During the chilly months, I posted about hidden winter dangers that can threaten your little one. With the seasons changing, it’s time to focus on keeping our kids safe and having fun in the sun.
When parents think about summer safety, the obvious things that jump to mind are sunburns, drowning, lawn mowers, dehydration, insect bites, and fireworks. However, there are other aspects of outdoor play that can put your child at risk during the summer months that parents often don’t consider. Read on to prepare for the warm, sunny days ahead when your little ones will be playing outside.
Most of us know the old rhyme “Leaves of three, let it be!” Make sure your children can identify plants that pose a risk of a nasty rash or worse. The most famous species on the list are poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, but there are others out there to watch out for including sand burrs and stinging nettles.
Recently, Midwestern states have seen an increase in a plant called wild parsnip that typically grows in ditches. This plant, which is not native to states like Iowa, has spread aggressively through backyards, parks, and nature areas. Coming into contact with it can result in severe skin blisters that can ruin your entire summer. Be sure to show pictures of this to your kids if you live in any of the affected states.
Some kids show a real interest in foraging, or eating things that they find in nature. This might be inspired by Boy/Girl Scouts, a parent with an interest in wilderness survival, or reading books that feature subsistence living in the woods like Gary Paulsen’s "Hatchet." However, parents need to make it abundantly clear to children that they are not to eat any plants they find in the woods, ditches, schoolyard, or backyard. Many berries and mushrooms are poisonous and can make a child life-threateningly ill. Also, even if your little one does find an innocent patch of wild raspberries, who’s to say that it hasn’t been sprayed with industrial-grade pesticide by a neighbor or road crew? Tell your kids NO EATING what you find outside!
There are other dangers to consider when taking the kids swimming in natural water sources other than drowning.
I’ll never forget a terrible storm that happened in my hometown when I was in elementary school. My mom and I raced home from the community pool to head to the basement. On the way, we ran into my neighbor, who was a couple of years older than me. She was just wandering the streets and crying because she “didn’t know what to do with the tornado coming!” Needless to say we took her inside and to the basement with us. She’d been home alone at the time, which wasn’t unreasonable considering she was probably in fifth or sixth grade. But apparently, her family had not told her what to do or where to go if she heard the tornado sirens go off. I shudder to think what could have happened to her if we hadn’t seen her on the street that afternoon.
Summer is severe weather season, and kids need to have practiced their severe weather plan multiple times before the season begins. In a typical year, tornadoes cause 1,500 injuries and roughly 80 deaths.
There are other dangers to consider when taking the kids swimming in natural water sources other than drowning. Flesh eating bacteria can lurk in warm ocean water, and there have been several cases reported in Texas already. The bacteria enters through small wounds in the body and can lead to amputation or, in some cases, death. Be sure to inspect the beach for broken glass or shells, don’t allow your children to swim with open cuts in impacted water sources, and always shower with soap after swimming in the ocean.
Burns from Metallic Surfaces
Seatbelt and car seat clips can become extremely hot when a car is left out in the sun. Be sure to test these with the tender skin of your wrist before strapping your child in. You may need to turn on the car’s air conditioning for a few minutes before leaving, or be sure to park in the shade and use a sun shade on your windshield and windows. Furthermore, playground equipment as well can heat up to dangerous temperatures. Metal slides in particular are very dangerous, and parents need to test the equipment before letting their children play with bare legs and arms.
Enjoy your summer and stay safe out there!