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5 Beach Safety Tips for Family Fun

When temperatures soar, families hit the beach. In 2021, Americans spread out their towels and smelled the sea an estimated 400 million times, according to the United States Lifesaving Association (USLA).

But while beach outings are one of the highlights of summer, they also present serious hazards – from sunburn and jellyfish stings to riptides and lightning. Here’s how to protect your family:

Sun Exposure

Some experts believe that just one blistering sunburn can double your risk for getting skin cancer, which is why the American Cancer Society recommends avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest. Make a firm rule that kids sit under a beach umbrella whenever they’re not swimming. Have them wear a hat, sunglasses and a shirt or cover up when they’re walking around or playing in the sand. And of course, slather on the sunscreen and SPF lip balm.

Tip: Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and use approximately 2 tablespoons of it to cover your entire body. Apply a half hour before heading out, and reapply every two hours or right after swimming or heavy sweating.

Dehydration

When you spend too much time in the sun and heat or have a severe sunburn that gives off heat, it’s easy to become dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when your body loses too much water and essential salts, and the symptoms include dizziness, thirst and fatigue. Children and adults over age 60 are most at risk of developing life-threatening complications if they don’t replace lost fluids. The key to preventing and treating mild dehydration is simple: Drink plenty of fluids, including sports drinks, which restore body fluids, salt and electrolytes.

Tip: In addition to drinks, pack your cooler with fruit, which has a high liquid content. Cold watermelon chunks or frozen grapes are summertime favorites.

Rip Currents

Nearly 80 percent of beach lifeguard rescues are due to riptides – strong currents of water that pull away from the shore – according to the USLA. The worst thing you can do if you’re caught in a riptide is try to fight the currents and swim to shore. Remember to stay calm and swim parallel to the shore until the current relaxes – which usually doesn’t take long – and then swim to shore. Or just float or tread water until you’re out of the current. Teach your kids to do the same if they get caught too.

Tip: Swim near a lifeguard. The chance of drowning is five times higher at a beach that doesn’t have one, according to the USLA.

Jellyfish Stings

Jellyfish are a pain – literally – to swimmers in every ocean of the world. Some are harmless, but others are poisonous, with barbed tentacles that inflict pain and irritation on people who come in contact with them. Mild to moderate stings can produce immediate burning pain, itching, blisters, numbness and tingling. They can also leave painful red marks that may take one or two months to go away. But prevention is easy: Don’t swim, play or sit anywhere near them! (Note: If you feel sick or have trouble breathing after a jellyfish sting or if the stings cover a large area, seek emergency treatment.)

Tip: Soothe the discomfort with ice packs and skin creams.

Lightning Strikes

Lightning kills about 60 Americans a year, according to the National Weather Service, and injures more than 300, often leaving them with debilitating long-term conditions such as memory loss, dizziness, chronic pain and muscle spasms. Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from where it’s raining. As soon as you hear thunder, leave the beach and take shelter in an enclosed vehicle or building. (Open-sided beach pavilions or snack shacks won’t protect you.) Stay off the beach for 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

Tip: When you get to the beach, scope out a safe shelter in case there’s thunder. Make sure your kids know to come out of the water at the first rumble.

No Forced Kisses for Your Kids: A Holiday Safety Tip for Families

As parents well know, the holiday season is both incredibly exciting and potentially overwhelming for kids, sometimes all rolled together into one. At gatherings with families and friends, expectations about affection, attention, and teasing can create unnecessary stress and discomfort. By accepting our children’s different personalities and thinking through our boundaries ahead of time, we can teach our kids important life skills and make holiday parties and reunions more fun.

Most of us can remember being pressured to just “suffer through it” from our own childhoods. Who doesn’t recall being forced to kiss “Great Aunt Edna” as a kid, or getting scratched by Uncle Bob’s beard as he leaned in for a squeeze? Or, being told to just ignore the teasing and roughhousing of our cousins?

As a mother, I can relate to the embarrassment that a parent might feel when a child doesn’t want to give a big hug to Grandma when she walks in the door—especially if Grandma has been eagerly anticipating the visit for weeks and months. But through my work teaching personal safety as a Kidpower instructor, I have learned that supporting our children when they set boundaries is a very important practice.

