The very things that make summer fun also can make it the most dangerous time of year for kids. Contrary to what most parents fear, a child's greatest risk comes not from disease or "stranger danger" (think of all those warnings you've heard over the years) but from accidents – the kind that occur most often in summer.
The journal Pediatrics and SafeChild.net named these among the summer's top risks for kids:
Drowning. Every five days, a child in the United States dies in a portable pool, including shallow wading pools. That's on top of drownings in unfenced, unsupervised in-ground pools and area lakes and ponds. Most involve kids under age 5, accounting for 30% of all deaths in that age group. The takeaway for parents: Never leave children unsupervised around water, fence off in-ground pools, insist on lifejackets in lakes and rivers, and consider swimming lessons even for very young children.
Lawnmower injuries. Among kids under 5, lawnmowers account for 46% of all traumatic injuries. Keep your young ones out of the yard while the mower is running, and never allow them to ride on lawnmowers as passengers. Make a "no touch" rule to avoid burns from the machine's scorching muffler and engine.
Poisoning. Ornamental berries, citronella oil in Tiki torches, and garden chemicals present poison risks unique to summer. A related danger? Extreme reactions to insect bites. If someone in your family has a severe allergy, keep an EpiPen® on hand and know how to use it to treat anaphylaxis. Also, put the number for the National Poison Hotline in your phone's contacts: 800-222-1222.
Burns. Independence Day is the busiest day of the year for emergency rooms and firefighters. Safety experts recommend you opt for professional fireworks rather than backyard displays (those innocent-looking sparklers literally get hot enough to cook an egg). If a child suffers a burn, immerse it in water or apply a cool compress (forget the old home remedy of smearing butter on a burn) and if in doubt, get medical help. Ready to fire up that grill? Enforce a no-kid, no-pets zone until the coals cool.
Falls. Bike accidents account for 26,000 traumatic brain injuries a year for kids and teens. The number soars even higher when you add skateboard, ATV, and horseback riding falls. Wearing a helmet significantly cuts the risk of brain injury – and it's a good habit mom and dad can model for their kids.