4 water safety tips for a safe summer

As temperatures start to rise and with stay-at-home orders in effect, your family may be spending more time at the pool than ever before. However, many swimming lessons have been canceled with city and private swim schools closed, which leaves parents with the ultimate responsibility for teaching their children water safety.

Keep these water safety tips, straight from CHOC Children’s community education department, top of mind to ensure your family has a safe summer in the water.

  1. Assign a water watcher

Children need supervision at all times near the water, even if there is a lifeguard on duty. Designate an adult who knows how to swim and how to perform CPR as a “water watcher.” Accidents often happen during a lapse in supervision, rather than during a total lack of supervision, says Amy Frias, CHOC community educator.

CHOC offers water watcher lanyards that can be worn by the assigned adult. If your water watcher leaves the water area, even for a short time, have them first pass along the water watcher lanyard and duties to another responsible adult. To request a lanyard, contact the community education department.

  1. There is no such thing as drown-proof

Don’t give your child a pass on safety protocols even if he has had swimming lessons and is an experienced swimmer.

A child can drown in as little as 2 inches of water. Keep an eye on all bodies of water, such as bathtubs, toilets, buckets, ice chests and dog dishes. Empty inflatable pools after use and store pool upside down.

Even if you’re fully grown, never swim alone.

  1. Be aware of beach hazards

Watch for rip current and weather condition signs at the beach. Swimming in the ocean should only be allowed when there is a lifeguard on duty. Never swim alone — even good swimmers need buddies.

  1. Establish multiple layers of protection

Kids can get into things quickly, even if an adult is distracted for just a few seconds. Fences, gates, alarms and covers for your pool and spa are just a few ways that you can reinforce your home as a safe environment.

Fences should be at least 60 inches high, surround all four sides of the pool or spa, and have self-closing or self-latching gates.

For larger inflatable pools, use covers and keep doors leading out to the pool area locked.

This article was updated on May 20, 2020.

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The most common summer injuries that bring kids to the emergency department

Summertime for many kids and adolescents means the excitement of water activities, fun in the sun and spending as much time as possible outdoors. Yet summer is also known as “trauma season” among pediatric experts like Dr. Ted Heyming, chair of emergency medicine at CHOC Children’s. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, a leading children’s safety organization, summer season represents millions of emergency room visits by children 14 and younger due to unintentional injuries, many resulting in death.

ted-heyming-md
Dr. Ted Heyming, chair of emergency medicine at CHOC Children’s

To help avoid unintentional injuries, Dr. Heyming recommends that parents and caregivers be on high alert and supervise children extra closely. The following are the top injuries Dr. Heyming and his team see in the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital during the summer season and tips to avoid summer injuries:

Head injuries
The risk of head injury is high in adolescents and especially common in the spring and summer months with popular outdoor activities such as bicycle riding, in-line skating and skateboarding. The injury can be as mild as a bump, bruise or laceration, or can be moderate to severe due to a concussion, deep cut or open wound, fractured skull bone(s), or from internal bleeding and damage to the brain. Parents should seek emergency medical attention for their children should any of the following occur after a head injury:

  • Vomiting more than once
  • Alteration in mental state
  • Increased irritability, fussiness
  • A seizure
  • Weakness in parts of the body, such as in an arm or leg
  • Bad headache

How to prevent head injuries:

Wearing a helmet whenever riding a bicycle, in-line skates, or a skateboard should be an automatic habit. Helmets should fit properly on your child’s head and also be fastened correctly. A helmet that fits and is fastened properly does not move around on the head. Worn properly, helmets are effective in preventing severe head injuries. Here’s a video with tips on how to properly fit a helmet.

Facial injuries 
Children may get minor cuts, wounds, and lacerations to the face while engaging in play or sports activities. Most of these injuries can be handled at home with simple first-aid treatment. Seek immediate medical attention for cuts and wounds on your child’s face if accompanied by any of the following:

  • Heavy bleeding that does not stop after 5 to 10 minutes of direct pressure
  • The injury involves the eyelids or eyes
  • Wound is gaping.
  • Injury is caused by a puncture wound, or dirty or rusty object or embedded with debris such as dirt, stones or gravel
  • The wound is caused by an animal or human bite
  • If your child indicates the wound is excessively painful, or if there’s a possibility of a fracture of the head or any other bone
  • Your child shows signs of infection such as increased warmth, redness, swelling or drainage

Help prevent facial injuries by teaching your child the following:

  • Not to poke or place objects in his ears or nose
  • Not to walk or run while holding an object in her mouth
  • Not to suck or chew on hard, sharp or pointed objects
  • Wear protective eye, ear, or face guards for sports activities that could cause injury

Wrist and elbow fractures
A fracture is a partial or complete break in the bone and can result from falls, trauma or a direct blow or kick to the body. Wrists, forearms and elbows are vulnerable to these injuries, and they are especially common among children ages 2 and older. Many occur with popular summer activities such as basketball, bicycle riding and skateboarding. The following symptoms in the injured area might indicate a fracture that requires immediate medical attention:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Obvious deformity
  • Difficulty using or moving the injured area in a normal manner (unable to walk)
  • Warmth, bruising or redness

How to prevent wrist and elbow fractures this summer:

Although fractures are a common part of childhood for many active children, you can take steps to help prevent them through simple safety precautions such as making sure kids always wear safety gear like helmets and wrist guards when participating in sports.

