Summer is a great time for children to play outside. Whether your child is on the playground, a bicycle, or skates, put safety first to help prevent a visit to the emergency department. The American College of Emergency Physicians has some important summer safety tips to help you stay healthy while you're having fun:
Approximately 200,000 preschool and elementary age children each year end up in the emergency department because of playground injuries.
"Always supervise children when they play on equipment," said Dr. Larry Alexander of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "It's also important to make sure that children play on age-appropriate equipment that is safely anchored in the ground and properly maintained." Other tips to help avoid injury are:
- Have children play on cushioned surfaces. Sand, shredded mulch, or soft synthetic surfaces are better than concrete, asphalt, packed dirt, or rocks. Improper surfacing, accounts for more than 70 percent of incidents involving children who fall at playgrounds.
- Do not dress children in clothes that have strings that can cause strangulation.
- Teach safe play rules and intercede when necessary (take turns, share, don't push others).
- Watch for moving swings, the most likely moving equipment that causes injury.
An estimated 57 million Americans ride bicycles. "Along with safety equipment, rider actions and reactions play a major role in preventing injuries," said Dr. Alexander. Thousands of children are injured each year while riding bicycles. To help make sure your child stays safe, here are some tips:
- Wear helmets with the chin strap firmly buckled, flat on top of the head-not tilted back. Head injuries cause about 75 percent of all bicycling fatalities.
- Wear knee and elbow pads and gloves.
- Restrict the cycling of young children to sidewalks, paths, and driveways.
- Teach older children safe bicycle road behaviors: be alert, watch for traffic, watch for obstacles, obey traffic rules and signals, ride with traffic-not against it.
- Make sure the bicycle is properly adjusted for height. Check brakes, reflectors, gear shifts and tires before riding.
- Avoid riding at dusk or after dark.
In-line Skating Safety
"In-line skating injuries increased 184 percent from 1993 to 1995-from 37,000 to 105,000-most of which were wrist, arm, and leg injuries," said Dr. Alexander. To help avoid injury:
- Always wear full protective gear-helmet, wrist guards, knee pads, elbow pads, and gloves.
- Get instruction before you take to the streets or trails. Learn to stop safely. Learn how to fall to help reduce the chances of serious injury.
- Always skate under control. Practice basic skills, such as balance and braking on a smooth, flat surface away from traffic. Avoid hills until you're ready.
- Skate on smooth, paved surfaces without traffic. Avoid skating on streets, driveways, or surfaces with water, sand, gravel, or dirt.
- Don't skate at night-others can't see you and you can't see them or obstacles in your path.
- Don't skate into crowds or people.
During the summer months, whatever your activity, remember to drink plenty of water, because it's easy to dehydrate. Wear sunscreen and hats, good sunglasses, and insect repellent. Remember that safety is never an accident.