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Being Summer Safety Aware

Now that school is out for the summer, it's endless days of fun in the sun for many kids. But with childhood days of freedom comes a lot of worry for parents. Some of the leading reasons that children land in the emergency room during the summer months include bicycle accidents, insect bites and unintentional falls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Kids are going to get hurt no matter what, but we need to do the best we can to keep them from getting hurt," said Dr. Pat Yost, Family Medicine Practitioner at Memorial Hospital of Converse County.

Taking the appropriate precautions and being aware of potential dangers are important when participating in summer activities from boating to biking and camping to skateboarding, Yost said. So before sending kids outside for some outdoor activities, it's important for parents to keep a few safety things in mind and remind their children of following these steps for safety.

While Outside

  • Dress appropriately for the weather and be prepared for sudden weather changes, which are common in Wyoming, especially in the high country. Hypothermia can be a real concern, even in the height of summer.
  • Wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater, which will protect against UVA and UVB rays. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming. Exposure to sunlight can not only cause sunburns, but also increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Drink plenty of water. The summer heat can cause dehydration and can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion and in severe cases, heat stroke.
  • Children should wear sunglasses that provide 97 to 100 percent protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Children should always have water or a sports drink available and take a break to drink every 20 minutes while active in the heat, according to the AAP. Dressing a child in light-colored and lightweight absorbent material can help evaporate sweat keeping a child cooler and dryer during hot days.

Near the Water

  • Always wear Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices, commonly known as life jackets. Even just playing near the water can put a child at risk of drowning, so wearing life jackets in boats and along the shore are a must. About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger, according to the CDC. And for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries.
  • Parents should be fully aware of their child's whereabouts while in and around water. Alcohol and drug use can impair parents' judgement and inhibit their abilities to assess risk and help a child who may be in trouble in the water.

When on Wheels

  • Wearing a helmet when bicycling or skateboarding can help to prevent serious injury from occurring. Every year, 26,000 children are seen in emergency departments for traumatic brain injury related to bicycle-riding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Teach children proper hand signals and ways to ride safely around traffic areas. In 2013, children under 15 years were responsible for 7 percent of fatalities and 11 percent of injuries due to bicycle accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • In Wyoming, children younger than 14 are required to ride on the sidewalk.
  • When skateboarding, wear all of the proper protective equipment including a helmet, knee and elbow pads to minimize injury when a fall occurs.

Supervision

  • Children 12 and younger should have proper supervision during the summer.
  • Because kids are more active, visiting friends and generally out in public more frequently, it's important to be aware of where they are and who they're with at all times. Children should also be made aware of stranger danger and what to do if they're approached by someone.
  • Each year, children die from heat stroke from being left in a hot car. While most of these deaths are unintentional, the majority of these deaths occur in children three and younger. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends to always check the back seat to make sure all children are out of the car when you arrive at a destination and to avoid distractions such as cell phone use while driving. If there is a change in a routine, such as someone else talking a child to daycare or using a different route, be especially aware of kids in the car and have your childcare provider call if your child has not arrived within 10 minutes of the expected arrival time. The AAP recommends setting your cell phone, bag or purse in the back seat so the area must be checked before you exit the car.

Protection From Insects

  • Wear long sleeves and pants if you're going to be in an area where there are known to be a lot of mosquitos and ticks.
  • Use insect repellents containing DEET when needed to prevent insect-related diseases as ticks can transmit Lyme Disease and mosquitoes can transmit West Nile. Be sure to read the label as to which products are safe for use on children.
  • After being in the woods, make sure to check for ticks and remove them according to CDC guidelines, which can be found here http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html.
  • If you develop a fever or rash after removing a tick or being bit by an insect, seek medical attention.

Around the Campfire

  • Even though no summer would be completed without a campfire, it's important to use proper safety measures, including keeping children away from the fire area.
  • Make sure there are no tripping hazards around the fire area.
  • Don't allow anyone to play in the fire with sticks or other items.

When injuries do occur, it's important to seek proper medical treatment. Memorial Hospital of Converse County Orthopedic Surgeon Scott Croft said summer injuries are common and parents should know what to look for when injury does occur. Even though a child may hurt him or herself, it's not always clear how severe the injury may be.

"In kids, it's almost always a fracture, not a strain," Croft said. "If they hurt for more than 24 hours, bring them in. In teens and adults, meniscus tears in the knee are common."

Dr. Croft also reiterates the importance of helmets when children are riding bikes, skateboardingor playing any contact sports.

"We're more and more aware of how susceptible these kids are to repeated head injury," Croft said. "Helmets are extremely important."

Regardless of what activity keeps your children occupied during the summer months, the staff at Memorial Hospital of Converse County recommends keeping these safety measures in mind and remembering they are there for your family when injury does occur.