Backing up a child who doesn’t want to be kissed or hugged does not mean that Grandma, or Great Aunt Edna, or Uncle Bob or Cousin Sara are doing anything wrong, but it does demonstrate that touch and play for affection or fun is your child’s choice in all situations. The holidays are a perfect time to work on “boundary setting” with our kids, so they feel confident and empowered as they move through different ages and stages of life.

When possible, try to bring relatives into this conversation ahead of time, letting them know that you are practicing with the kids to help them learn to set boundaries—and who better to practice with than people who know and care about the kids. That way, when a child sets a boundary with Grandma, she can feel that she’s part of a positive practice rather than left out. Some parents report that this is a difficult conversation to have, but I maintain that is an important one, and an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and exploration. Many parents feel that their culture has expectations the children show adults respect through affection.

At Kidpower, we have found that this is truly a cross-cultural phenomena across a wide variety of backgrounds, and an issue that is worth addressing: how can we come up with ways for children to show respect to their elders in ways that feel nurturing and respectful to the child as well? One point I like to emphasize about child safety is to ask “How can we expect our children to set clear boundaries about touch when they are on their own, if we do not support them in doing so when we are together with our families, standing right there in a position to advocate for our kids and back them up?” In practice, this may be as simple (yet powerful) as saying, “Do you want to give Grandma a hug, a high-five, a kiss, or a wave? ….Not right now? Okay… Maybe you’ll want to blow a kiss or do a high-five later.”

Some kids are social butterflies and will thrive on the opportunities to be the center of attention. Be prepared to help them to notice the boundaries of others and to remember to follow your safety rules about Checking First before changing the plan, even in a family gathering. Other children are more reserved and are best off being allowed to warm up at their own pace. They might need your involved advocacy to redirect unwanted attention away from them and your help in setting boundaries when well-meaning adults try to pressure them.

Even if a relative is offended when a child does not want to kiss or hug them, this is an important time to keep in mind the bottom line—kids need to learn from an early age that touch or play for affection or fun should be the choice of BOTH people, safe, allowed by the adults in charge, and not a secret. This core safety rule should be respected in all situations. (Editor’s Note: remember…this is not just a “keep my child safe “during COVID” rule – this is a teach my child a skill that will keep them safe “for LIFE” rule).

Touch or play for affection or fun should be the choice of BOTH people, safe, allowed by the adults in charge, and not a secret.

It’s confusing for kids to try to set aside their feelings of discomfort for certain kinds of affection or teasing in the name of good manners, since it gives young people a contradictory message about their boundaries. Keep in mind Kidpower’s founding principle: A child’s safety and healthy self-esteem are more important than ANYONE’s embarrassment, inconvenience, or offense. Or, more simply stated: Put Safety First.

Here are additional Kidpower resources about how to use boundaries to make our holiday gatherings truly joyful:

7 Prevention Steps to Reduce Child Deaths from Hot Cars

Thirty-eight children, on average, die each year from heat stroke after being left in or becoming trapped in a hot car, according to KidsandCars.org, a website dedicated to improving child safety around and in cars. Unfortunately, in 2010 the number of children who died was 49 and there have already been numerous deaths this year, only part of the way through the summer season. There are several steps parents can take to lower the risk of these preventable deaths and keep their children safe.

NEVER leave a child of any age alone in a car for any period of time. Too often a parent will think that they will “only be gone for a minute”. That short “minute” almost always turns into longer than the parent realizes and it only takes a few minutes for the temperature inside a car to dramatically increase by 20 or more degrees.

According to KidsandCars.org,

“A child’s body temperature rises 3-5 times faster than an adult’s. Even with the windows partially down, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 125 degrees in just minutes. Leaving the windows opened slightly does not significantly slow the heating process or decrease the maximum temperature attained.”

Kids have a greater risk of heat stroke than adults partly because their skin surface area is greater in proportion to their body mass therefore they absorb more heat. Children also do not sweat as much as adults and start sweating at higher temperatures, which means they are not able to cool their bodies as quickly or as well as adults.

