Layers of Protection–The goal for setting up multiple layers of protection for your child is so that in case one layer fails there is a backup in place. Obviously the first layer of protection in any situation would be proper supervision; whether that is you, a parent at your child’s friend’s house, a coach, life-guard etc. Ensuring that there is always a trusted adult around is the most important part of keeping your child out of danger.
Water Safety–With summers being so hot and water being such a fun way to cool down, swimming becomes a dangerous pass time for children. If your child asks to go swimming with a friend, and you will not be ther,e be sure to ask what adult will be supervising or if the facility has a certified lifeguard on duty AND talk to that person to verify not only that they actually will be there but also their competence. Keep in mind that if you are sending your child off to a park, apartment pool, town pool, etc these places do not always provide a life-guard, and proper supervision is vital to ensuring water safety and that there is no dangerous horseplay, diving, skiing, tubing, etc.
The next layers for water safety would be ensuring the pool is fenced or doors leading to pool area are locked, there are alarms on pool water, and of course summer safety courses and swimming courses are available at most local YMCA or town pools. Keeping pool floats, life preservers, and life savers within easy access are also important. Discuss with your child that you never lean over into the pool for something that has fallen in, instead ask an adult for help.
Another important practice would be to rehearse what to do in case of falling in the pool with your child; practice treading water and grab hold of the edge of the pool and walk with their arms over to the ladder to get out. This is especially important for toddlers and children that are not great swimmers yet. It only takes a second of you looking the other direction around the water for a child to accidentally fall in. If all other levels of protection have failed and this does happen the last thing you want is for them to panic, so practice this skill fairly regularly…I have been doing this with my daughter since she was 1 and do it several times throughout the swim season.
Sun and heat Safety—Proper clothing to protect the body from both the heat of the summer and the harmful rays of the sun is the first step to ensuring your child’s safety. There are loads of UV protective shirts available now that are really cool and…well, cool! They are thin and breathable, but allow additional coverage and protection from the sun’s harmful rays, but still allow your kid to choose a design and style that fits their personality.
Additional layers of sun and heat protection would obviously be sunblock and hydration. Encourage kids to pace themselves playing sports and activities in the heat of day, and provide several water and shade breaks during the course of an activity. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater on all exposed skin; look for sunscreen that protects for UVA and UVB and apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside—the spray kind goes on really quickly and seems to work really well for kids of all ages. Reapply sunscreen after swimming, perspiring heavily, or drying skin with a towel.
Keep your child hydrated; replace salts lost during perspiration; and watch for signs of heat exhaustion and stroke. Always keep cold packs on hand to cool the child off if any of these symptoms appear and call 911 immediately if you have ANY concerns. Some symptoms include fatigue, red skin, high body temperature, dizziness, nausea, clammy palms, weakness, muscle cramps, and confusion.
Bug and Bee– Insect repellents that contain DEET are most effective against ticks, which can carry Lyme Disease, and mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile Virus, as well as many other viruses. The current CDC and AAP recommendation for children over 2 months of age is to use between 10- 30% DEET. DEET should NEVER be used on children under 2 months of age. Avoid combination sunscreen/insect repellent products because sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours but the insect repellent should not, also DEET is absorbed through the skin so it is best to use as little on the skin as possible and spray mostly on clothes. (Side note–I just heard on the radio that skin-so-soft is safe for family pets! dilute it slightly with water and spray on your dog if you plan on taking them camping)
The best way to keep from having an incident with tics is to avoid tall grass. If you will be in an area with tall grass and weeds you can tuck you pants in your socks–for a really fashionable look! The best way to remove a Tick is by grabbing the body with tweezers and pulling away from the skin. The mouth may still be attached but the body is where the Lyme disease is so that’s what you want to get rid of. Obviously, contact your family physician if you have any question, concerns, or would prefer a professional to remove the Tick.
If your child is stung and the stinger is still visible, gently scrape it off horizontally with a credit card or your fingernail. Squeezing or removing the stinger with tweezers can actually cause it to release more venom. Watch for signs of allergy; pain, swelling, facial flushing, changes in breathing, muscle spasm, nausea, etc. and call 911 immediately if you have any concerns.
Stranger Danger- Summer vacation and breaks often mean that kids are left home alone or are outdoors riding bikes, playing in the yard, etc on their one. Busy playgrounds and children unattended or away from adults leave to easy of an opening for perpetrators. The first layer of protection in this area would be to discuss rules and parameters with your child. Do you allow them to use the computer while you are not around? And if so do you check the history and have access to their face-book, email, etc to randomly check contacts and sites visited? If they are home alone discuss who they can open the door for and how to know who’s at the door. Do you want them to answer the phone or use an answering machine or caller ID to screen calls? If they are riding their bike how often do you want them to check in? Discuss a safe distance to stay away from someone who may be approaching for directions or something. Talk to them about how to handle these approaching strangers. Point out things to your kids that seem fishy. Teaching them to be aware of their surroundings and what to look out for is a great habit for both of you.
Other layers of protection include enlisting neighbors to keep an eye on neighborhood kids that are out playing and to check in with you if anything seems off. Children should be home before dark. Also, there are child safety cell phones out now that have a tracking device and allow your child to call or for you to call if there is any concern. They have a limited number of preset contacts (that you pick) and an emergency SOS number. This keeps your kids from texting, and getting on the Internet–which exposes them to all sorts of dangers, but it also keeps your phone bill down while allowing them to have a cell phone and tracking device on them at all times for emergencies. You could also try to limit the amount of time that your child is unsupervised by keeping them involved in community service clubs, summer sports, activities, or vacation bible schools.
I hope this list of tips is helpful for you to keep your kids safe over this school break. Remember communication and supervision is always the first level of protection for your children, but there will always be times where you look away, even for a second. It is in those times that you must have a back up layer to keep your family protected. If you have more tips for other moms please leave those…you never know who’s life you could save by simply leaving a comment. Have a blessed and safe vacation!