Currently browsing summer safety tips posts

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.

How to Include The Family Dog In Summer Trips & Activities

Right around Christmas time, I wrote an article about safely traveling for the holidays with your pet. We touched on many things from car safety (using proper harnesses and seat-belts and being in the back seat) to night-safety guidelines and which ‘tools’ were the best to use and which ones to leave at home (with respect to leashes and collars). If you missed this article, here is the link so you can get up to speed on some important safety information.

While all of those same suggestions apply now, there are other things to take into consideration during the hot summer months if you’re planning to include the dog in your activities. Whether you are going for just a day trip, or an extended vacation by car or RV, here are some things you are going to want to keep in mind for safety this summer.

For Prolonged Car Rides, RV Trips AND “Detours” Along The Way:

  • Never leave your pet in the car: Just like you’d never leave your child unattended in the car, never leave your dog in one either. It heats up and becomes a furnace very quickly… and since most pets have a ‘built-in’ fur coat, they can over-heat that much faster! Oftentimes we think ‘we’re only running in quickly, they’ll be fine just for those few minutes’. But let’s face it, when traveling with kids, those few minutes can turn into much longer than you expected just trying to corral them back into the car! And don’t forget that Fido might need a bathroom break and to stretch his legs too!
  • Sight-seeing and tourist attractions along the way: If you plan on doing some sight-seeing along the way, map out your trip in advance, and figure out the spots you want to stop at and go sightseeing.
    • If they are indoor spots (like a museum) or a theme or water park, unless your dog is a Service Dog, they are generally not permitted inside. Do your research way in advance, and get some suggestions on local kennels or pet-sitters in those immediate areas, and find out what their availability is, and if you need to make a reservation. *Note: Many of the theme parks such as Disney and Epcot Center have on-site kennels. This way your time with the kids is not rushed and you know your pooch is safe while you enjoy some quality family time together.
    • If they are outdoor spots, like walking or nature trails, a lake to swim in, or picnic spots, and your dog is welcome there (call in advance just to make sure this is still the case) make sure you bring plenty of fresh water for them as well as for yourself and the kids. You never know what kind of bacteria or microorganisms might be living in any specific lake or body of water, so providing frequent drinks for your pet will reduce their ‘natural instinct’ to drink from any source available if they are thirsty. Many pet stores (and Amazon) offer collapsible water dishes that even have a carabineer to attach to your belt-loop.

Full Day Outings

  • A full day of hiking: If you will be hiking for several hours, you’ve probably packed snacks for the kids. Make sure to bring some food for your dog to snack on too. Think about it- after an hour, we often feel hungry… not necessarily for a full meal, but a quick ‘pick-me-up snack’. Your dog is no different. So make sure you bring some extra kibble along, or some milk bones for them to snack on. Avoid training treats and small chewy snacks… as they are very high in sodium content, and will make your dog dehydrate faster, and be thirstier. Another type of collapsible dish offers food AND water capacity
  • Be aware of signs / symptoms of heat exhaustion AND heat stroke for both your children and your pets…

  • Hot pavement and rocky terrain: Another thing to take into consideration when hiking with the kids and pets…. Consider for a moment all the reasons you wouldn’t have your child hike barefoot. Those same reasons apply plus a few more. On top of the potential for possible cuts from rocks, and burns from hot pavement (some trails are partially paved), while dogs primarily ‘sweat’ through excessive panting, they also have a small amount of sweat glands that are prominently in the paw pads. If the pads get burns, or dry out and crack, it can cause your dog to overheat that much faster. Besides the boots your dog can wear for winter or rain, some new ‘“ultra cool” – breathable boots’ boots were created with a ‘cool down’ feature which will protect them from overheating as well as prevent cuts and scrapes. I also like to use a product called ‘Musher’s Secret’. This is a wax that goes on their paws and protects them from the heat.
  • Sunburn: Beyond packing water for everyone (kids and dogs) and making sure they get shade, many people do not realize that their dogs are just as susceptible to sunburns – and even skin cancer – as their kids are! Here is a link to a very informative article to learn more about which dogs are more prone to sunburns, which areas on the dog’s body are more apt to be affected, how to treat it, and more importantly, how to avoid it…and don’t forget to bring sunscreen for your kid’s delicate skin too!
  • Keep your dog on leash at all times: I know, I know…. The point of being out in nature is to explore and be free! And it is fun to give them the chance to be free and watch them explore new things! But what if the ‘new thing’ they want to explore can potentially be dangerous? Like another dog that comes by that is not so friendly? Or a wild animal that they decide to suddenly chase after? Or worse: A child who is AFRAID of dogs, that does not know your dog is a sweet and friendly outgoing mutt that just wants to say hello? Oftentimes, in their panic, they run, and can get hurt. I will be the first to say that as a professional dog trainer, my dog has an amazing recall…. But he is still a dog… not a robot! This is not his every day environment…. and when new and exciting things are all around him, can I 100% guarantee that he will listen to me when I call him back? Nope – not unless I have him on a leash. And please…. Leave the retractable leashes at home! The purpose of the leash is to give you full control at all times. Retractable leashes cannot guarantee that. I recommend nothing longer than a 6 foot leash. One last comment on this: If your dog is friendly and sweet with those he knows but not very social with unknown dogs and people, they may not be a great candidate for hiking trails. Your dog will smell, hear, and see others long before you do. This is your vacation, but others want to enjoy a peaceful quiet walk on their vacation too! A dog that barks or yaps incessantly, or growls and snaps at others can ruin your vacation and spoil it for others too! Be aware of your dog’s temperament and be considerate of others.
  • Vaccinations and flea and tick preventative: It is important to remember that this is not your backyard… and diseases can be found in many species of wild animals… disease that can immediately affect and harm your dog: and ultimately harm your kids. (see my article about how regular vet visits can help keep your child safe….parts one and two). Also, Make sure your dog is on flea and tick preventative!! Last thing you want are those critters ‘hitching a ride’ on your pet or your kids!! Make sure you do a nightly check of both the kids and pets after a long day of hiking to make sure they are both free of any free-loading cling-ons!!
  • Dog friendly parks: I am going to add one last link that I found to be very informative. A ‘Dog’s guide to visiting National Parks’. It has some great information on some of the National parks and their rules and regulation regarding dogs.

