Tips for a safe summer for kids (and adults)

Kids love summer -- the carefree days with no school. But summerposes dangers for kids -- especially in Florida. Given the state'sunique challenges, here are tips to keep your kids safer thisspring and summer.


Florida leads the nation in a terrible category: the number ofchildren younger than 5 who drown each year. May and June aretraditionally the state's deadliest months for drowning, butdrownings can occur in a place you don't expect: a backyard orhotel swimming pool. Though parents may keep their eyes peeled atthe beach, they're more likely to be distracted at home or at ahotel, when a small child can wander away from a busy parent andfall, wordlessly, into a pool.

What to do: If you own a pool, invest in a pool fence and extralocks for sliding-glass doors and windows that lead to the poolarea. Skip pool alarms, which are prone to false alarms. Enrollyour child in swimming lessons or, for children younger than 4, awater-survival class. To find lessons, contact local parksdepartments, the Central Florida YMCA's Safe Startdrowning-prevention program at 407-644-3606 or The Gift of Swimmingat 407-905-2815. Scholarships are available to families who can'tafford lessons.

Lightning strikes

Central Florida is the lightning capital of the United States. Soit's probably no surprise that Florida has the highest number oflightning casualties of all 50 states. Lightning is particularlydangerous if your child is swimming.

What to tell your kids: Use the first rumble of thunder as an earlywarning. Get out of the water before you see the first bolt. Get ina car or a secure building. If no shelter is available, teachchildren to go to an open space away from trees and squat or crouchlow to the ground.

Shark bites On average, fewer than 75 shark attacks and 10 fatalities are reported worldwide each year, so your chances of getting bitten by a shark are slim. Most of Florida's shark attacks involve surfers -- sharks mistake their dangling legs and arms for injured fish. What to tell your kids: Avoid murky waters. Never swim alone or at night. Avoid ocean swimming if you have cut yourself and are bleeding. Avoid waters where there are schools of small fish and where bait has been put out for fish. And don't swim wearing flashy jewelry. If you encounter a shark, avoid sudden movements; instead, swim away slowly. Head injuries

In summer, kids will be riding bikes, scooters, skateboards, horsesand all-terrain vehicles -- and that increases their chances offalling and suffering a traumatic brain injury. About ahalf-million American children suffer brain injuries each year, andthe numbers are rising. From 2002 to 2006, there was a 62 percentincrease in fall-related head injuries in kids 14 and younger.

What to do: Make sure your kids have helmets that fit properly.Remind bicyclists that Florida law requires anyone younger than 16to wear a helmet. But cyclists aren't the only ones who should weara helmet. Think a helmet looks dorky? Head injuries can causepermanent damage that a teen might find more troubling, includingbrain damage and seizures.

Lake amoebas

It sounds like something from a horror movie: an amoeba that, if itgets up your nose, can migrate to your brain and cause a fatalinfection. Unfortunately, it's real. The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri,flourishes in warm, freshwater lakes and ponds. In 2007, a hot, drysummer, three Central Florida boys died after swimming orwakeboarding in area lakes.

What to do: Be cautious about swimming in freshwater lakes when thewater temperatures rise to 80 degrees or more. When in lake water,wear nose plugs to avoid accidentally inhaling water.

Retention ponds

In a state pockmarked with lakes, retention ponds and drainageditches, drivers routinely skid off roads and quickly becomesubmerged. In Florida, 4,800 car accidents end with a submergedvehicle each year, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

What to tell your kids: Like a fire drill, routinely quiz your kidsabout what to do if this happens. First, hold your breath and rolldown the car windows as soon as possible. If windows are stuck, letthe car partially fill with water and try to open a door or use asharp object to shatter a window.

-- Linda Shrieves

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