When summer gets in swing, many of us spend more time outside and traveling to friends, family and our favorite vacation spots. But summer activities from campfires to bicycle rides to working outside come with safety risks for kids and adults alike.
Just in time for summer, June is National Safety Month, so it’s a perfect time to look at some tips for keeping us all safe at work and at play.
Beating the Heat
Whether you’re working or playing outside, warmer weather can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These conditions can lead to delirium, organ damage or even death, according to the National Safety Council. Excessive heat exposure killed 884 people and hurt 2,061 others in 2019, according to the council.
While heat-related injuries can happen to anyone, people who work outside or have pre-existing health conditions are most at-risk, along with young children, babies and the elderly.
Knowing the warning signs can help prevent the worst of heat-related injuries. Some of the symptoms of heat exhaustion, according to the National Safety Council, include the following:
- Skin that’s pale, ashen or moist
- Muscle cramps
- Fatigue, weakness or exhaustion
- Headache, dizziness or fainting
- Rapid heart rate
- Nausea or vomiting
And for heat stroke, the National Safety Council suggests seeking immediate medical help for any of the following symptoms:
- Body temperature of 103 degrees or more
- Flushed skin that’s dry and hot to the touch (sweating usually stops by this point)
- Rapid breathing
- Any signs of an altered mental state like headache, dizziness or confusion, as well as irrational or belligerent behavior
- Convulsions or unresponsiveness
The Centers for Disease Control have some tips for avoiding these conditions before they happen. Consider these best practices when you’re outside in the heat:
- Dress appropriately: Lightweight and light-colored clothes that fit loosely are best.
- Stay inside: Air-conditioned places are best for those hot days. If your home doesn’t have AC, consider going to a public place that has it or take a cool shower or bath to cool down your body.
- Timing is key: Schedule around the hottest part of the day and do your outdoor activities in the morning or evening when it’s cooler.
- Take it easy: Be kind to your body and rest often, reduce exercise and warm up slowly when you’re in the heat.
- Don’t leave kids or pets in the car: This is always a no-go, even if the window is cracked.
- Cool food and drink: Avoid hot, heavy meals that add heat to your body, and drink more fluids than usual. Keep away from sugary or alcoholic drinks, though, as they can dehydrate you. Consider a low-calorie sports drink to help replace the salt and minerals your body loses through sweating.
Keeping Kids Safe
Being outside brings many fun activities for kids, as well as new risks. Let’s dive into some summer-centric tips to keep children safe, starting with burn prevention.
Fireworks, barbecues and campfires are all great parts of summer, and ones where we need to keep an extra eye on the kids. Here are some tips from the experts at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital:
Don’t mix kids and fireworks
Adults should be the only people handling fireworks, no matter what. Kids should keep at least 150 feet away from all fireworks. Even smaller fireworks like sparklers can get up to 1,200 to 1,600 degrees — far too hot for kids’ hands to be near.
Keep an eye on your grill or fire pit
They can stay hot even hours after you’re done cooking or the fire is out, so keep kids at least 3 feet away until you’re certain the surfaces are cool.
That applies to s’mores, too
Yes, marshmallow roasts are fun for all, but that 3-foot rule still applies. Consider just having your younger kids assemble their s’mores while an adult roasts them. For older kids, give them a longer stick to use and keep them supervised.
Biking and Skating Safety Tips
Biking, skateboarding or rollerblading are great, active summer hobbies and ones that require careful protection. Here are some more tips for getting around safely:
Wear a helmet, always
Anything with wheels requires a helmet — it could be the difference between life and death. Plus, it’s the law. The state of Florida requires all people younger than 16 to wear a helmet while on a bicycle.
Get that helmet fitted
A good fit ensures the helmet works the way it should. Helmets shouldn’t move side-to-side or forward-and-back. They should fit snug, but not too tight, with a secure chin strap. Bike shops or sporting goods stores should be able to help you fit a helmet for your child.
Replace your helmet as needed
Given the impact that helmets absorb in a fall, they need to be replaced after an accident. They’re not designed for multiple impacts and won’t work as well on a second fall, so make sure to keep it fresh.
Inspect your gear
Before riding, make sure your bike’s brakes work and that the wheels are turning properly. Same rules apply to other wheels, so give that skateboard a quick check, too, before you ride.
Water Safety Tips
When it’s hot, swimming feels the best and we all want to spend more time in the water. However, a child dies every day from drowning in the U.S., and it’s the leading cause of death for toddlers. In fact, Florida leads the nation in this sad metric. Fortunately, we have some tips for making the water safer.
Water wings and floaties aren’t safe
These aids can give kids a false sense of security that they’ll float on water, but water wings or floaties might not actually support a kid’s weight. If you need a floatation device, find a life jacket that fits and is U.S. Coast Guard-approved.
Swimming lessons help
Of course, learning to swim is the top skill for water safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all kids ages 1 through 4 get swimming instruction.
Install pool barriers and alarms
Experts recommend that fences around pools be 4 feet high with less than 4-inch gaps between the slats so kids can’t slip through. They should also have a self-latching and close mechanism at least 54 inches high, so small children can’t reach it.
Have an assigned water-watcher
Even if there are many adults present at a pool or beach party, that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone is watching the kids. That said, take turns having a non-distracted adult keep watch over the water.