And finally, I’ll end this by saying there are many pet-friendly places to take your whole family (dog included) this summer, but it is vital that you really know your dog and pay close attention to his body language. Unlike your older child who can verbally communicate with you that they are tired and/or hungry… or a baby who gets cranky to convey the same message, your dog cannot tell you what they need or what they are feeling. Being aware of them at all times will enable you to determine when they are enjoying their time with the family, and when they have had enough and need a break. A grumpy tired dog can quickly become an unpredictable one. Don’t forget to do your research in advance, make whatever plans and reservations you need to make, and this will ensure that you, your family, your dog, and others around you will all have a safe and enjoyable summer together!

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Reference: Information for the Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke charts were compiled from the following sources

Sunburns and Children: Focus on Prevention

Summer vacations are creeping up fast, and if you’re anything like my family, that means heading to the beach. We love the beach. Love days spent relaxing on blankets, digging in the sand, discovering hidden treasures, and being soothed by the sound of the surf.

Beach days, however, need not be synonymous with sunburns. Summer safety is important and sunburns can cause long-lasting damage to the skin and children are especially at risk. All it takes is for a child to have one blistering sunburn in his/her childhood or adolescence to more than double their chance of developing melanoma.

So when it comes to sunburns, we must focus on prevention.

Here are a few summer safety tips to Prevent Sunburns:

  • Think of a sun protection package that includes: light clothing that covers arms and legs, sun protective bathing suits, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, shade, and sunscreen.
  • Choose a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. It should have an SPF of at least 15 (more than 45 is overkill). Reapply sunscreen every two hours.
  • Realize that the sun’s rays are most powerful and most damaging between the hours of 10 am to 4 pm.
  • Babies less than 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight. Seek shade for baby and keep him covered up. Apply sunscreen sparingly to exposed areas (i.e. cheeks and nose).
  • Check the safety of your sunscreen at the Environmental Working Group website. In general, opt for PABA free and choose a sunscreen with physical sun blockers (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) versus chemical blockers (like retinyl palmitate or oxybenzone).
  • Remember to apply sunscreen and the rest of your sun protective package even on foggy days!

Recognizing a Sunburn:

  • Signs of sunburn begin to show 6-12 hours after exposure.
  • Skin will appear red, warm, and likely will be painful to touch.
  • The height of discomfort occurs within the first 24 hours.
  • Severe sunburns may blister.
  • A child could also appear ill: fever, headache, and dehydration. If this is the case, your child needs to be seen by a doctor immediately.

Treatment of Sunburns:

  • Soothe skin with a cool compress and/or a cool bath. Pat skin dry.
  • Apply water-based lotions. Aloe is okay but avoid lotions containing alcohol.
  • Dress in loose and light clothing.
  • Offer plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Do not use first aid sprays or medicated creams on the skin.
  • Keep in mind that peeling of the skin is part of the healing process.
  • For babies less than 1-year-old, any sunburn should be evaluated by a doctor.

By all means, go and enjoy those lazy summer beach days, just remember to protect your child’s skin and prevent sunburns from happening. Make sun safety a rule, not just an option, for your whole family. That means you parents, you are just as important as your children.

Summer Checklist – Ready, Set, Swim!

Summer’s almost here!!!

