Summer Safety

Summer Safety ... with a high-tech twist

Some things will never change.

Summer. Barbecues, vacations, fun at the pool ... and kids being kids.

But technology has made an impact on our summer fun and summer safety, giving today’s parents more resources – and concerns – than ever before. Along with the increase in computer games, childhood obesity is on the rise at an alarming rate. Set limits on computer time. Encourage your kids to get involved in physical games during the summer.

The National Safe Kids Campaign estimates that every year, one in four kids ages 14 and younger will sustain an injury that requires medical attention. They report that 40 percent of all injury-related emergency room visits and 42 percent of all injury-related deaths happen between May and August, but it’s not all bad news.

We can keep kids free from about 90 percent of these accidents by educating ourselves and our kids on how to stay safe while still enjoying summer.

If summer means daycare ...

Get recommendations, trade childcare, check references, choose a sitter who knows cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid.

Don’t forget: Download this important emergency health care form.

Is your child ready to stay home alone? Download this home alone guide.

Our high-tech tip:

Use today’s technology to keep your children safe. Check the sex offender registry before hiring a sitter.

No strings attached

If you’re taking little ones to the playground, be sure they do not wear loose clothing, garments with attached strings or any stringed items around the neck. Strings can cause strangulation on playground equipment.

Is your playground safe?

  • Is the ground under and around playground equipment should be padded with a shock-absorbing material such as hardwood mulch or sand?
  • Is the equipment in good repair?
  • Is the equipment age appropriate?

Visit KidsHealth for an extensive list of playground safety guidelines.

Is your child ready to stay home alone? Download your home-alone guide here.

Extreme sports require extreme safety

Don’t leave vulnerable areas unprotected. Make sure your child has protective gear that fits.

Skateboarding, rugby, whitewater rafting and mountain biking are just a few of the extreme sports available to people today. Before you or your child embark on an extreme sports adventure, remember these tips:

  • Always wear a helmet to prevent head injury. Make sure it fits correctly. It should not slip on the head when the head moves. Bike-style helmets, made from expanded polystyrene, offer the most protection, but must be replaced after every impact.
  • Always wear protective padding. Guards and gloves manufactured with hard-plastic splints offer maximum protection.
  • Get professional instruction.
  • Don’t keep going if it hurts. Stop the activity and see your health care provider.

Watch a brief video about proper helmet fit.

S.O.S. – Save Our Skin

We all need some sun exposure; it’s our primary source of vitamin D. However, you can get too much of a good thing. Skin cancer rates are up among young people.

To be safe in the sun:

  • Avoid exposure during the hottest part of the day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Use sunscreen. For kids ages 6 months and older, select an SPF of 30 or higher to prevent both sunburn and tanning. Remember to apply it several times throughout the day.
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside.
  • A hat can also help keep harmful sunrays off your little one’s face.
  • Don’t forget to protect your eyes, wear sunglasses with UVA ratings of 95 percent, and UVB ratings of 99 percent.

Sunburn Rx

With sunburn, prevention is the key – apply sunscreen.

If a sunburn happens:

  • Get of the sun.
  • Cool the burn. Use COOL water on a washcloth, or take a cool bath or shower.
  • Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen and creams containing aloe vera for pain.
  • If you burn bad enough to blister, (2nd degree burn), you may need medical treatment.

Avoid heat stress. Keep water nearby and stay hydrated.

If you’re working in the heat, exercising or just sitting on your couch on a day when the temperature and humidity are in the 90s, you may be at risk of heat-related illness. People most at risk are athletes who don’t drink enough water, children, people age 65 and over and those with health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Everyone needs extra fluids during hot weather. Older people and others at risk of heat stroke should also seek out cool spots.

If you experiencing any of these symptoms, you should stop what you’re doing and find a shady place to drink fluids and cool down:

  • Dry mouth
  • Thirst
  • Tiredness / lethargy
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Cramps in the legs or abdomen.
  • A decrease in your urine output

Left untreated, heat exhaustion progresses to heat stroke with symptoms that include dizziness, headaches, nausea, rapid heartbeat and body temperature as high as 105 degrees. Damage to the liver, kidneys and brain can be severe enough to cause death.

If you suspect heat stroke, call 9-1-1.

On a hot day, an energy drink may not be the best choice

They have bold names and garish labels. They are wildly popular with young people – and some come with potential to do great bodily harm, particularly if misused.

Dehydration is probably the most serious danger,” says Stacey Gusman, FNP-C, a family nurse practitioner with Ministry Victory Medical Group’s Owen Clinic. “Strenuous physical activity uses up a considerable amount of body fluids, and caffeine, due to its diuretic effect, makes replacement difficult.”

Energy drinks–Red Bull, Four Loko, Full Throttle, Reload, Rockstar–are sold in supermarkets and convenience stores, particularly those catering to college students.