  • Develop the habit of always looking in the backseat when you get out of your car, before locking it.
  • Leave yourself a reminder. With the majority of children riding in the backseat, and especially with babies and toddlers riding in rear-facing car seats, it is important to have a reminder that the child is in the car with you. In over 50% of these deaths, a child was unintentionally left in the car. While some parents may believe they could never forget their child in a car, keep in mind, no one’s memory is perfect and it only takes a short lapse in memory, either from sleep deprivation, distraction, a change in your normal routine, or for any other reason, to accidentally forget a quiet or sleeping child is in the car. It is recommended to leave your purse, briefcase, cell phone, gym bag, or ID near the child’s car seat in the backseat so you will be reminded to look back there when you exit the car. Another idea is to keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When you put the child in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat or floorboard where you will notice it.
  • Consider investing in a child reminder or alert system. Many of these devices work in a similar fashion as the sounds your car makes when you have left the key in the ignition or a seat belt reminder and other bells and whistles that alert you to a potential problem. Some of the better systems that are on the market according to “Safewise” include:
    • Ride N Remind – Back Seat Reminder System, a bit pricey and requires professional installation but can work for several kids (and pets too) – available at Amazon.
    • STEELMATE Baby Car Seat Reminder, Less expensive – DIY installation – alerts with lights and sounds – available at Amazon
    • Shynerk Baby Car Mirror for Rear Facing Infant Seats, Least expensive, – comes fully assembled, crash tested and certified – available at Amazon
  • If your child attends a daycare or has a babysitter, ask the caregiver to call you if the child does not arrive when expected. Sadly, many children have been accidentally left in cars simply because the parent forgot to drop off the child at daycare and instead went straight to work and the daycare or babysitter assumed the child just wasn’t coming that day and the parent must have forgot to tell them.
  • If your child will be transported by anyone other than you, ask the caregiver to use these tips and call and check on your child periodically, especially if the child is not in that person’s car very often. Grandparents, other relatives, and babysitters who do not transport a child every day are at a higher risk of accidentally forgetting a child is in the car with them.
  • Whenever possible, use drive-thru services so you do not have to get out of the car while running errands. Pay for fuel at the pump so you don’t have to leave the car.
  • Keep your vehicle locked at all times when no one is in it and keep keys and remote key fobs out of the reach of children. Teach kids never to play in a car, never to climb into a car trunk, and to never get in a car alone.

If you see a child who has been left in a car, take action immediately to help them. Call 911 if the child seems hot or is having any heat-related symptoms.

For more information, please visit KidsandCars.org.

Daffodils and Parmesan and Kids…Who Knew??

Spring is here. Flowers are in bloom. In Connecticut Daffodils - beautiful but dangerousone local town celebrates the arrival of spring with an annual daffodil festival. In fact – thousands of flowers. I wonder how many people know that the bulbs of the plant are among the most poisonous of all plants in the US.

And who doesn’t like a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on- well in my house, on just about everything. And I like the bright inviting colors of the packaging- inviting me to indulge. Unfortunately Comet cleanser has equally colorful packaging. And certainly you never accidentally put your comet in the fridge and the Parmesan under the sink but look at products the way a child would. They are drawn to bright colors and to things that Mom and Dad handle and use.

Antifreeze used to smell really nice and became a common poison to our animals and kids. Manufacturers are no longer allowed to add perfumes to make the product smell better. Believe it or not, antifreeze performance does not improve with the addition of perfume and without it kids and dogs are safer.

So as you go about enjoying spring, getting back out into the world, maybe doing a little “post-pandemic” spring cleaning- check to make sure that your cabinets, both kitchen and bath have child proof locks. In the garage double check that kids can’t get in or that products are well out of reach. Also make sure that shelving is very secure and won’t fall over onto curious, climbing kids. And finally check your fridge for Comet- just to be safe.

Accidental poisoning CAN be prevented- take a few minutes to check things out- don’t guess, be sure.

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Editors Note: This post originally ran in May of 2010 and was written by our former PedSafe EMS Expert Jim Love. Our thanks to him for some wonderful reminders

Kitchen Safety for Families: Do You Know What to Do If…?

Steaming tea kettleTypical, isn’t it? You’re flying between cooktop and cutting board, prepping dinner while the kids finish homework. In a moment of distraction, you grab a scorching saucepan handle or slice the tip of your finger with a paring knife … or the budding young chef in your family does. Whatever the kitchen slipup, chances are the remedy is within arm’s reach, says Dr. Jennifer Avegno, an emergency medicine specialist at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. Here is her advice for treating everyday kitchen injuries.

