This holiday weekend will be filled with family fun, from backyard barbecues to pool parties, but forget safety precautions. Dr. Caroline Watnik, a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says holiday weekends tend to be one of the busiest times in the hospital ER because people are engaged in many activities that they might not normally take part in, from swimming to shooting firecrackers. People can also become distracted and careless in the midst of all the holiday festivities.
Here are some helpful tips for July 4th safety that can apply all summer long.
Be Careful with Fireworks
Parents should be especially cognizant of the potential dangers of fireworks and sparklers, Watnik says. 40% of all firework injuries occur in children age 15 and younger. “What people don’t think about is the most common places you will get injured from fireworks are your hands, eyes, and face…all functionally and aesthetically very important.”
Sparklers are popular and may seem relatively harmless when compared to fireworks, but they offer a false sense of safety to many people. Although they don’t actually explode, but Watnik warns that sparklers can reach up to a very dangerous 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The sparks from sparklers can fly into your eyes or mouth, causing severe burns. And up to 1/3 of the time in eye injuries, the eye is permanently blinded.
You’re skipping the backyard pyrotechnics and enjoying fireworks at an official community or park event? Good for you. That’s the official stance from the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are other safety issues to be aware of this festive weekend, however.
With many families hosting parties around the pool this summer, Watnik warns that drowning is one of the top unintentional injury related deaths in children. “Absolutely never leave your child alone near a pool or any body of water – and not just a swimming pool,” Watnik says. Toddlers can drown in a bucket of water. So when you’re out watering your plants and flowers this summer or even washing your car in the drive, be sure to never leave a small child alone with any bucket or container filled with water as they can drown simply by playing with the container and placing it over their heads.
Summer is a laid-back season, but that’s no excuse for letting your guard down when it comes to pool safety. Watnik recommends appointing a designated parent to oversee children at any swimming related event. For the adult on watch, there can be no socializing, talking on the phone, texting, or drinking alcohol. Drowning can literally happen in seconds, Watnik warns.
As far as in the swimming pool itself, Watnik says pool floaties can falsely reassure parents, but that they are in no way a substitute for adult supervision. “No floaties or other flotational device substitutes having an adult in the water paying attention.”
“Touch supervision” is the key to safety – if you have a child under the age of 5 who cannot swim or a child over the age of 5 who is a poor swimmer, a supervising adult should be within arm’s length of that child. In fact, Watnik says that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that close supervision by an adult is the best way to avoid drowning.
Another potential safety hazard surrounds the cooking area. Families will be firing up their backyard grilling burgers and brats this summer. Whether it’s electric, gas, or charcoal, grills are a potential burn hazard. While it’s a natural tendency to become more relaxed when cooking outdoors, that’s no excuse for becoming relaxed about safety. Grills should be situated in a separate area from guests and an adult should always supervise the grill. Kids should not be allowed to play within the vicinity of the grill.
Avoid that Summer Sunburn
Although compared to other potential summer safety issues sunburns may seem benign, Watnik reminds parents not to forget the importance of sunscreen. “Kids can really get sick and feverish or vomit if suffering from extreme sunburn.” When you are out enjoying the holiday weekend, remember the importance of sunscreen. Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. are the hottest hours of the day, so plan to spend time out of the direct sun. Watnik says a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher is recommended by the AAP. Remember, that sunscreen will do no good if not reapplied every 2 hours (or even more frequently if you are sweating or in the water.)
Summer break memories made with family and friends should never include a trip to your local ER. Remember these summer safety tips and discuss them with your family.
Jamie Reeves is a Nashville-based writer, editor, and lover of all things social media. She and her husband Alan have two daughters, two dogs, and too much laundry. This busy soccer mom can typically be found cheering from the sidelines or in her car on the way to school or sports practices. She loves traveling with her family and exploring fun things to do in Middle Tennessee. Jamie has been pontificating about poop and pinot noir at Blonde Mom Blog, since 2005.