“If you read the label, these products seem almost healthy,” “They often include vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, folate plus herbal supplements such as guarana, taurine, ginseng, gingko biloba and L-carnitine. The chief ingredients, however, are usually caffeine and sugar.”

Red Bull, Rockstar and Monster all have 80 milligrams of caffeine per eight-ounce serving. This may be little more than the caffeine in a strong cup of coffee, but since 2002 these drinks have been packaged in bigger and bigger cans.

Gusman says, “Drink a can or two, and you’re certainly feeling the stimulant effects of caffeine and other ingredients such as guarana, taurine and ginseng. Most of these substances have not been adequately tested for safety, particularly in the combinations used in energy drinks.”

The biggest buyers of energy drinks are young people between the ages of 13 and 35; two thirds are male. In one 2007 survey of 496 college students, more than half said they had used at least one energy drink over the past month. A significant number reported mixing caffeine and alcohol in weekly “jolt and crash” episodes. Seventeen percent said they had experienced palpitations after consuming these products.

Athletes represent a major market for energy drinks. “Since the energy boost comes primarily from caffeine, this use of energy drinks may also entail considerable risk,” said Gusman. “A central nervous system stimulant, caffeine causes an acute rise in heart rate and blood pressure. While the adrenaline rush may seem welcome, it also leads to an eventual drop off.”

For better or worse, it’s important to remember that energy drinks are basically caffeine and sugar (usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup). At least one study found this combination effective in maintaining selective attention during challenging activities, although there is undoubtedly considerable variation in the way individuals respond.

Gusman advises, “In addition to the other health risks, the sugar content of one can usually exceeds the recommended daily allowance of sugar and, as a result, consuming these drinks regularly increases the risk of obesity.”

Whistle for safety

While not high-tech, a whistle is one very simple gadget that can help you and your child stay safe this summer. If you have a child that tends to lead the pack, wander off, or daydream while walking or riding a bike, a quick blast of a whistle can get your child’s attention.

Give each of your children a whistle when hiking or walking in the woods. If you get separated, teach your child to use the whistle to signal for help.

Rules of the road

While today’s electric cars are good for the environment, they present a new concern for parents. Children often use neighborhood streets to ride bikes, skateboard, rollerblade and even play ball. Warn your children that they may not always hear a vehicle approaching, especially if that car is electric.

Be smart about smartphones

Did you know that some smartphone apps may put your family at risk?

Unless you disable it, your smartphone may have location service software that broadcasts your phone’s location. While this may be a great tool for tracking teens, it can also be a tool for stranger danger.

Warn children about the danger of talking to strangers online in chat rooms, game applications and on social media sites.

If your child has access to a smartphone, consider installing a parental filter that allows you to block inappropriate sites.

If your child has a phone, make sure you have the phone’s Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). To access that number, type *#06# on the key pad and note the number. Should the phone be lost or stolen, simply call your cell carrier to block the phone from the network.

Our high-tech tip: Make sure you have an ICE (In Case of Emergency) number logged into your child’s cell phone, so EMTs will have instant access to the person who should be notified in an emergency.

Don’t forget: If you leave your child in the care of others, download your important emergency health care forms so the caregiver can seek medical attention when it is necessary.

Have a swimmingly good summer

Frog ponds, lakes, rivers and pools are tempting for children during the summer. You can avoid tragedy by never leaving your child alone near the water and making sure your child knows how to swim.

If you have a pool or a hot tub in your backyard, make sure the area is completely enclosed by a 4-foot high barrier with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Secure pool covers. Remove all access ladders, furniture and trees that may allow a child to climb over the barrier.

Keep toys that are not in use away from the pool and out of sight. Toys can attract young children to the pool.

Our high-tech tip: Alarms can be set up to notify you when someone enters the pool or hot tub area.

Click here for more water safety tips.

Track your toddler with GPS

More than 725,000 children are reported lost every year in the United States. While most children are found, more than 52,000 are not.

Children are naturally inquisitive and uninhibited – they disappear around corners, hide in circular clothes racks, or check out other aisles while shopping.

Our high-tech tip: Today’s technology can make it easier to track your child. If you have small children, consider investing in a GPS child locator. Most come with a receiver that clips to the child’s clothing and a handheld or key-chain-type transmitter which lets a parent track a lost toddler with the click of a button.

Don’t get bugged.

Ticks, mosquitoes and other insects are all part of the hiking or camping experience. Bug bites are usually harmless, but there are notable exceptions.

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted to humans by the black-legged deer tick. Check yourself and your children for ticks each night before going to bed. If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers, place it in a plastic bag and throw it away. Lyme disease may start with a small red spot that grows larger. The rash may resemble a bulls eye, and the infected person may develop muscle aches and stiff joints.

