Unfortunately, both water and firecrackers present very real dangers to children. It is vitally important to closely monitor your children and teens if your Independence Day celebration includes pools, lakes and/or fireworks.
In my career as a pediatrician I have lost two patients to drowning–both in family pools. These are avoidable tragedies! The families involved did not think it would, or could, happen to them. Drowning is the second leading cause of death in children between the ages of one and 19. Here are my tips for keeping kids safe around water:
- If you have a backyard swimming pool, it MUST be completely fenced in! This includes inflatable pools. The gate of the fence should open outwards and automatically lock when it swings closed. The fence should be at least four feet high and have nothing attached to it that might enable a child to climb over it. The locking system should be located high enough so that a child cannot reach it.
- Install a lockable safety cover on your spa.
- Do not talk or text on a cell phone when children are in a pool—you are more distracted than you realize. It only takes a split second for a child to go under! Keep a cell phone handy, but only use it to call for help if needed.
- NEVER leave a child alone in a pool, no matter how well the child can swim, or how short a time you think you are going to be gone.
- Make sure there are at least one to two locks on the door leading out of the house to the pool area. This door should be kept locked at all times.
- Floaties are NOT adequate protection for those who do not know how to swim. Non-swimmers should wear a life vest. EVERYONE should wear a life vest on a boat in a lake.
- Never let a child be in the water unless there is an adult within arms reach in the water with them at all times.
- Immediately empty all quick-fill toddler wading pools once you are done using them.
- Keep rescue equipment such as a shepherd’s hook and life preserver close by. Use a non-metal shepherds hook so as not to conduct electricity.
- Teach teenagers–especially boys who tend to be dare devils– to respect the water. No diving in the shallow end; no diving if they are unsure about the depth of the water.
- Do not let children swim if they are not feeling well.
- Teach children that it is NOT okay to swallow pool/lake water–that includes squirting water at each other from their mouths.
- Test the water at public pools using inexpensive pool strips. If the test strips show that the water is unsafe, notify the management and do not swim in the pool.
- If a child is missing look for him in the pool or spa first.
- Learn how to perform CPR on children and adults and keep your skills updated.
- Make sure YOU know how to swim yourself.
- DON’T FORGET THE SUNSCREEN!
The American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends that families enjoy fireworks at safe public displays. If you do choose to have private fireworks displays, make sure you carefully following these safety tips:
- Never allow children to light fireworks–even sparklers. Most people think sparklers are safe, but they can reach temperatures of 1000-1800 degrees and cause third degree burns in no time.
- Do not wear loose fitting clothing that could catch on fire.
- Stay away from other flames, like barbecue grills and outdoor fireplaces.
- Stay in open spaces and away from rooflines, dry grass, dry leaves, etc.
- Keep a bucket of water close by to dispose of old firecrackers–especially ones that did not light.
- Do not try to relight firecrackers that did not light!
- Keep a fire extinguisher close by and make sure you know how to use it.
- Keep unused firecrackers away from the lighting area.
- Never lean over a firecracker as you light it.
- Never use homemade firecrackers.
- Wear eye protection when lighting firecrackers.
- Insist that everyone, but the one lighting the firecrackers, step away from the lighting pad area.
- Tie long hair back and away from face.
- Make sure everyone is wearing shoes—no bare feet around fireworks!