With the arrival of summer all parents need to perform a safety inspection of the house and all play areas inside and out. It is also the time for vacations, road trips, play dates, sporting events and summer camp. These new opportunities for exploration, experimentation and discovery make the arrival of summer the perfect time for a safety checkup.
A visit to the doctor is often the first step in this process. If your child has not had a yearly checkup, schedule a well-child visit with your pediatrician. Children grow and change so fast that a yearly checkup is essential. Immunizations can be given; vision and hearing screening performed and your child’s growth charts can be reviewed. Healthy lifestyle opportunities can be discussed and dietary, sleep and exercise opportunities can be reviewed.
The next step is to check out all outdoor play equipment. All outdoor playground equipment needs to be inspected and tested. All climbing structures must be inspected for soundness. Make sure rungs, stairs and guardrails are placed appropriately and attached correctly. All openings must be less than 3.5 inches and guardrails must be at least 29 inches tall for preschool children and 38 inches tall for school-aged children. Rope and climbing nets pose a strangulation and entrapment risk and must be inspected. Sliding boards must have at least a 4 inch side and closed slides are preferable.
Make sure all swings are well-attached and are made of soft and flexible materials such as a synthetic rubber or plastic. A full bucket seat is safest for small children and make sure all swings are separated by at least two feet to decrease the risk for collisions. Splinters, loose nuts and bolts and surface padding must all be checked. Having six inches of ground surface padding made out of shredded tires, pea gravel or bark is essential as is making sure the play area is away from trees and other objects that could become a hazard. Having the play area in a clear zone away from brush and trees also decreases the risk for tick bites and contracting Lyme disease.
Summer safety also includes teaching your child about playground safety and learning how to take turns with equipment. Learning how to climb a ladder, use monkey bars, avoid swings and moving away from the bottom of a slide are essential skills to review with your child. Some playground equipment can also become very hot if it is made out of metal and is in direct sunlight. Wooden equipment may also be a source of splinters if it is not well cared for.
During summer the rays of the sun are intense. Skin care is very important. The use of wide brimmed hats, clothing and sunscreen are important, as is making sure your child receives adequate hydration due to increased water intake requirements due to heat and increased activity levels and sweating. Clothing can also be a risk for your child if it can lead to entrapment or strangulation. Avoid drawstrings on all clothing.
Using mouth guards or eye protection while engaging in certain sporting activities is as important as it is to use sport-specific protection such as wrist, knee and elbow guards while rollerblading. For any “wheel” sport including bikes, skateboards and scooters a helmet must be used, and make sure the helmet fits your child correctly. The chin strap must be adjusted to allow only one finger to be placed between the strap and your child’s chin and the helmet must not be able to rock back from your child’s forehead.
Inspect all bicycles and perform yearly maintenance. Take your child’s bike to a bike dealer if you have any concerns about bike safety such as size, fit, brakes or steering. Children are becoming more adventurous with bicycle stunts, ramps and jumps. Discuss these activities with your child. Set boundaries for what is and is not acceptable and consistently enforce the rules you decide upon.
Do not allow your child to use a trampoline unless it is part of a supervised training program under the direct supervision of a coach or sport specific trainer. Backyard trampolines are dangerous and lead to over 100,000 injuries per year in the US.
Summer can be a time of concussions, broken bones and head and neck injuries. Your attention and preparation can eliminate most of the risk for these injuries and replace these severe injuries with minor sprains, strains, bruises, cuts and scrapes. With a little effort and attention you and your child can be ready for a fun and safe summer.