Kids love summer -- the carefree days with no school. But summer poses dangers for kids -- especially in Florida. Given the state's unique challenges, here are tips to keep your kids safer this spring and summer.
What to do: If you own a pool, invest in a pool fence and extra
locks for sliding-glass doors and windows that lead to the pool
area. Skip pool alarms, which are prone to false alarms. Enroll
your child in swimming lessons or, for children younger than 4, a
water-survival class. To find lessons, contact local parks
departments, the Central Florida YMCA's Safe Start
drowning-prevention program at 407-644-3606 or The Gift of Swimming
at 407-905-2815. Scholarships are available to families who can't
Central Florida is the lightning capital of the United States. So
it's probably no surprise that Florida has the highest number of
lightning casualties of all 50 states. Lightning is particularly
dangerous if your child is swimming.
What to tell your kids: Use the first rumble of thunder as an early
warning. Get out of the water before you see the first bolt. Get in
a car or a secure building. If no shelter is available, teach
children to go to an open space away from trees and squat or crouch
low to the ground.
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
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.
In summer, kids will be riding bikes, scooters, skateboards, horses
and all-terrain vehicles -- and that increases their chances of
falling and suffering a traumatic brain injury. About a
half-million American children suffer brain injuries each year, and
the numbers are rising. From 2002 to 2006, there was a 62 percent
increase 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 16
to wear a helmet. But cyclists aren't the only ones who should wear
a helmet. Think a helmet looks dorky? Head injuries can cause
permanent damage that a teen might find more troubling, including
brain damage and seizures.
It sounds like something from a horror movie: an amoeba that, if it
gets up your nose, can migrate to your brain and cause a fatal
infection. Unfortunately, it's real. The amoeba, Naegleria fowleri,
flourishes in warm, freshwater lakes and ponds. In 2007, a hot, dry
summer, three Central Florida boys died after swimming or
wakeboarding in area lakes.
What to do: Be cautious about swimming in freshwater lakes when the
water temperatures rise to 80 degrees or more. When in lake water,
wear nose plugs to avoid accidentally inhaling water.
In a state pockmarked with lakes, retention ponds and drainage
ditches, drivers routinely skid off roads and quickly become
submerged. In Florida, 4,800 car accidents end with a submerged
vehicle each year, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
What to tell your kids: Like a fire drill, routinely quiz your kids
about what to do if this happens. First, hold your breath and roll
down the car windows as soon as possible. If windows are stuck, let
the car partially fill with water and try to open a door or use a
sharp object to shatter a window.
-- Linda Shrieves
Tips for a safe summer for kids (and adults)
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