Drowning

Summertime water activities are fun, but always present a risk for drowning. Drowning can happen without a sound. It is the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 5 and can happen in less than 2 inches of water. In 2018, Orange County had 36 drownings in children less than 5, and five of those were fatal.

How to prevent drowning

  • Never leave a child unattended near water in a pool, tub, bucket or ocean. There is no substitute for adult supervision.
  • Teach kids survival swimming skills.
  • Kids that are not strong swimmers should wear US Coast Guard-approved, well-fitting life jackets.
  • Make sure kids have constant supervision when they’re in or around water. Always designate at least one adult as a “water watcher.”
  • The home should be isolated from the pool with a fence at least 60 inches tall, with a self-closing, self-latching gate.
  • In 2015, Orange County created the Drowning Prevention Task Force, of which CHOC is a member, to develop recommendations on methods and strategies to improve drowning prevention efforts in Orange County. Learn more here.

Bringing your child to the emergency department

The emergency department is the best place for apparent life-threatening events. Not all emergency departments take care of children on a regular basis. It is best to go somewhere that specializes in children’s health with specialized training and equipment made just for kids.

This article was updated on May 15, 2020.

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Home Safety Tips for the Whole Family

Most injuries for kids up to five years old occur in or around the home because that is where they spend the most time learning and growing. Keep in mind these home safety tips to protect kids of all ages in your home. Download this home safety checklist to help make your child’s home safer.

Kids have more freedom as they get older, which teaches them independence and nurtures their curiosity, but they can often overestimate what they’re capable of doing.

“Older children tend to take more risks, so we as parents must walk a fine line between bubble-wrapping our kids and protecting them,” says Amy Frias, community educator at CHOC Children’s and Safe Kids Orange County coordinator.

  • Batteries. Keep batteries and battery-operated devices out of sight and out of reach. If your child ingests a battery, seek emergency medical attention or call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline, 202-625-3333.
  • Burns. Getting kids involved in cooking your family’s meals can be a great way to encourage healthy eating habits later in life, but should be done under careful supervision. Don’t hold a small child when using the stove, and always keep sharp and hot objects out of reach.
  • Carbon monoxide. In addition to a working smoke alarm, ensure your home has a carbon monoxide detector and check its batteries regularly.
  • Choking. Even when kids are old enough to start learning how to use utensils themselves, make sure food is cut into bite-size pieces. When purchasing a toy or game, take into account the size of its pieces. Keep small items such as magnets, makeup or batteries out of reach, as they could be confused for a toy or candy. Cords and strings from window blinds should also be kept out of reach to prevent choking.
  • Falls. Install window locks that prevent openings greater than four inches, yet could still be easily removed by an adult in the event of an emergency. Children under 10 years old should not be on a top bunk of a bunk bed. Use liners underneath rugs and in the bathtub to prevent falls. Secure-top heavy furniture to the wall. Move furniture away from windows to prevent falls.
  • Fire. Make a fire escape plan. Establish a place to meet in the event of a fire in your home, and remind children that getting out safely should be their first priority.
  • Helmets. As younger children spend most of their time at home, that may include riding bikes or scooters in the driveway or neighborhood. Always make sure children wear a properly-fitting helmet. Here’s a helmet safety tip sheet.
  • Medicine. Remind children that medicine is not candy. Medication should be stored out of reach and out of sight, and in a locked location. Keep in mind that medicine is usually stored in more places than just a medicine cabinet, and can usually also be found in a purse, nightstand, etc.

This article was updated on March 30, 2020.

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Car Seat Safety Reminders Every Parent Should Know

By Michael Molina, community health educator at CHOC Children’s

Car seat safety: selection tips every parent should know

Car seats and booster seats are the basic protection systems for passengers who are too small to get the full safety benefits from adult seat belts. Choosing the right seat is an important part of keeping your child safe on the road.

The best seat is one that:

  • Fits your child: appropriate for the child’s age, height, weight and development level
  • Fits in your vehicle
  • Is in good condition: has not been in a crash, is not expired or recalled, and has no labels missing
  • You can afford: inexpensive seats may meet the same national safety standards as their more expensive counterparts, but may not have the same comfort features

Remember to register your car seat to ensure you receive any relevant recall information from the manufacturer.

Refer to The Ultimate Car Seat Guide produced by Safe Kids, a nonprofit organization working to help families and communities keep kids safe from injuries, for personalized car seat tips based on your child’s age and weight.

To speak to an experienced child passenger safety technician, please call CHOC Children’s community education department at 714-509-8887.

Car seat safety: direction is key

The direction your child faces in their seat matters. Many children move to the next seat stage before they are ready, potentially putting them at greater risk for injury in a crash.

Current California law requires children under age 2 to be rear-facing. This helps protect their developing fragile spinal cords during a collision by the seat absorbing the force of a crash, rather than the child taking the brunt of the impact. Keep your child rear facing as long as possible, until they reach the maximum weight or height limit of their seat. This could mean beyond two years old.

