I love swimming in the ocean, but I have an unreasonable fear of shark attacks. I blame that on the fact that I was 11 years old when the movie Jaws came out.
As a result of this phobia, I spend way too much time at the beach scanning the horizon for a huge mechanical fin while my kids frolic in the sea.
Turns out I should be paying closer attention to the kids themselves rather than to the surrounding waters. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Here’s my mama fear-mongering list of warm weather dangers, and ways you can work to protect your kids from them (most data courtesy of the CDC).
1. Drowning: Worth thinking about some more, because every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. Rates are higher in the summer because of all the fun water recreation opportunities. Clearly, teaching kids how to swim is of paramount important. Make sure a responsible adult supervises kids ANY time they are near or in the water. If children are under the age of 4, an adult should be within “touch” distance. Finally, it’s worth knowing CPR. Seconds can make a difference in drowning accidents.
2. Car accidents: Vehicular accidents are the leading cause of death for kids in the U.S. — and the number of car accidents increases during summer when folks are driving to vacation spots. Using car seats and booster seats properly reduces the risk of fatal and serious injuries by half. Don’t let kids who weigh less than 100 pounds sit in the front seat where deploying airbags can injure them severely.
Also, distracted and “incapacitated” drivers are a leading cause of accidents. This is a good time to follow basic driving laws: don’t text and drive, don’t drink and drive. And while it’s not illegal to use your cell phone while driving, think twice about it. My motto is focus on the road while carrying precious cargo.
3. Head injuries: Traumatic head injuries are another leading cause of death in children. Any sport or activity can result in a head injury or concussion, but young kids are mostly likely to hurt their noggins in falls, particularly off of a bike or scooter. There’s an easy fix for this — make sure they wear a fitted helmet whenever they’re on wheels. And try to keep them out of the traffic.
4. Insect bites: Bug bites happen, but if your kid is stung by a yellow jacket or bee, watch them closely for an allergic reaction for the next hour or so. Even if they’ve never had a reaction, that can change with just one sting. I had a friend almost die from anaphylactic shock in my dining room after a bee sting, and he’d never reacted previously. If a child has serious swelling or trouble breathing after a sting, call 911.
5. Heat stroke: As the climate gets more extreme, heat-related illnesses and deaths are increasing. Young children can become dehydrated quickly and are especially at risk. Keep kids inside during the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. whenever possible. This helps protect against sunburn as well. Make sure your kids drink plenty of fluids when it’s steamy. Finally, don’t leave kids in the car. Just don’t do it.
6. Food poisoning: I tell my kids to wash their hands many times a day, especially before they eat, and it turns out that hygiene is key to preventing the spread of food-related illnesses. Also, parents should wash raw produce and make sure foods such as chicken or eggs are cooked properly to kill salmonella — which is the number one cause of food-borne sickness in the U.S. It can be difficult to protect against illnesses such as the recent E. Coli outbreak that’s currently killing record numbers of people, especially in Europe. One thing to consider is buying your meat, eggs, and produce locally, as there’s less chance of contamination. Guess what, kids? A pound of hamburger from the grocery store doesn’t just come from one cow anymore. Yucky.
So, y’all have a happy and safe summer. Bon voyage!