Drowning is the Leading Cause ofBy Bernice Applegate, Staff Writer
Accidental Death of Preschoolers
SACRAMENTO DESK - It's the great California weather that leads children outdoors. The California lifestyle is really year-round. At some California beaches you'll see surfing in January. But, its the summer months that are the most potentially dangerous time of year for California's little children.
More playtime with less supervision, experts say. 'Clearly school is out and the days are longer. There's more recreational time and more chance for injury,' says Dr. Charlene Sanders, a pediatric trauma specialist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, California.
According to Sanders, topping the list of accidental injuries treated at the hospital's emergency department are sports-related broken bones, head injuries, significant lacerations and scrapes - mostly due to a lack of safety gear.
Nearly as frequent are the injuries of children who are hit by cars while playing in or near the streets.
Sanders says 'We see several of these [injuries] a week. People driving home from work are not looking for kids dashing out between cars after lost balls and Frisbees. Children are out playing long after dinner time in the summer.'
And the National Safety Council, reports that more than half of all drownings nationwide happen during the summer months. In California, Arizona and Florida, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death among preschoolers.
"It's more of a lapse of supervision rather than a lack of it," says Bob Collis, public service officer for the Los Angeles City Fire Department. "Parents look away, answer telephones, or think others are keeping an eye on the kids."
Experts are quick to point out that it can take only two inches of water for a toddler to drown. Nationwide, about 50 drowning deaths and 130 emergency-room visits per year are due to toddlers falling into buckets of water. Ice chests pose the same danger.
"At this age a child's head is the heaviest part of their body. If they fall into a bucket, they don't have the muscle strength to get themselves out," Sanders says.
Experts agree that proper supervision is the key to a safe summer for children. Here are other safety tips they insist upon:
- Learn CPR.
- Check and update your first-aid kit.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
- Make children pace themselves throughout the day, taking frequent breaks out of the sun.
- Push liquids.
- Encourage children to always wear shoes outside.
- Keep children far away from grills, lawn mowers and other yard equipment and power tools. Never dump hot coals where children might step on them. Lock up gasoline and garden chemicals.
- Teach children to never put their hands or feet where they cannot see.
- Show them how to identify and avoid bees, black widow spiders, snakes and other pests.
- Tell them not to scratch insect bites.
- Young cyclists should wear an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or Snell-approved helmet. In-line skaters and skateboarders should also wear knee, elbow and wrist pads.
- Equip your child with appropriate safety gear for organized sports.
- Check the playing field for holes, glass or debris.
- Make sure children properly warm up.
- Stay away from coaches with a "win-at-all-costs" attitude.
In the water:
- Teach children how to swim and basic water safety rules.
- Never allow children to swim alone.
- Keep rescue equipment such as a shepherd's hook or life preserver poolside.
- Do not rely on air-filled swimming aids (floaties).
- Never dive in water where you don't know the depth.
- Make sure pool gates are self-closing with self-latches that are higher than your child's reach.
- Wear a swimsuit--clothing makes you heavier in water.
- Ask the lifeguard where the safest place to swim is.
- Never underestimate the power of water whether you're in the ocean or a pool.
- Stay away from storm drain areas.
- Never use a bodyboard without also using a leash.
- In the water at the beach, mark your position with an on-land landmark.
- Don't bring glass to the pool or the beach.
- Remember how your children are dressed and dress them in highly visible colors.
- Siblings dressed alike and kids wearing hats are easier to spot.
On the road:
- Keep food, water and walking shoes in your car for desert travel.
- Learn hotel and motel emergency exits.
- Know emergency telephone numbers at each destination--not every town has 911.
Note: American Academy of Pediatrics; American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; Children's Hospital Los Angeles; National Safe Kids Campaign and the National Safety Council.