Car seat safety: location matters

The back seat is best for children under age 13. The back middle seat is the safest place for them because it will protect them from a crash and they won’t be injured by airbags. If you are unable to install a car seat in the middle seat, consider placing your child on the curb side, as opposed to the street side. Never place an infant carrier in the passenger seat, and always have children in booster seats use both the lap and shoulder belt.

Car seat safety: do’s and don’ts of installation

In the U.S., 59 percent of car seats are installed incorrectly. In Orange County, 98 percent of car seats inspected by Safe Kids’ Orange County chapter are misused. This may put your child at risk for injury in a crash.

Do’s Don’t’s
Do read and follow your car seat instructions and vehicle owner’s manual. Don’t use the seat belt and the lower anchors together to install car seats.
Do use tether anchor for forward-facing car seats. Don’t sacrifice the middle seat just because it doesn’t have a lower anchor system. Try using the seat belt for installation and make sure it doesn’t move more than 1 inch from the belt path.
Do lock the seat belt if you are installing your car seat with the seat belt and not the lower anchors. Don’t use a lap-only belts for children using booster seats. Use a 3-point lap-and-shoulder belt to have full upper body protection.
Do the 5 Step-Test for your booster seat child to know if he or she is ready to ride without a booster. Don’t ignore the labels on the car seats.
Do choose a car seat that you will correctly and consistently use Don’t install a car seat in the front passenger seat. The back seat is the safest location for your child to ride. If there is no back seat, make sure to turn off the front passenger air bags.

 

Car seat safety: harnessing 101

Proper use of the harness or seatbelt ensures your child is securely positioned in a car seat, booster seat, or vehicle seat, and provide optimal protection in the event of a crash. Here are some helpful tips for adjusting the harness and seatbelt securely for your child.

Rear facing:

Children in rear-facing car seats should have the harness straps at or below shoulder level. This ensures that your child doesn’t slide upwards in a crash.

Forward facing:

Children in forward-facing car seats with a harness must have the straps at or just above the shoulders.

Both forward facing and rear facing:

  • To ensure your harness is tightly adjusted, do the “pinch test” at shoulder level. If you can pinch any material of the harness at the child’s shoulder, it is still too loose.
  • Avoid wearing thick, padded clothing when your child is in their car seat. Wearing them will prevent the harness from being effective in a crash because the padding will compress in an event of an impact which will cause injuries.
  • The chest clip is at armpit level.
  • Always buckle both the harness straps and the crotch belt buckle.

Booster seats:

  • Always wear a lap AND shoulder seatbelt when your child is using a booster seat
  • Do not transition your child out of the booster just because he is 8 years old. Use the 5 Step Test to determine if your child is ready to ride without a booster.

Car seat safety: getting your car seat inspected

A list of car seat resources, including where to get a car seat inspection, is available in the OC Child Passenger Safety Resource Guide.

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Quiz: Snakebites First-Aid

Summer temperatures and an increase of rain can mean increased snake encounters in Orange County. More rain means more flash floods, which destroy snakes’ homes, forcing them to seek shade and water elsewhere. Rain allows for more vegetation, which allows for more rodents, and – you guessed it- more rodents mean more food for the snakes! We encourage parents to learn how to prevent or treat a snakebite.

For each question, choose the best answer. Then, click through to download the answer key.

  1. Which of the following is a good way to avoid a snakebite?
  1. If you see a snake, make sure to look at it in the eye and display dominance. Stand over it and appear threatening. This will scare it away.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings! Snakes may be swimming in the water or hiding under debris or rocks.
  3. If a snake bites someone, be sure to trap, catch, or kill the snake to prevent it from biting other people.
  4. If you see a snake, ignore it and leave it alone.

2. Which of the following non-venomous (non-poisonous) snakes live(s) in Orange County?

  1. California striped racer
  2. California kingsnake
  3. San Diego gopher snake
  4. All of the above.

3. All of the following are venomous (poisonous) snakes EXCEPT:

  1. Red coachwhip

red coachwhip

b. Southern Pacific rattlesnake

southern pacific rattlesnake

c. Red Diamond rattlesnake

red diamond rattlesnake

d. Southwestern Speckled rattlesnake

southwestern speckled rattlesnake

4. Which of the following are good first-aid techniques for snakebites?

  1. Keep the person still and calm.
  2. Call 911 and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  3. Remove jewelry or restrictive clothing from the affected limb.
  4. Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
  5. Give the person a Coke or Pepsi. Apply a tourniquet, then slash the wound with a knife, suck out the venom, and apply ice.
  6. A, B, C, and D
  7. All of the above.

5. How should you position the bite wound in relation to the person’s body?

  1. Elevate the bitten area above the heart.
  2. Keep the bitten area at the same level as the heart.
  3. Lower the bitten area below the level of the heart.

6. What are some helpful details to remember about the snake?

  1. The color of the snake.
  2. The shape of its head.
  3. Whether or not it had a rattle.
  4. All of the above.
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