1. Cuts
Food prep simply can’t happen without a sharp knife or two, not to mention a cheese grater or potato peeler — hence the packet of plastic bandages in every cook’s cabinet. In the event of a cut or abrasion, run plenty of tap water over the wound to rinse out dirt and bacteria — the source of infection — that may have been on the instrument or your skin. (Don’t use hydrogen peroxide: The solution kills contamination but can also destroy the clotting and healing cells the blood carries to the wound). Bleeding will likely stop on its own. If not, apply gentle but steady pressure to the cut with a clean cloth or bandage and keep the wound elevated. After bleeding stops, apply antibacterial ointment, and bandage the cut securely. Seek medical attention if the cut is deep, you can’t get dirt out of the wound or blood spurts from the wound or continues to flow after applying steady pressure for more than five to 10 minutes.

Watch out for swelling or redness. The wound could be infected. See a doctor as soon as possible.

2. Small Burns

We’ve all touched the back of our hand to an oven’s heating element, accidentally placed fingers near hot steam or been splattered with sizzling oil. If the burn covers the palm or crosses over a joint, seek immediate medical attention. The same holds if the burn — even a small one — is on the face. A trip to the doctor may help prevent scarring. Otherwise, you can treat it at home.

First, run the affected area under cool tap water for a few minutes to stop the burning process and remove any bits of burnt skin. Smooth on a layer of antibiotic ointment to create a barrier against infection and wrap loosely with gauze or a small bandage. Be sure to rinse the wound with water and change the dressing twice daily for a few days, says Avegno, so that it remains covered and protected until the scab is gone.

Watch out for increased pain, redness, fever, swelling or oozing. The burn could be infected. See a doctor as soon as possible.

3. Scalds

Burns from scalding water tend to cover larger areas, such as arms, feet, legs and stomach, which may make them harder to treat at home. And if the scalding is to a child, whereby a large percentage of the body is affected, call an ambulance or go to an emergency room immediately. Otherwise, start by treating the affected area the way you would a small burn: run under cool water (or use a wet towel) to stop the burning process and to clean the area, layer with antibiotic ointment, and dress with gauze or a large bandage as best you can. Even a clean and loose-fitting white T-shirt over the burn area will add some protection if you don’t have large enough bandages. Blistering is to be expected, but avoid popping the blisters, as doing so adds entry points for infection. These burns are often more painful than smaller ones, so take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If that doesn’t block the pain, seek medical care.

Watch out for continued or worsening pain, or signs of infection (see above). In these cases, seek immediate medical attention.

4. Injuries to the Eyes

Lovers of spicy food know the painful power of capsicum, or cayenne pepper: Contact with the eyes causes a strong burning sensation. Flush out any material in the eye with water and then splash milk in the area to stop the burn. Steam, pokes to the eye or spattered oil are more serious and can cause eye damage. Rinse the eye right away to cool the area and clean out debris.

Watch out for pain, oozing or a change in vision after a few minutes of blinking and rinsing, any of which might indicate damage to the cornea. Seek immediate medical attention.

Given the increased risk of infection with cuts and burns, Avegno advises a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one in five to 10 years. Even a shot administered within a day or two after the injury will be effective, she says. Of course, when extreme injuries happen — especially when small children are involved — emergency care is critical for preventing even greater harm.

Parenting Resources to Keep Kids Safe Online

In many cases, children are more adept at using technology than their parents. Today’s children are Digital Natives, meaning that they grew up with technology and social media is a way of life for them. They never knew a time without smartphones and social media. For anyone over 30, their teen years didn’t involve posing for selfies, using emojis or having to worry about sexting problems. However, as parents, we have more LIFE experience than they have and that’s what can make the difference in keeping kids safe online.

Many parents feel a sense of trepidation when it comes to what their children do online and that’s to be expected. The concerns involve not only what can happen to their kids, but how do they help them get through the problems. From cyberbullying to sexting and online predators, there are many real dangers to our children. Shawn Henry, of the FBI reported that at any given time, there are an estimated 750,000 child predators online.

Fortunately, there are some great resources available to help parents with their concerns. If you’re reading this now, then you’ve found one – Pediatric Safety! Dr. Michele Borba, Dr. Lynne Kenney and others are here for you. Dr. Kenney’s article on teaching kids empathy, while not specific to online issues, is spot-on about having life experiences that can help kids with problems of both offline and online matters. Kids with empathy are less likely to cause trouble online.

Below are several other resources available to you, including some free online sources and recommended reading to help parents understand more of what they can do and in some cases, use as teaching aids with their children. They may not always listen to their parents, but when they see real stories about what has happened to their peers, it may open their eyes and make them more receptive to what their parents have to say about online safety.

