With the arrival of summer tomorrow and activities increasingly moving outdoors, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) wants to remind families, caregivers, summer program leaders, and camp counselors to take extra precautions to keep young children safe this summer.
Water and Pool Safety
Drowning is a leading cause of death among young children, both nationally and in Massachusetts, with backyard pools posing the highest risk for children under the age of 5. The signs of drowning may be hard to detect, with very little splashing or cries for help. Once a child is in danger, it can take as few as 20 seconds to fall below the water and only minutes to drown.
To help prevent water-related injury and drowning:
• Children should be supervised in and around water at all times.
• Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, including the bathtub, an adult should be within an arm’s length at all times providing “touch supervision.”
• Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
• Install a four-sided pool fence that completely separates the house and play area of the yard from the pool area. Consider automatic door locks or alarms to prevent access.
• After the children are done swimming, secure the pool so they cannot get back in.
• Remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool after use so that children are not tempted to reach for them.
• Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd’s hook or life preserver) and a phone by the pool.
• For children who cannot swim, use a U.S. Coast Guard-guard approved life jacket. Do not use air-filled or foam toys, such as “water wings,” “noodles,” or inner-tubes, in place of life jackets. These toys are not designed to keep swimmers safe.
• Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The Red Cross offers a variety of CPR/AED, first aid, lifeguard, swimming, water safety, and emergency preparedness training. For information on classes, visit http://www.redcross.org/mo2s.
Additionally, when swimming in public swimming areas:
• Select swimming sites that have lifeguards, whenever possible, and swim only in designated swimming areas.
• Always swim with a buddy.
In the summer months in New England, the inside of a vehicle can be a very dangerous place for children left inside. The temperature in a closed car in the summer sun can rise quickly and the vehicle can become a deadly place for a child, left even for just a moment.
To keep young children safe in and around cars:
• Never leave children alone in a parked vehicle, even when they are asleep or restrained, and even if the windows are open.
• Always check inside the vehicle – front and back – before locking the door and walking away.
• If a child is missing, check your vehicle first, including the trunk.
• Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as placing your purse or briefcase in the back seat so you will check the back seat when you leave the vehicle.
• Always lock your car and keep the keys out of children’s reach.
• Ensure adequate supervision when children are playing in areas near parked motor vehicles.
• Ask your childcare provider to call you right away if your child does not show up for childcare.
If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible and call 911 immediately.
Remember, all children ages 12 and under should ride in the back seat, properly restrained, even during quick trips to the corner market. Infants and toddlers should remain in rear-facing car seats until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer. At a minimum, children should ride rear-facing until they are at least one year old and weigh at least 20 pounds. You can find more information on child passenger safety on the DPH website.
Falls are the leading cause of injury to children, and falls from windows involving young children are especially serious. Window falls are preventable. Screens are not strong enough to protect children from falling out of windows. In order to prevent window falls, parents and caregivers should:
• Keep low furniture – and anything a child can climb on – away from windows.
• Open windows from the top, not the bottom, when possible.
• Lock all unopened doors and windows.
• Be sure children are always supervised.
• Install quick-release window guards which can be found in most hardware stores. To learn more about childhood injury prevention, visit the DPH injury prevention and control program. Additional tips can be found on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website