As the temperatures of the past few days have shown us, summer is definitely in full swing here in Massachusetts! Now’s the time to get out and enjoy – but also to keep in mind just a few simple steps to ensure this is a safe summer for you and your family.
In The Water
Whether at the beach, the pool, the lake or pond, take steps to make sure children are safe when they’re in or around water.
Keep an eye out: Unfortunately, drowning is the leading cause of death of young children between one and four years of age. That’s why there should always be a designated “water watcher” whose sole responsibility is keeping watch on kids when they’re in or near the water. That means no distractions: no texting, talking on the phone, reading a magazine – and definitely no alcoholic beverages while on duty. Vigilance is key. It takes just a couple of minutes for children to lose consciousness when they’re drowning – so every second counts.
Stay in touch with infants and toddlers: When infants and toddlers are in or near the water, an adult should be providing “touch supervision” or be at least an arm’s length away at all times.
Rules for the pool: When children are done swimming, have an adult remove all the toys from the water – that way children don’t reach for them and fall in. In order to prevent pool-related accidents, pool owners should install a four-sided fence with a securable door around the perimeter of the pool, so the pool is completely separated from the house and yard. Be prepared for emergencies – keep a life preserver or shepherd’s hook near the water to help rescue swimmers in trouble, and have a cellphone handy in case you need to dial 911.
Water safety for non-swimmers: Children who cannot swim should always be equipped with a Coast Guard approved life preserver, instead of air-filled or foam pool toys such as water wings or noodles.
Get ready to save a life: One way to be sure you’re prepared for a water-related emergency is to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The American Red Cross offers classes on CPR, as well as a variety of other emergency preparedness classes.
In the Home
Summer safety isn’t only about being outdoors – there are also ways to make sure our homes are safe for children during the hot weather.
Kids can’t fly: Hot weather leads to open windows, so it’s important to take steps to prevent window falls which can happen all too frequently in the summer months. First, keep furniture away from windows so children can’t climb up to look out. If possible, open windows by pushing down from the top rather than up from the bottom. Lock all unopened and unused windows. And install quick-release window guards, which can keep children from pushing through flimsy window screens while still letting air circulate.
On the Road
Summer is also a time to get mobile, so remember that car safety plays an important role in ensuring a safe and healthy season.
Cars can be ovens: In hot temperatures, a parked car with the windows up can climb from 78 degrees to 100 degrees in just three minutes – and up to 125 degrees within eight minutes. That’s why it’s so important to never leave children alone in a parked car even if they’re asleep or restrained.
Every time you get out of your car, make it a habit to check the car – backseat and front – before shutting the door and walking away. Or do something to remind yourself that your child is in the car, such as leaving your bag, purse, briefcase or other important items in the backseat – that way you’ll be sure to look.
If your child goes missing, check your vehicle first, including the trunk.
If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Cool the child rapidly. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Kids in the back: Remember, all children ages 12 and younger should ride in the back seat, and be properly restrained every time they ride with you – even during the shortest of trips. Infants and toddlers should remain in rear-facing car seats until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat’s manufacturer. Rear-facing child safety seats can accommodate most children through age 2 — check the seat’s owner’s manual for details.
On behalf of everyone at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, here’s to a safe and healthy summer season for you and your family.