Cyberbullying Research Center

This is by far, my number one, go-to source on the Internet for help when it comes to online (and even offline) bullying issues. After all, cyberbullying is simply one more form of bullying. It has specific attributes, such as staying anonymous, that physical bullying doesn’t have, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful or less damaging to the target.

Heavily focused on doing the research to make their case, Dr. Justin Patchin and Dr. Sameer Hinduja are outstanding in the field. Too often, people may want to dismiss cyberbullying and its effects as being overblown or simply anecdotal. These guys have done the research to prove the effects and they have plenty of free resources for anyone to use.

Common Sense Media

For parents looking for help on everything from what apps might cause problems to what movies are appropriate for certain ages, Common Sense Media is your best option. The site is broken down by age, by topic and provides “ultimate guides” for many popular apps and websites. There is a wide selection of material available in Spanish as well, which can be extremely helpful! Like the Cyberbullying Research Center, they are heavily involved in research and can provide you with a lot of data to support their positions

Needless to say, I love this organization and everything that they do.

International Bullying Prevention Association

People who bully offline are more likely to bully online. So, while their focus is not exclusive to cyberbullying, IBPA does provide resources to parents trying to understand what their kids are experiencing online. Their dedication to bullying in any form, online or offline, is very hard to beat. They have resources available for youth, family members, educators and more.

I especially like the resources dedicated to our youth. Many victims of bullying never tell anyone, suffering in silence. Just letting kids know that there are resources out there for them, specially designed for them gives them the opportunity to at least find some help if they don’t want to speak to anyone about their problems.

Darkness to Light

Child sexual abuse includes the sharing of intimate pictures of minors online. Perhaps the most valuable resource they provide is working as an advocate for victims of sexual abuse within the community and at all levels of government in the U.S. Education is great, but we need more people who will get involved in protecting our kids and Darkness to Light will do just that!

Unless you’ve experienced this for yourself, you can’t relate to how this feels. Having known a family personally that has been through this experience, I know the kind of trauma it can bring with it. If you ever have the opportunity to attend their training, I highly recommend it.

Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate

I don’t know what I can say about this book except that you should read it. A target of online harassment herself, Sue Scheff, who I am proud to call a friend and a mentor, does an amazing job with this book. Her storytelling teaches us how to avoid the problems that so many of us find ourselves getting into all too often.

These stories illustrate the real life repercussions that often accompany online actions. We tend to think of cybersafety issues such as bullying and shaming as being mainly problems for kids, but Sue shows how it affects people from all walks of life and all ages. Her examples of what I call the #OnlineMeetsOffline lesson is one that we all need to learn the easy way, not the hard way – by learning how to avoid it, rather than experiencing it for ourselves.

Cyberbullying and the Wild Wild Web

Jayne Hitchcock’s latest book is another great book that provides real-life examples of just how much is at stake when we go online. The target by an online stalker, she knows full well how dangerous it can be – something that our Digital Natives may not fully appreciate. While most people would agree that the Internet is largely a wide open, unmonitored and unregulated breeding ground for poor behavior, Jayne shows you quick and easy lessons to avoid problems from happening in the first place.

She uses examples of what can happen to create learning opportunities for people. For families, the fact that the book is relatively short means that children may be less likely to be intimidated by it and actually read it. Once they get started, they won’t want to put it down. I was really involved in reading this book and couldn’t put it down.

Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology

I love this book! Diana Graber is a middle school teacher and a cybersafety advocate whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person. She uses great examples of how things can go wrong and shows us how to do them the right way. Her C.R.A.P. acronym (Currency, Reliability, Author & Purpose) is a great way to teach the value of doing good online research for school – I now use it in my own classes at Thomas Jefferson University. Diana is very adept at relating to teenagers and parents learn how to talk to their kids about the value of good Digital Citizenship even if they aren’t up on the latest technology.

Conclusion

The approach parents take is key to helping protect our children. A heavy-handed approach rarely works with children in general and in the case of technology/social media, it’s too easy for them to get around any restrictions parents may place on them. The use of multiple accounts on the same platform (known as Finstas) and easy access to zombie devices make it almost impossible to prevent them from using the apps, so it’s more important to make sure that they know how to do it wisely.

I know what other parents are feeling, because I’m a father to a teenage daughter. Our ability to teach our children life lessons based on our own experiences is more important than our ability to use technology as well as they do.

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