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Practice Safety in the Sun: Prevent Avoidable Injuries this Summer

They know it’s coming. They can see the finish line. They need only wait a few more days for it. Who is “they?” Your kids…and they know that in a couple of weeks the pure bliss of summer will arrive. The next three months will be free of early-morning wakeup calls, homework, band practice, and essays…and filled with family trips, summer camps, lazy days at the pool or at the beach, and hours of fun riding bikes or playing outdoors with friends in the neighborhood.

Our children are eagerly anticipating a summer of fun—without a second thought of the increased risk for injury.

Fun is Not Always Safe

Many parents underestimate the safety threats that summer brings, says Dr. Garry Gardner, member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Injury and Poison Prevention Committee. “Kids are spending the bulk of their time outside, which raises their risk of getting hurt,” he cautions.

The four-month period from May through August is the most dangerous time of year, with nearly three million child medical emergencies and 2,550 deaths because of accidental injuries, according to a study by the National Safe Kids Campaign reported by ABC News. Those deaths represent 42% of the average annual total, the study found.

Think of it this way: More than 30 children die every day in this country. Those who don’t die from their injuries still account for 9.2 million medical visits by children every year.

“Parents do not realize injuries are the leading cause of death in children and most of these are preventable,” says ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser, who is also a practicing pediatrician.

Let’s look at just a few of the dangers of summer.

Drowning

Both the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the National Safety Council warn that approximately 830 children ages 14 and under drown every year. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1 to 4 years and ages 10 to 14 years. For children less than 1 year old, drowning is the third leading cause of death. In addition, an average of approximately 3,600 injuries a year occur to children due to a near-drowning incident.

Pools & Waterparks

Backyard pools pose the greatest risk to children, but nearly one in five drownings occurs in a public pool with certified lifeguards present, according to data from the National Safety Council. How is that possible?

Drowning isn’t a noisy event—it’s swift and nearly silent. The child’s head slips under water, she takes one lungful, and she’s gone. Undertrained or overstretched lifeguards simply may not spot a child who needs help. Lifeguards should be able to scan and supervise their entire area of responsibility from one side and back within a 30-second period. If this isn’t possible, there aren’t enough lifeguards. Incidents typically occur because a lifeguard is inappropriately positioned, is busy with other duties, or is distracted by talking.

Supervision is the key to pool safety. Never take your eyes off your child. Since nearly all pool injuries are a result of “horsing around,” you should make sure your child follows the pool rules…especially the one about no running. If the park or pool permits it, insist that your child wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket if he isn’t a capable swimmer. Don’t rely on water wings as a safety device; use them only with close adult supervision.

Beaches

Opt for a beach with lifeguards. Not having them increases the risk of drowning five-fold, according to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA). Ask lifeguards about the safest area to swim and hazards to avoid, like jelly fish. But perhaps lifeguards’ most common task is something unexpected. “They frequently reunite parents and kids who have become separated,” says B. Chris Brewster, USLA’s liaison officer. If your child wanders off, tell a lifeguard.

Drownings often involve single swimmers. Young children should never enter the water without adult supervision and should be kept within arm’s reach of an adult always. Also keep a close eye on your child when he’s playing on the beach. Several children have died or been severely injured when they were buried in collapsed sand holes.

Rip currents are the top cause of injury and fatalities at beaches. So how can you escape one? Swim parallel to the beach rather than toward it.

Stick to U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets. Rafts, tubes, and other inflatable gear aren’t safety devices, because they can suddenly lose air or slip out from underneath. They also may entice kids to go into water in which they normally wouldn’t be comfortable. If your children do use these devices, stay with them at all times.

Falls

Summer is a time for playing with friends outside: Baseball, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, and several other sports. Children often gravitate to playgrounds to enjoy monkey bars, slides, and seesaws as well. Games of hide-and-seek or cops-and-robbers take place in backyards all over America. Groups of children ride bikes down streets of neighborhoods until dusk. Any of these activities can easily lead to injury.

Surprisingly, approximately 200,000 children are treated in the country’s emergency rooms each year for playground injuries according to the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS). To avoid injury, look for nine to 12 inches of sand, pea gravel, wood products, rubber products, or mats. Walk away if you see cement, asphalt, dirt, or grass because these surfaces are linked to head injuries. Wearing rubber-soled shoes may also help your child avoid a fall.

Globally, more than four percent of pediatric deaths are associated with falls; almost 2.8 million children a year are injured by them. Bike injuries alone add up to 26,000 traumatic brain injuries a year! Always have your child wear a helmet while biking, inline skating, skateboarding, or riding scooters. Head injuries are far too common so enforce this rule. When using skates, a scooter, or a skateboard, your child should also wear guards for the wrists, elbows, and knees.

Burns

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over 300 children ages 0 to 19 are treated every day in emergency rooms for burn-related injuries; two of those children die from those burns. Younger children are more likely to sustain injuries from scald burns caused by hot liquids and food or steam, while older children are more likely to sustain injuries from flame burns that are caused by direct contact with fire, like campfires or fireworks.

You should never assume a campfire or bonfire is completely out. On more than one occasion, fire-happy campers have been known to dump gasoline or other extremely flammable liquids on fires that look like they are out or smoldering and ended up with third-degree burns. Children and adults make trips to the emergency room every summer after stepping into fire pits they thought were cool.

Fireworks should be avoided completely. Even sparklers—thought to be relatively safe—can lead to blindness and serious burns. Other larger fireworks can leave users without fingers or limbs. Hearing loss is common among fireworks users as well. Children must be closely and constantly supervised around any kind of fireworks.

While a backyard fireworks display may seem fun, Mayo Clinic physicians advise everyone to leave them to the professionals. Doctors see dozens of patients each year with severe injuries as a direct result of using fireworks, including severe burns.

When Accidents Happen, Think CCHC Urgent Care

Unfortunately, no matter how vigilant we as parents are, not all summer accidents can be prevented. Your physician’s office may offer same-day appointments for care, but urgent care is a great option when appointments are unavailable or if you need treatment outside normal office hours. Thankfully, CCHC’s New Bern Family Practice Urgent Care is open seven days a week and ready to examine any injury your child may suffer.

New Bern Family Practice Urgent Care provides excellent laboratory and X-ray services, can run diagnostic tests, and even dispense prescriptions. All the services you may need in a minor emergency are located in one convenient location and provided by a caring and attentive staff. Open every day of the week, urgent care is the smart, cost-saving option for you and your family.

Urgent Care now offers three ways to access care and avoid all that time in the waiting room:

  1. Request online appointment: You can select an appointment time convenient for you and be seen at that time.
  2. Call ahead — wait at home — save your spot in line. This is not an appointment; you will be given an arrival time to check in at the front desk. Please call (252) 638-CARE (2273).
  3. Walk-ins are welcome anytime during business hours: Check in at the front desk. You will be able to view your estimated wait time on our new wait time monitor.

If you make an online appointment or call ahead, you’ll receive a text message reminder shortly before you are scheduled to arrive.

The next time a minor emergency occurs, make the quick drive to New Bern’s only family practice urgent care facility. You’ll find that you get knowledgeable and compassionate care from a highly-skilled team of physicians and nurses quickly and affordably.

CCHC Urgent Care is located at 1040 Medical Park Avenue, New Bern, NC. Call (252) 638-CARE (2273) for more information.

Hours:
Monday-Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Holidays: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas

(Sources: National Safety Council; National SAFE KIDS Campaign; The Mayo Clinic; National Program for Playground Safety; The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; United States Lifesaving Association; and ABC News.)