trampolines are an especially common cause of summertime injuries. In addition to broken bones, fractures and sprains, serious head, neck and back trauma is possible if a child falls or lands the wrong way. Weight differences between multiple simultaneous jumpers can cause more severe injuries, and smaller kids are more likely to get hurt.
Keep in mind that a third to half of all trampoline injuries occur even with adult supervision. Injuries are so common that many homeowners insurance policies consider trampolines an attractive nuisance and don’t cover trampoline-related injuries.
If your children do play on a trampoline, there are some precautions you can take:
- Make sure the trampoline is on level ground.
- Check it often for tears or equipment malfunctions.
- Install a trampoline safety net and cover its frame, springs and nearby landing surfaces with shock-absorbing pads.
- Replace the net and pads when they get worn as they often deteriorate more quickly than the trampoline does.
- Don’t let kids climb the net.
- Allow just one person at a time on the trampoline.
- Avoid flips or somersaults as these are often the cause of cervical spine injuries in kids.
- Consider only letting kids older than age 6 use a trampoline. Younger children often don’t have the gross motor skills to help themselves stay safe.
- An adult should always actively supervise and enforce the rules.
Know that injuries still occur at the same rate, even when there’s safety equipment.
Summer safety hazard No. 5: Water
Practicing water safety is extremely important whether you’re boating, swimming or just playing near water. Even if a child has had swimming lessons, it’s essential to keep watch over them. Take extra care with small children who might not understand how unsafe water can be.
Water safety tips
A main rule to start with is that kids should never swim alone. There are some additional best practices for keeping your little ones safe in the water:
- Designate an adult to be a “water watcher” any time children are swimming in a pool or lake – This is one of the most important water safety rules. By having a dedicated watcher, there will be someone available to act quickly if a potential safety issue or emergency does arise.
- Provide life jackets – Children should always wear life jackets when boating, especially if they don’t know how to swim. Be wary of other devices like water wings or pool noodles, which can cause a false sense of security. These are intended as toys, not lifesaving devices.
- Remind kids that they need to walk, not run in pool areas – Surfaces are often wet and slippery from people getting in and out of the pool.
- Make sure the pool and other areas containing water access are tightly gated or have locked covers – Drowning can happen in just a few inches of water.
- Be aware of tides, riptides and undercurrents – If you’re swimming in natural bodies of water like rivers, lakes or oceans, these are a few considerations to be concerned about. You often can’t tell if there’s an undercurrent or riptide, so when in doubt, don’t go in.
- Keep watch for other boaters, personal watercraft, swimmers and people dragging tubers when boating – Piloting a boat isn’t like driving a car. There aren’t lanes and you can’t assume people are looking out for you.
- Avoid drinking alcohol while boating or during water recreation – Among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70% of deaths associated with water recreation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Summer safety hazard No. 6: Bicycle riding
Bikes are a great source of exercise and fun, but kids should be safe when bike riding to avoid injury to themselves and to keep away from cars and other traffic.
Bike safety tips
- Keep your bikes maintained – At least once a year (ideally before bike season begins), make sure the tires are full and that the seat, handlebars and wheels are tightly fitted. Oil the chain and check the brakes, and you’re good to go.
- Make sure your bike rider is properly dressed – It’s essential that kids always wear a helmet that is properly fitted to their head. They shouldn’t wear a hat underneath, as that can affect how snugly it fits. (And if your child gets into a bike accident, make sure to replace the helmet.) Kids should also wear tight-fitting clothes and close-toed shoes to keep clothes and toes away from the bike’s spokes and chains.
- Know the safest places to ride – For kids under 10, it’s a good idea to stay on sidewalks, bike paths and in parks. Kids should also be aware that people driving cars might not see them. They should be extra careful to stop, look and listen before they cross the street.
Keep your kiddos as safe as possible this summer
Bumps and bruises are bound to happen this summer. But by knowing some of the biggest summer safety hazards and the tips to avoid them, hopefully any boo boos will heal with rest and a couple of kisses.
And to keep your kids safe all year long, learn more about the most common childhood injuries and when specialized trauma care may be needed.