While the coronavirus has largely kept children confined at home this summer, it is not the only cause for concern for parents. The New York Times recently looked at some of the most common child summer safety risks and how they have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Summer Safety Risk #1 – Drowning
One of the most persistent child summer safety risks is drowning, which remains the leading cause of death for children age 4 and under in the United States, with 448 deaths in that age group in 2018 alone. Each year, drowning kills approximately 1,000 children of all ages across the country.
According to physicians, there are two peaks in age for childhood drowning:
- Toddlers and young children, who may gain access to pools or bodies of water by accident; and
- Adolescents, who may engage in risk-taking behavior such as horsing around in or sneaking into pools.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, children may not be going to community pools, but this does not mean they are any safer from drowning. In fact, the opposite may be the case: While community pools have lifeguards present to rescue young swimmers, home pools typically do not offer the same protections, and recent data indicates that the home pool market is booming, with more people getting first-time pools.
Pool owners should think about “layers of safety,” according to Dr. Maneesha Agarwal, a pediatric emergency physician in Atlanta. This can include physical security measures, such as installing a four-foot-tall fence around the pool and an alarm, but most important is proper parental supervision. Younger children and inexperienced swimmers should always remain within arm’s reach. This vigilance should extend even to kiddie pools since toddlers can drown in only a few inches of water.
Summer Safety Risk #2 – Trampolines
Trampoline sales have also gone up during the pandemic, so much so that they pose significant child summer safety risks, with doctors noting an uptick in trampoline-related fractures and trips to the emergency room this season. Trampoline owners should supervise children carefully, follow all safety instructions, and ensure that there is only one child on a trampoline at a given time.
“A bunch of kids on a trampoline can really cause a lot of injury,” said Dr. Agarwal.
Summer Safety Risk #3 – Bikes, Scooters, and ATVs
Because of social distancing, children are more often facing injuries stemming from individual activities than from team sports. In particular, bikes, scooters, and even ATVs offer some of the greatest child summer safety risks because young people do not always wear helmets and other protective gear.
“We’re seeing more significant head injuries” from these activities, said Dr. Maya Haasz at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
The severity of these injuries is being compounded by the fact that parents are still reluctant to go to hospitals out of fear of exposure to COVID-19. When they do go, the delay can have negative effects for both their children and their doctors, since their injuries may have gotten worse and may not be as easily treated. For this reason, pediatricians urge parents to make sure that their children wear safety helmets and other protective equipment to prevent avoidable trips to the emergency room.
Even with these precautions, however, Dr. Agarwal has a simple message for parents: “Don’t put your kid on an ATV.”
No matter what safety measures are taken, ATVs may simply be too dangerous for young children because of their tendency to roll over. Nationally, approximately four children are seen in emergency departments every hour with ATV injuries.
Summer Safety Risk #4 – The Sun
Parents should keep their children in the shade as much possible. Children also need to wear hats and protective clothing, along with plenty of sunscreen. Sunscreen should be reapplied every couple of hours and after children go into the water.
Additionally, parents should make sure their children stay hydrated, particularly if they are exercising. Children participating in sports should start hydrating before they go out to practice, and if they have not been practicing during the shutdown, they should try to ease back into it gradually, keeping hydration and heat exposure in mind.
Summer Safety Risk #5 – Heatstroke
While the number of incidents may be down this year, heatstroke remains a serious concern, particularly vehicular heatstroke, which occurs when a small child is left in a car. In fact, the pandemic might increase the likelihood of vehicular heatstroke if parents choose to leave their children in vehicles because they are reluctant to take them in stores out of fear of exposure. If possible, physicians say that parents should leave children at home while they do errands.
Summer Safety Risk #6 – Guns
Guns are not specifically child summer safety risks, but because children are mostly confined to the home this season, the danger posed by household firearms looms even larger.
This danger is made even worse by the increase in gun sales during the pandemic, often to first-time owners who may not know how to secure these weapons safely. Firearms must be stored unloaded and locked up either in a gun safe or with a trigger lock. The ammunition should also be locked up in a separate location.
Summer Safety Risk #7 – Household Injuries
In addition to the above concerns, there are a number of other child summer safety risks in the household, including poisonings and falls. Keep in mind that the substances you are using to protect your children from COVID-19 can themselves be toxic. For instance, this summer has seen a rise in poisoning incidents involving hand sanitizers. Also, be aware that window screens alone may not be enough to prevent your children from falling out of high windows.
Summer Safety Risk #8 – Mental Health
While social isolation might be necessary to combat the coronavirus, it can also take a serious psychological toll, particularly on children who suffer from anxiety or depression or who have been able to get help or therapy virtually. Additionally, physicians worry that bullying could increase once children begin to interact more or even return to school.
To help keep at-risk children safe, parents should injury-proof their homes by locking up anything their kids could use to hurt themselves, including over-the-counter medications like Tylenol and Benadryl. If parents are worried about their children’s mental health, they should always talk to them. And if they are seriously concerned about their children harming themselves, take them to a hospital.
GWC Wishes Your Family an Enjoyable, Safe Summer
At GWC Injury Lawyers LLC, we know that these are difficult, even frightening times for all Americans, but it is important that we work together to overcome the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, just as our nation has overcome so many challenges before.
With that in mind, GWC hopes that you have found this brief discussion of child summer safety risks helpful. We wish you and your family an enjoyable, safe summer.