Don't Vacation in the ER

by Brenda Nixon

Kids especially love warm weather and spending time outdoors. But never assume that your child recognizes the dangers lurking outside. Instead, develop the habit of practicing safety precautions to insure fun in the sun without resulting injury. Here are a few tips:

When loading everyone in the car, feel car seats and buckles first to know how hot they are. The sun can heat a car's interior to a scorching 140 degrees and that's enough to burn tender skin. Many parents store beach towels in the car to throw over hot seats.

Prevent sunburn by using an SPF 15 or greater sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Keep in mind that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you're venturing outdoors with a newborn (0-6 weeks), do not use sunscreen on their delicate skin. Rather, protect them from direct sunlight with a bonnet or cap, sunglasses, and lightweight cotton clothing. An umbrella can do the trick too. I've been to infinite softball games where resourceful parents positioned their newborn under a shade tree while enjoying the game.

Take along cool water and offer your tot drink breaks about every half hour. Avoid beverages with sugar and caffeine.

Safety-proof wherever they might play - your yard, driveway, garage, parks, even grandma's house. Since babies and toddlers are extremely curious, speedy, have to put everything in their mouth and clueless about danger, you have the right mix for a fatal accident. Before I let my children even play in the sand I check for sticks, glass, broken toys or droppings from friendly creatures.

Always be on guard when your child is around contained water sources. Toddlers are so top-heavy they easily fall head-first into pools, fountains, and buckets. When they can't maneuver their head out to breath, even an inch of water can be deadly - within five minutes! I think it's terrific when Junior helps Dad "wash" the car, but Dad must put the bucket of water up high and keep a close eye on his son.

Look for rusted nuts, bolts, screws, cracks or rotted wood on playground equipment. Each year about 200,000 children go to hospital emergency rooms for playground equipment-related injuries. Also, take along antibiotic cream for minor skin abrasions.

Watch for the open S-style hooks that can scratch or snag clothes. Examine your child's attire and remove strings from hoods and around the waist to prevent catching on equipment and possible strangulation.

Most children eventually plead, "Can I have sparklers?" And many adults add these to their arsenal of summer fireworks thinking, "What's the harm?" The harm is, these little sticks of colored sparks heat to 1,800 degrees, melt nylon clothing (I know from experience) and cause severe burns. More than 5,000 children under 14 are injured every year by fireworks. Prevent regrets by enjoying professionally-run fireworks displays and forego shooting them off at home, where most accidents happen.

Dogs are kid-magnets. When we walk in the park with our miniature dachshund children run to bravely pet him. Usually I will stop the tot with, "Ask if you can pet the dog." Be cautious around all animals. Teach your youngster to always ask before touching a dog. Every year children suffer injury from dogs that "look cute."

Nearly all youngsters with their adventurous spirit have no thought for safety! In their boundless energy they go from one activity to another. These precautionary habits will give you and your children fun, happy memories in the great outdoors.

Brenda Nixon partners with organizations to educate and encourage parents. She is a professional speaker and the author of Parenting Power in the Early Years and The Birth to Five Book

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