Monday, September 17, 2007

Take measures to give kids safe summer

(Published 5/11/07)

It’s the second week of May, and deejays across the country are dusting off Alice Cooper’s perennial kid favorite, "School’s Out for Summer."

I remember riding home on the bus and pondering all the amazing things that seemed possible, for no other reason than school was out. Lazy days playing in the yard. Swimming in the pool. Foot races with the boys down the street. Softball games. Climbing trees and G.I. Joe battles. The possibilities seemed endless.

But for so many families across the country, summertime means something else, something more sinister: It’s the time when physicians see a spike in serious injuries and deaths among kids.

According to The Safe Kids U.S. Summer Safety Ranking Report, 2,143 children died in the U.S. between May 1 and Aug. 31, 2004 - an astonishing average of 17 children per day - and 2.4 million children made visits to the emergency room with accidental injuries that resulted in paralysis, brain damage and other serious disabilities.

Each of the five most common causes of these accidental injuries and deaths increases by double digits over the annual monthly average, the report says. Drownings increase 89 percent, biking-related injuries and deaths increase 45 percent, falls increase 21 percent, injuries from motor vehicle incidents increase 20 percent and pedestrian injuries increase 16 percent.

The most tragic thing about those numbers is the report’s finding that many of those deaths and injuries were completely preventable. Precautions are relatively simple and inexpensive:

• Never, never let your child around water without proper supervision. It only takes a moment for him to slip into the water undetected.
• Make your children wear their helmets - even if they’re just riding their bikes in front of your house. In this age of cell phones and iPods, you never know when some distracted driver is going to come careening around the corner. The report says that properly-fitting bike helmets are proven to reduce the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent.
• Install safety devices like window guards on windows above the first floor. Horseplay doesn’t have to mean tragedy.
• Make your children wear their seatbelts or ride in their car seats - every time you drive. Aside from it being the law, this should be a non-negotiable rule in your home. Car crashes produce some of the most catastrophic injuries to unrestrained children.
• Review with them the precautions to take when they are walking. They should always stay on sidewalks and only cross streets in crosswalks, or at intersections with stop signs if no crosswalk is provided. They should never dart out in the road. Remind them to look both ways and use the buddy system.

There is enough about parenting that you can’t control; why not minimize the risks you can? Your child may think you’re a paranoid worrywart. He may roll his eyes or heave that heavy sigh of childhood frustration. But isn’t your child’s life worth the time and effort? Your advice could save his life.

Summertime is the time for endless possibilities, endless fun and memories to last a lifetime. But statistics suggest that more than 2,000 children across the country will not make it back to school in the fall.

Don’t let your child be one of them.

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