Keeping Kids Safe Around Water
Swimming is one of the best things about summer. But drownings happen too often to children of all ages. Parents must stay alert and have systems in place to keep kids safe in and near the water.
There are two common myths about drownings. First, many people believe drownings are most apt to happen when children wander away, fall into the water and drown where no one can see them. This does occur, but in fact most drownings actually happen during a brief lapse in supervision, when an adult is present but becomes distracted, even for just a moment.
A second myth is that drowning is noisy and dramatic, with lots of splashing and cries for help. But in fact, children and teens are more likely to “slip away” and drown in silence because good breath is needed to yell for help but a drowning person cannot breathe.
Keep in mind that small children can easily drown in a very small amount of water. If they lose their balance in shallow water, they don’t know how to get themselves back in an upright position. It doesn’t occur to them to simply stand up. Also, many toddlers drown each year when they fall headfirst into a 5-gallon bucket of water.
To prevent drownings at group gatherings, adults can take turns being the “water watcher,” so someone is on duty at all times. Like lifeguards, water watchers don’t chat with other adults, don’t drink alcohol and don’t play with the kids in the water. Their only job is to keep a careful eye on the children and know how many kids are in the water. Second, toddlers and preschoolers must wear a properly fitting life jacket when they are anywhere near the water. A life jacket is not a substitute for an adult being present, but it can buy time if a child falls in, or loses their upright position in the water.
Small children aren’t the only ones at risk. Drowning is a leading cause of injury death among older kids and teens, too. Even good swimmers can drown, especially when swimming someplace new. Kids who are used to pools may not have the skills and confidence to swim in open water. They may not realize how far a dock is from shore, and may not be able to fight against waves and currents or be able to function in such cold water. When in open water (lakes, rivers and the ocean) without a lifeguard, kids of all ages should wear life jackets.
Swimming is fun and great exercise. Be sure your child learns to swim, and create strict rules to be sure everyone stays safe in and near the water.
Learn more about water safety for children and teens.
Never Leave a Child Alone in the Car
Last year in the U.S., 49 children died from overheating in cars. It’s never safe to leave a child alone in a car. Not even for a minute, not even if the window is open a bit. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s, and can reach the point of hyperthermia, or heat stroke, in just a few minutes.
Tired, stressed parents can forget their child is with them in the car and forget to take them out. Avoid this tragedy by placing something you need on the car floor in front of your child — your cell phone, purse, wallet or work shoes. That way, you’ll always view the backseat before leaving the car.
Get more tips, take a pledge to keep your child safe and learn about recent incidents at Safe Kids USA.
Riding With Good Sense
Learning to ride a bike is an exciting part of growing up. It’s a source of pride for kids, and a big step toward independence. When they are new riders, kids are usually very careful and eager to follow the safety rules. But as they gain more confidence, they may try some daredevil behaviors.
Out of parents’ view, kids may unbuckle or remove their helmets, and ride in areas that are off-limits. They’re apt to borrow a bike that’s too big for them that they can’t control. They may dare one another to do crazy stunts, see how long they can ride with their eyes closed or invent reckless games such as “bike dodgeball.”
Parents must enforce safety rules, such as always wearing helmets and no riding in the street until an agreed-upon age. Parents must also be ready to take away bike-riding privileges if those rules are broken. Enlist your neighbors to keep an eye on all the young riders in your area, and alert one another if you see risky behavior.
Visit our bike helmet safety page to learn about helmet fit and the Seattle Children’s Hospital free bike helmet fitting and giveaway events.
Careful Medical Imaging
Medical imaging such as X-rays and CT scans are tools that can sometimes help healthcare providers decide on the best treatment when your child or teen has an injury or illness. You may worry about how these scans — which require exposure to medical radiation — might affect your child’s health and safety.
When imaging is needed, talk with your child’s doctor about the benefits and risks. Ask if they adjust the radiation dose based on your child’s age and weight, rather than using the dose needed for adults.
At Seattle Children’s, we use the lowest radiation dose possible to produce the best image for your child’s radiologist to review. We take the least amount of images possible, and take images only of the areas of the body in question.
It’s a smart idea for parents to print out a “Medical Radiation Record” (see information below) and keep it updated, to track exactly what type and how much imaging your child has had. This is especially important for kids who have had illnesses or conditions requiring several imaging studies. Share this information with your medical caregivers.
Seattle Children’s Pediatric Radiologist Dr. Jonathan Swanson summarizes: “Medical imaging is amazing. Usually, the benefits far outweigh the risks of radiation because of what we learn and how we can treat and cure disease. But, like most amazing scientific advances, there are associated risks.
“Some studies of large populations exposed to radiation have shown slight increases in cancer risk, particularly in children. Parents can work with their healthcare providers to be sure their child gets the best care, the right answers, and the least amount of radiation possible.”
Print “My Child’s Medical Imaging Record” and use it to keep track of your child’s imaging studies.
Finding Quality Health Information
Today, most people look online for answers to their health questions. Since your family’s health is so important, you need to find websites you can trust.
Start with the “about us” page to see who runs the site. If it’s the government, or a well-respected foundation, university or hospital, it’s probably reliable. Be wary of sites focused on selling a certain product or service. Also, keep in mind that “message boards” or “community” areas of websites will contain users’ comments and opinions, not proven facts.
Ask your healthcare provider to recommend trusted websites for your family. Remember, visiting a website should never take the place of consulting with a medical professional.
Visit MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, for a tutorial and other resources to help you find quality health information online.
The Danger of "Button" Batteries
Lithium “button” batteries are used in remote controls, greeting cards, watches, toys and other devices. Young children can find these batteries and swallow them without being seen. This can quickly damage the throat and digestive system. A child who has swallowed a battery may cough, choke, wheeze, drool, vomit or lose their appetite. If you suspect your child swallowed a button battery, take them to a healthcare provider right away for an X-ray. Lithium batteries must be removed by surgery quickly; they cannot be allowed to pass through the body.
Keep products with button batteries out of the reach of young children, especially when the battery compartments are not secured by screws or locking devices.
View our video on button battery safety.
Helping Kids Avoid Negative Self Talk
“I’ll never figure out this math problem.” “I suck at sports.” It hurts to hear children say such things!
How can we help kids avoid negative self talk and instead adopt a positive outlook? Mostly, by setting an example. Speak kindly to yourself, your child and others. Make it clear you don’t expect perfection. As a family, use phrases like, “This is hard, but I think I can figure it out,” and “I’ll always try my best.” If your child sees someone treat you rudely in traffic, say, “That person’s in a bad mood. Let’s not let that affect us!”
Remind your kids that mistakes and challenges are a part of learning and growing. A positive attitude requires daily practice!
Check out our videos and more articles on behavioral and emotional wellness.