For most children, and many adults, summertime is the greatest time of the year: pool parties, barbecues, camping, hiking, picnics and playing outside on sunny, beautiful days. While summer sets the landscape for limitless activities, it also comes with a set of risk factors, especially for the season’s most gleeful participants — children. Here’s how to keep your kids happy and safe during summer and Las Vegas’ many, many months of summer-like weather.
Combating heat stroke
Heat stroke occurs when body temperature rises to the point it can cause damage, 105 degrees or above. “Heat stroke can happen very quickly for children simply because they’re smaller. The smaller the body mass, the more quickly the person will become overheated,” said Jeanne Marsala, RN, Safe Kids Director at Sunrise Children’s Hospital.
- Feeling faint
- Unsteady balance
- Dizziness or disorientation
- Seizures (especially common in young children)
- Organ failure
Note: Excessive sweating typically isn’t observed in a person experiencing heat stroke, because their body’s internal cooling system is unable to function properly.
Heat stroke can be prevented by staying hydrated, avoiding hot environments for extended periods of time and wearing hats, sunglasses and light clothing when outdoors.
Kids in cars
Never leave a child in a car for any amount of time. Because of their low body mass, children and infants are more at risk for acute and deadly heat stroke. The smaller the child, the greater the risk. On average, even with windows cracked, heat rises 2 degrees per minute in a car, which means that during a 95-degree day, in 5 minutes or less, the temperature inside the car will be 105 degrees.
“Window falls happen every year in warm weather,” Marsala said. “When the weather gets nice, people open their windows, and kids will lean on the screen and fall directly out.”
If you have children at home and open your windows, be sure window guards are in place. Window guards are effective at preventing window falls and can be purchased at most hardware stores. Also, avoid placing furniture that children can climb on near windows.
Marsala also warns about backyard falls. Trampolines, tree houses and jungle gyms should be used with caution and only with parental supervision.
“Prior to puberty, kids are more susceptible to broken bones,” Marsala said. “Their bones become stronger after puberty, which is why younger kids break bones easier.”
Any child riding on wheels — a bicycle, rollerblades, skateboard, scooter, etc.— needs to be wearing a helmet and other protective gear. “Ideally, all children should also wear elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards,” Marsala said.
The non-negotiable: A helmet. Helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent, yet only 45 percent of children 14 and under wear one, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, an international organization aimed at preventing injuries to children. Also, be sure your child’s helmet fits properly. It should fit low and snug on the head. If it moves around easily or shows the child’s forehead, it is not fitted correctly.
Because of their small body mass, children also are more prone to dehydration. “The recommended eight glasses of water a day is the bare minimum,” Marsala said. “If kids are spending time in the heat, playing or doing activities, they need to be drinking even more water.”
Symptoms: Thirst, dry mouth, dry eyes, tenting in the skin (if you pinch the skin, it sticks up) and dizziness
Prevention: Drink a lot of water. For kids playing sports or sweating a lot, drinks with electrolytes also can help. Examples: Pedialyte for young children; Gatorade or Powerade for school-age children.
Sunscreen: All children need to wear sunscreen daily with the highest SPF available. It should be reapplied every two hours. If your child has sensitive skin, look for hypoallergenic formulas or those designed for babies.
A: Adult supervision
Adults should know where children and infants are at all times and always closely supervise children in or around swimming pools or bodies of water. While swimming, adults should maintain “touch supervision,” which means they’re within reach of the child the entire time.
It’s important to have proper barriers to prevent children from accessing pools unknowingly. Proper barriers include a 60-inch-tall, nonclimbable fence around the entire pool area with a self-closing gate and alarms on doors and windows to alert you when they have been opened. (Also, don’t leave toys floating in the pool when they’re not in use. Toys might further entice a child to try to access the pool.)
Enroll children in age-appropriate swim classes and enroll yourself in CPR classes.
Keep a phone by the pool or bathtub at all times in case you need to call 911. Always keep rescue tools such as shepherd’s hooks and life preservers by the pool. Young children and nonswimmers should wear personal flotation devices near all bodies of water.
Remember, a drowning can occur within minutes, in as little as 1 inch of water, including in dog dishes, water buckets and toilet bowls.