The weather is trending towards hot and sunny, the pools and beaches are beginning to open for the season, pandemic restrictions are FINALLY starting to lift and you are thinking it might just be safe to wash the snow pants.

So, what do you need to be ready for summer?

  • Swimsuits and goggles – check to make sure last year’s still fit and they aren’t falling apart from the sunshine, salt and chlorine. And if you have a child who won’t put their head in the water, goggles might be the answer.
  • Sunscreen. Do what the Australians do – keep a bottle by the back door and have everyone slap on a bit more every time they go out.
  • Water toys. The more interesting the toys in your beach bag, the less of the teasing/fighting/whining as the ‘toy’ becomes a younger sibling. I love splash bombs, the small torpedoes, diving rings and self-propelled sharks. Not only are they fun, but they keep your child diving and playing in the water which builds confidence and strength. I also have an entire basket of splash bombs in my basement for battles during the cold winter months – a great way to burn off steam safely.
  • Flotation device. What is a parent to do when you are at the pool with more than one child and they aren’t truly accomplished swimmers? We know ‘always watch your children’, but having two active kids myself I can tell you it’s not humanly possible, especially in a crowded pool. Either an approved life vest or, my favorite invention, the Swim Fin. It looks like a shark fin, so it’s totally cool, and it keeps beginner swimmers afloat. What I like best is that it keeps arms and legs completely free to practice their skills, safely, and kids love wearing them – it gives new meaning to the game ‘sharks and minnows’. Also amazing for helping good swimmers improve their stroke, especially butterfly. Contact www.swimfin.co.uk to find out where to buy them near you.
  • Rules. Number one rule: Never go near water without a grownup. Summer safety is very important. Train your kids to tell you ‘I’m going into the pool’. I’m going to the water slide’ ‘I’m going to be near the fountain’ ‘I’m going down by the lake’, and then make sure you are watching them. Teach your kids how to be safe near the water, to self-regulate their behavior so they are safe for a lifetime, not just a minute. The best rule for adults? Assign a water-watcher – an adult whose only job for 10 minutes is to watch the kids, and only watch the kids – no chatting, no texting, no magazines – and then ‘tap’ the next adult so that you can all have a good time and your kids will be safe.

HAVE FUN!!!! My pool/beach bag is packed, bring on summer!

This Summer, Help Your Kids Fight the “Common Mold” Allergy

The term “hay fever” brings to mind pollen and ragweed allergies, but mold can be the sneaky culprit behind summer sneezing, sniffling and itchy eyes. “Many allergy sufferers assume their symptoms are caused by pollen, when they’re actually allergic to mold,” says Dr. James L. Sublett, section chief of the pediatric allergy department at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, in Louisville, Ky.

The mold truth: Forty million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis (aka hay fever), and mold is one of several triggers — especially in summertime. Mold allergy symptoms peak in July and late summer; as humidity rises, the fungi, which flourish in damp, warm conditions, grow on dead grass and leaves, straw and other plants. Once they’ve set up camp in an adequately damp spot, they reproduce by sending spores (or tiny seeds) into the air. Inhaling these particles triggers a reaction in those who are allergic to mold. “Mold spores can deposit on the lining of the nose and cause hay fever symptoms. They also can reach the lungs, which can cause asthma or another serious illness called allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis,” says Angel Waldron, spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

So how do you know if you suffer from a mold allergy? Pesky allergy symptoms are a good indicator, but an allergist can confirm the source with a skin test, pricking the skin with extracts of different types of fungi to identify an allergic reaction.

Such medications as antihistamines and decongestants can help ease symptoms from mold. But the only surefire route to relief is avoiding mold both inside and outside your home. Follow these summer tips to allergy-proof your surroundings.

Inside Your Home

Mold is an unwelcome houseguest, and it’s hard to send the fungi packing. It lurks in rooms where humidity levels are high (the basement, kitchen and bathrooms), and it can grow on anything from houseplants to old newspapers. Luckily, our targeted plan of attack will help you get rid of the fungi for good.

Keep It Clean

  • Zap kitchen hot spots. Mold loves to hang out in trash cans, refrigerator door gaskets and drip pans. Use a cleaning product formulated to kill the fungi.
  • Don’t let laundry pile up. Damp laundry (in the machine or out) is the perfect spot for mold to grow.
  • Scrub your shower. Clean your shower with a solution of diluted beach at least once a month.
  • Tidy up the fridge. It may seem obvious, but make sure to throw out old food from your pantry and fridge as soon as it expires.

Clear the Air

  • Get hip to HEPA. Be sure your central heating and air-conditioning is fitted with a high-efficiency particulate accumulator (HEPA) filter. HEPA filters can trap very small particles, including pollen and mold spores, and are sold online and at numerous home improvement stores.
  • Minimize moisture. Use a dehumidifier, especially in damp areas like the basement and the bathroom, suggests Sublett. Don’t forget to empty the water and clean the appliance regularly to prevent creating a breeding ground for mold.
  • Air out the shower. After hot showers and baths, run a fan or open a window. In bathrooms without windows, keep the door open when the room isn’t in use.

