Summer vacation begins this week for most students around Windham County. That means long days filled with bike rides, horsing around a favorite watering hole, or sitting under a shady tree eating ice cream.
Now would be a good time for us to remind everyone of some basic safety tips to make sure this summer is filled with nothing but happy memories.
Number one on the list, of course, is water safety. Every day, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.
Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. In 2009, among children 1 to 4 years old who died from an unintentional injury, more than 30 percent died from drowning, and most of those occurred in home swimming pool. Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children 1 to 4 than any other cause except congenital anomalies (birth defects). Among those 1 to 14, fatal drowning remains the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death behind motor vehicle crashes.
The main factors that affect drowning risk are lack of swimming ability, lack of barriers to prevent unsupervised water access, lack of close supervision while swimming, location, failure to wear life jackets, alcohol use, and seizure disorders. And in Vermont's unpredictable rivers and streams it's important to watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore. Once free of the current, swim diagonally toward shore.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also has some tips to help keep you and your family safe this summer.
-- Fireworks can result in severe burns, scars and disfigurement that can last a lifetime. Even fireworks that are often thought to be safe, such as sparklers, can reach temperatures above 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, and can burn users and bystanders. Families should attend community fireworks displays run by professionals rather than using fireworks at home.
-- Lawn Mower Safety: Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Have anyone who uses a mower wear hearing and eye protection. Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas. Drive up and down slopes, not across to prevent mower rollover. Keep guards, shields, switches, and safety devices in proper working order at all times.
-- Bug Safety: Don't use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on your child. Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints. Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and gardens where flowers are in bloom. Combination sunscreen/insect repellent products should be avoided because sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, but the insect repellent should not be reapplied. Use insect repellents containing DEET when needed to prevent insect-related diseases. Ticks can transmit Lyme Disease, and mosquitoes can transmit West Nile Virus and other viruses.
-- Playground equipment should be carefully maintained. Open "S" hooks or protruding bolt ends can be hazardous. Make sure children cannot reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap any body part. Never attach ropes, jump ropes, leashes, or similar items to play equipment; children can strangle on these. Metal, rubber and plastic products can get very hot in the summer, especially under direct sun. Make sure slides are cool to prevent children's legs from getting burned.
-- The AAP recommends against home trampolines because of the risk of injury even when supervised. Surrounding netting offers a false sense of security and does not prevent many trampoline-related injuries. If children are jumping on a trampoline, they should be supervised by a responsible adult, and only one child should be on the trampoline at a time; 75 percent of trampoline injuries occur when more than one person is jumping at a time.
-- Bicycle Safety: A helmet protects your child from serious injury and should be worn on every bike ride, no matter how short or how close to home. Many injuries happen in driveways, on sidewalks, and on bike paths, not just on streets. Children learn best by observing you. Set the example: Whenever you ride, put on your helmet. When purchasing a helmet, look for a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the CPSC safety standard.
-- Skateboard, Scooter, In-Line Skating and Heelys Safety: All skateboarders and scooter-riders should wear protective gear. Riders should wear helmets that meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or other approved safety standards, and that are specifically designed to reduce the effects of skating hazards. Wrist, elbow and kneepads should be worn.
And for those in Brattleboro, consider this interesting side note from the AAP: "Communities should continue to develop skateboard parks, which are more likely to be monitored for safety than ramps and jumps constructed by children at home."