Summertime is a chance for kids to get some rest and relaxation, but one thing parents should never take a break from is making sure their kids are safe while enjoying these carefree days.
Did you know, for instance, that thousands of children in the United States are injured each year by lawn mowers? Or that just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk for skin cancer later in life? Another sobering stat, this one from the Centers for Disease Control, is that an average of 384 children die every year from bicycle accidents.
None of this is to scare you into keeping your young ones under lock and key until school starts back up again, but just to show the importance of taking those small steps needed to keep summertime safe.
Know before you mow
It’s a tried-and-true vision of fun in the sun, a kiddo happily getting a ride on the lawn mower with mom or dad as they maneuver around the yard. But the truth is that this scenario is one of the riskiest for a youngster. Most mowing-related accidents occur when a child jumps or falls from the mower or, worse yet, slides underneath and gets caught in the blades. It might sound far-fetched, but unfortunately it happens much more than you would think.
Not only should children not be riding on lawn mowers, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends they should be at least 12 years old before operating any mower, and 16 for a riding mower. But riding on a mower doesn’t present the only danger, as sticks, stones and other loose objects can fly out at high speed. Thankfully, any mower made after 2004 has an additional safety feature that prevents the blades from running while the mower is in reverse, but it’s still important to make sure you know where your kids are when the mower is running.
Sadly, the term “killer tan” can prove all too literal. Lured by perceived standards of beauty, we tend of think of suntanned skin as the ideal, when in fact it really is just skin that has been damaged.
Whenever your kids are out in the sun — try to avoid midday hours, when the sun’s rays are at their strongest — make sure they are wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 15, along with UVA and UVB protection. Hats, sunglasses and long sleeves all can help reduce the risk of sunburns, which are not only unhealthy, but will pretty much put an end to any fun for the day.
Put on that helmet
“But helmets are so lame!”
That is your cue to respond with the always-reliable, “Well, a head injury is even more lame!” Or you can take the more diplomatic route and point to some of the really cool helmet designs out there now, featuring everything from Hello Kitty to Ninja Turtles and other eye-popping images that should cut down on the “lame” factor.
However you get them to put on that helmet, you’re doing the right thing. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says 450,000 U.S. children visit the emergency room each year because of bicycle-related injuries, and another 78,000 for skateboards.
Another way to get kids to wear helmets is simply to set a good example. Don’t forget to wear one yourself when out on a bike or motorcycle. Might as well keep yourself safe while you’re at it.
- Lisa Joerres, MD, pediatrician, Westbrook Pediatrics