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How to Have a Safe and Fun Family Summer

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Summer vacation often means fun-filled activities for children — and, unfortunately, some hazards as well. With a few simple measures, you can help protect your children from unintentional injury and keep them smiling all summer long with these tips from Children’s Hospital Colorado

How can we stay safe at parks and playgrounds?
Each year, more than 200,000 children are treated in emergency rooms for playground-related injuries, most of them related to falls. Falls from any height can result in a concussion , which happens when a blow causes a jarring impact to the brain. With or without a loss of consciousness, a concussion can cause changes in behavior or alertness.

“Common concussion symptoms include headache, vomiting, acting dazed or confused, memory problems, and unusual sleepiness,” said Joe Grubenhoff, MD, Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “If your child is not behaving normally after a head injury, he or she should be evaluated in an emergency room immediately.”

When should kids wear helmets?
Helmets can help prevent concussions other traumatic brain injuries in children. “If it has wheels and no doors, you need a helmet! This goes for bikes, skateboards, roller blades, scooters, tag-along bikes and bike trailers,” said Dr. Grubenhoof.

What about summer road trips?
For long car rides during summer trips, proper seating, restraints and parent preparation are paramount. Depending on his or her age, weight and height, your child should ride in an appropriate safety seat, or sit in the back seat wearing a correctly positioned lap and shoulder belt.

According to the Colorado Child Passenger Safety law, which Children’s Colorado helped pass, babies under 1 year of age and weighing less than 20 pounds must ride in the vehicle’s back seat, secured in a rear-facing seat. It’s safest to allow babies to ride rear-facing until they are 2 years old. From ages 1 to 3, your children should still travel in the back seat in either a rear-facing or front-facing seat.

Children between 4 and 7 years old and weighing a minimum of 40 pounds can begin using booster seats. Children should continue to use booster seats until their 8th birthday, compliant with Colorado law. It is best practice to use a booster seat until the adult seat belt fits a child directly in the center of the shoulder and low on the hips with the child’s back against the vehicle seatback.

To schedule a free car seat inspection or for expert advice, call Children’s Colorado’s car seat hotline at (720) 777-4808.

What should I watch for at the swimming pool or beach?
“First and foremost, no one should swim alone,” Dr. Grubenhoff said. “Young children should not be left unattended around any body of water, including inflatable pools or even buckets. It only takes seconds for a child to become submerged, and irreversible brain injury can occur within four minutes.”

Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 4, with most drowning in home pools. To keep children away from the pool when you’re unable to closely monitor them, install isolation fencing with a self-closing and self-latching gate. The water itself is not the only danger — small children can become trapped by the suction in pool vents, so it’s vital to know where the emergency cutoff is located. If your child has long hair, a swim cap helps prevent it from becoming trapped in drains.

My kid is like a fish. Should I worry about swimmer’s ear?
Another hazard related to swimming comes in the form of swimmer’s ear. However, this condition in children isn’t always the result of a summertime dip in a pool or a lake.

“Swimmer’s ear differs from water in the ear like a child might get while swimming,” said Peggy Kelley, MD, Otolaryngologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “The condition occurs when the ear canal gets too much moisture, allowing common bacteria in the canal to break through the barrier of ear wax and skin, setting up an infection. Symptoms include itchiness, redness, slight pain, hearing loss and drainage of clear fluid.”

How can I prevent swimmer’s ear?
Preventive measures include keeping ears clean and drying them immediately after swimming or bathing, using earplugs when swimming, and not scratching the ear or using objects such as cotton swabs for cleaning.

Get more wellness and safety tips from Children’s Colorado.

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