West Nile virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, typically produces only mild symptoms in healthy people. About one percent of infected people, however, develop severe illness with flu-like symptoms that can lead to death.

An insect repellant containing DEET is your best protection, but don’t use it on babies and use only 10-30 percent for children over two months of age.

Visit here for more information on bug spray safety.

No one likes to get stung, but if you do get stung here are some helpful tips.

  • If stung by a bumble or honey bee, remove the stinger immediately.
  • Wasps, yellow jackets and hornets do not leave behind a stinger, but they can sting multiple times.
  • If a person is stung more than 10 times or there are bee stings in the nose, mouth or throat, seek medical attention immediately.
  • If the person is having trouble breathing, call 911.
  • If the victim is allergic and does not have their EpiPen, call 911 immediately.

Watch where you step

You don’t have to leave your yard to be attacked by poison ivy. Both poison ivy and poison oak are plants with clusters of three leaves. Each leaf also has three small leaflets. So the saying should be: “Leaflets of three, let it be!”

If you know you’re going to be working around poison ivy, wear long sleeves, long pants, boots and gloves. Promptly wash your garden tools and any clothing that comes in contact with poison ivy. If you get poison ivy or oak on your skin, rinse immediately. Wash with water only at first to avoid moving and spreading the oil from the poison ivy. Then take a shower with soap and warm water.

Practice food safety

Undercooked beef and sausage are likely sources, but foodborne illness can also be obtained from contaminated produce, even lettuce or tomatoes. Always be sure to keep raw and cooked foods separate. Never place cooked meat back on the platter where it rested before it went on the grill.

Another basic rule is to keep hot food hot (above 140 degrees) and cold food cold (under 40 degrees). Don’t leave food out for more than two hours, nor for more than an hour when the temperature is over 90 degrees.

The American Red Cross estimates that at least 70 percent of Americans have experienced some type of medical emergency during the summer months. A few safety precautions can help you keep your summer days relaxed and carefree.


It’s a common sight every summer – fair-skinned Midwesterners stripping down to their shorts or swimsuits and soaking up the rays. It’s all good fun, until someone gets skin cancer.

According to Stacey Gusman, FNP-C, a family nurse practitioner with Ministry Victory Medical Group’s Owen Clinic, “The role of ultraviolet radiation as a cause of skin cancer is well documented.

Basal and squamous cell skin cancers have been linked to long-term cumulative sun exposure–the kind farmers and sailors are exposed to. For melanoma, the most serious of skin cancers, doctors believe that the risk comes rather from intense, intermittent exposure to the sun’s rays – a vacation on the beach and a painful sunburn.

“We still have much to learn about the causes of melanoma, but we know that people who spend considerable time in the sun or under tanning lamps have an increased risk of this cancer that takes the lives of 8,000 Americans each year.”

Gusman offers these tips to prevent skin cancer:

  • Avoid midday sun. Avoid the sun when its rays are the strongest. For most places, this is between about 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Because the sun's rays are strongest during this period, try to schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day, even in winter or when the sky is cloudy. You absorb UV radiation year-round, and clouds offer little protection from damaging rays
  • Wear sunscreen year-round. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Use a generous amount of sunscreen on all exposed skin, including your lips, the tips of your ears, and the backs of your hands and neck. Apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply it frequently while you’re exposed to the sun. Be sure to reapply it after swimming or exercising.
  • Wear protective clothing. Sunscreens don’t provide complete protection from UV rays, so wear tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs, and a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than a baseball cap or visor does. Some companies also sell photo-protective clothing. Your health care provider can recommend an appropriate brand.
  • Don’t forget sunglasses. Look for those that block both types of UV radiation - UVA and UVB rays.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds emit UV radiation, which can increase the risk of skin cancer.
  • Become familiar with your skin, so you’ll notice changes. Examine your skin so that you become familiar with what your skin normally looks like. This way, you may be more likely to notice any skin changes. With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Examine your chest and trunk, and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands. Examine both the front and back of your legs, and your feet, including the soles and the spaces between your toes. Also check your genital area, and between your buttocks. If you notice anything unusual, point it out to your health care provider at your next appointment.

Gusman concludes, “Whether your risks are genetic, environmental or both, your course of action is the same: avoid intense sun exposure; wear protective clothing when spending time outdoors; schedule regular skin examinations with a dermatologist or your health care provider and become familiar with the landscape of your skin so that you can report unusual changes.”

If you are unable to prevent an injury this summer, you can count on the trauma services at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital for excellent trauma care.

Click here of ATV safety information.

Summer walks can mean chance encounters with strange dogs. Click here for dog-bite safety tips.

Click here for tips on a fire escape plan.

Click here to learn more about car safety.

Click here to learn more about preventing scalds.


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