From Fireworks and Lawn Mowers to Hot Cars and Kiddie Pools: Avoid a Summer Tragedy
While summer’s warmer weather brings smiles, it’s also a time to think about safety.
“The truth is, there are several summer circumstances that have the potential to take a tragic turn, explains Corey Showalter, MD and medical director of the emergency department at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. So, what exactly should parents be aware of this season? Here, his expert advice.
1. Lawn mowers
Warmer temps naturally trigger more lawn mowing, he says, which can usher in unexpected injuries. In fact, a recent study from the Center for Injury Research found that over 4,000 kids are injured by lawn mowers each year and they send an average of 13 children to the ER every day.
“Every Spring, cases start to trickle in and they are some of the most awful injuries we see,” says Dr. Showalter. “Often, it’s a caregiver who is either trying to do something they think will be fun with the child or who is trying to supervise the child and mow their lawn at the same time--and that’s a dangerous combination.”
Lawn mowing accidents typically occur during lap rides, he says, when an adult places a young child on their lap while driving. “Even slow drivers put the child at great risk. In the ER, we have seen awful amputations that result from accidents.”
And it’s not just falls that foster problems: “We’ve seen situations where kids are out playing in the yard and people accidentally back the lawnmower up and hit the child,” says Dr. Showalter. “Or, where lawn mowers have hurled out objects like rocks or sticks that strike and hurt a child.”
The bottom line: Keep children far away from mowers and don’t try to multi task. “You cannot mow your lawn and watch a child safely at the same time,” says Dr. Showalter.
2. Kiddie Pools
Regular sized pools tend to get most of the attention when it comes to safety, however, kiddie pools are far from innocent, says Dr. Showalter. “Their shallow water should not be underestimated, since it can only take a few inches for a young child to drown, especially one that doesn’t have the neck strength to raise his head.”
As always, he says, close supervision is key.
“And if you have a close call with a child in the water and they seem okay after, it’s still very important to keep a close eye on them up to several hours after the incident,” says Dr. Showalter, since dry drowning can occur. “Make sure they don’t develop any lingering respiratory symptoms like trouble breathing or increased cough, since kids can aspirate water and develop delayed symptoms.”
3. Parked Cars
Over 800 children have died nationwide since 1990 from heat stroke after being left alone in a hot, parked car—and studies show more than 35 kids die from these circumstances each year (the majority of which are under one year of age).
How does this happen? In most cases, parents became so distracted that they literally forgot about their child. And leaving a child in a car, even on a cool day, can be deadly because the temperature inside a vehicle and a child’s core body temperature both increase quickly, says Dr. Showalter. For instance, a body temperature of 107 degrees or higher can be lethal because at that temperature human cells are damaged and internal organs begin to shut down. “Kids can get overheated and dehydrated very quickly,” he says.
His advice: Be more mindful when you’ve got children in the car. “Try to stay more in the moment—and avoid using your phone in the car, since it can be especially distracting,” he says.
Lastly, sun baked seat belts and car seats can lead to bad burns in young kids so check these areas carefully before putting your tyke in--or consider using sun shades or covering these items with a blanket if your vehicle will be parked in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time.
According to the United States Consumer Products Safety Commission, around 230 people go to the ER every day in the weeks surrounding Independence Day with fireworks-related injuries. “Kids like to hold them and point them at each other, and they can get burns on their hands and blast injuries to their face,” says Dr. Showalter. Even seemingly harmless sparklers can reach temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit—as hot as a blowtorch—causing major burns. His advice: Children should never handle fireworks, says Dr. Showalter and adults should never handle them while drinking alcohol, since both situations set the stage for danger.
-- By Sarah Burns