Target Mold Zones

  • Bag the shag. Remove carpeting in the basement, laundry room and bathrooms.
  • Clear the walls. Wallpaper can trap mildew in the bathroom; a cheery shade of paint is a better bet. Look for mold- and mildew-resistant paint at the hardware store.
  • Let there be light. Since most mold grows in the dark, install a light on a timer in dark rooms like the basement or closets.
  • Store carefully. Don’t put newspaper, old books, clothes, bedding or other items in damp areas where mold will latch on.
  • Water with care. Mold loves potted soil, so don’t overwater household plants.

Outside Your Home

It’s more of a challenge to eradicate mold outside your home, where it thrives on dead grass, dead leaves, straw and other plants. These five strategies will keep the fungi under control in your great outdoors.

  • Rake and mow. The lawn should be regularly mowed and raked. It’s best to have someone else do the dirty work if you’re allergic; otherwise, wear a face mask when you’re cutting the grass, digging, weeding or raking.
  • Chop and remove. Store firewood away from your home.
  • Patch the roof. Be proactive: Repair any leaks in your roof immediately.
  • De-clutter the gutters. Always keep rain gutters clear of leaves and debris.
  • Relocate compost. A compost pile is good and green — but it’s also a major mold breeding ground. Keep it as far away from your house as possible.

Get Bugs to Buzz Off And Leave Your Kids Alone This Summer

As far as Kay Klebba is concerned, “summer is for turning cartwheels.” She loves it when her four kids — 15-, 12- and 11-year-old twins — play in the yard of their Shelby Township, Mich., home. Unfortunately, so do the bugs. “We’ve had a really wet spring, and we live right across from a lake. The kids stayed out until just after dark the other night and came in covered with mosquito bites.”

Avoiding the six-legged beasties is next to impossible. “There are about 10 million insect species, and about 75 percent of the world’s animals are insects,” says Tim Forrest, Ph.D., a professor of biology at the University of North Carolina, in Asheville. Most people have a reaction to bites and stings — ranging from barely noticeable bumps to saucer-sized welts. But while you can’t escape bugs altogether, there’s plenty you can do to manage them better.

To Avoid Bugbites …

  • Dress to repel Bright colors and flowery prints make kids more attractive to insects, as do scented soaps, perfumes and hair sprays, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  • Stay out of their way Most bugs will leave humans alone, Forrest says, “unless you mess with their nest.” Steer clear of known nests and avoid areas near trash cans (beloved by yellow jackets,) stagnant water (mosquito heaven) and fruit trees.
  • Squirt on the good stuff For kids, the AAP recommends products with at least 10 percent DEET, to be effective but no more than 30 percent. Spray on only as much as needed to cover skin and clothes, have kids wash with soap and water when they go back inside and wash clothes before wearing again.
  • Make friends with the enemy Children who are excessively frightened by insects tend to overreact and are more likely to be stung. Help your child tap into his curiosity about nature and explore the insect world — on his terms. Watch a spider spinning a web or a bee gathering nectar from a flower. “Just explain that they should be calm and not make any sudden movements,” says Forrest.

How to Handle a Bug Bite or Sting

  • Go on high alert If your child has been stung, check if there’s a stinger left behind. If so, scrape it away — carefully — with a fingernail or knife blade, says Richard F. Lockey, M.D., a professor of Medicine, Pediatrics and Public Health at the University of South Florida. Then wash the area with soap and water, and apply ice to the sting. Watch your child carefully for signs of wheezing or difficulty breathing, tightness in the throat or chest, swelling of the lips, tongue or face, or any dizziness, fainting, nausea or vomiting. While such intense allergic reactions are relatively uncommon — only an estimated 3 percent of adults and 1 percent of children react that way — they can happen within moments. And in rare instances, they can be fatal. If your child has any of these symptoms, head straight to the emergency room.
  • Soothe the sting or bite If there’s no allergic reaction, continue with occasional ice for 24 hours. There are other things you can use to relieve the swelling and discomfort, but there’s no solid proof that any of them work. Still, it’s worth a try. “Cortisone cream helps some people, and so do antihistamines,” says Lockey. Some people find relief with a paste made from baking soda or meat tenderizer and water. Others find that applying aloe vera, calendula leaves and even a slice of onion can help.
  • Keep an eye on it As kids scratch, bites can become infected, and some — like certain spider bites — can leave ugly, ulcerated wounds. “Keep it clean and covered,” says Lockey. “And be patient. While there isn’t much you can do to speed healing, it will go away eventually.”

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