Summer is here, which means children and adults are spending more time outdoors—swimming, boating, biking and shooting fireworks. While these are great ways to create fun family memories, these activities could leave a lasting impact for all the wrong reasons if you’re not careful.
Swimming and boating.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury death in the United States, which is why it’s important to use good judgment before getting in the water.
Whether you’re getting in the pool or a local lake, be sure children wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times. Remember, inner tubes and water wings do not prevent drowning—they are considered water toys, not approved swimming devices. Also, remember that children require constant supervision, so adults responsible for supervising them should avoid distractions such as talking on the phone or playing games. Don’t expect a lifeguard to supervise your child.
In order to prevent devastating spinal cord injuries, never dive in shallow water. Always enter pools, rivers, lakes or oceans feet first. If the water is shallow or if it has objects under the surface, diving can cause serious injuries. And, of course, never swim alone.
Finally, avoid alcohol anytime you’re in or around the water—especially if you’re operating a boat. It is illegal in all states to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol.
Before taking that bicycle out for a ride this summer, be sure you have a proper-fitting helmet that is free of damage, and check the tires for proper inflation. When biking on or near roads, be sure to make yourself visible during all hours of the day by wearing bright colors and reflectors. Additionally, stay in your lane (or use the bicycle lane), stay alert and watch for road hazards, such as potholes, cracks and debris in the road. Also watch for parked cars, and beware of doors opening or cars pulling out from parking spots. Bicycles are held to the same laws as vehicles, and all traffic signs and signals must be followed.
First and foremost, call your local fire department or check for burn bans before shooting fireworks in order to avoid wildfires. Additionally, keep a water hose or bucket of water nearby to douse any fire that may ignite.
Never allow children to use fireworks. Even a simple sparkler can cause severe damage, as sparklers burn as high as 2,000 degrees when lit. Also, keep fireworks out of your pockets. When the chemicals inside of the fireworks are inadvertently mixed with water or sweat, it can burn the skin. Never point or shoot fireworks at another person or structure, and do not re-light a “dud,” as it can cause an explosion. Place the dud and all fireworks in water before disposing of them to avoid a fire.
Before you fire up the grill, check all propane tank connections on the grill, and do not use it if any of the connections are loose or broken. Also, use caution with lighter fluid—charcoal grills that use flammable lighter fluid can ignite if used on a lit fire, and a “flashback” flame can cause the container to explode. To avoid potential injury, keep children away from all flammable items and hot grills, and only use grills in an outdoor, open space, as carbon monoxide is a natural and odorless gas that can accumulate quickly indoors.
Even after taking all the proper precautions, accidents can still occur, so it is important to know CPR and to have a first aid kit available at all times.
Stay safe this summer!
Lydia Blankenship, R.N., is the trauma program manager at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center