Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Safe Summer: a refresher course

It's December and with it have come a few 30°C days and already there are reports of children being locked in cars, bush and grass fires have started in various parts of the state and soon we'll have warnings about water safety on TV.  Each year it seems as if summer catches us unaware, and the things we knew last year have to be refreshed.  While we support the ideas of Free Range Kids and other advocates for children not being cocooned, this freedom should have some limits as far as basic safety is concerned.

So let's have a refresher on summer safety:

  • Never leave children unattended in a car.  This morning's Age had a report saying that in the 12 months to August, Ambulance Victoria received reports of more than 900 children locked in cars.  their tests show that even on 29°C days temperatures inside a car can reach 44°C in 10 minutes and 60° within 20 minutes.
More information on leaving children in cars from the NRMA
  • Dehydration affects babies and young children very quickly.  Feed babies more often, offer water to children before they play outside and then about every 20 minutes, and even when children are playing inside ensure water is always available.  Sugary drinks are not a replacement for water as they can often dehydrate. If the children are outside, try to alternate very energetic activities with some quieter play.
For more information on dehydration and children in hot weather see this page from the Better Health Channel
  • Australia has very high rates of skin cancer, and the problems can start in childhood.  Remember the old: Slip on a t-shirt, Slop on the suncream (a broad spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30+,at least 20 minutes before exposure to the sun) and Slap on a hat (with a broad brim, not a cap).  Limit the amount of time children are exposed to direct sun, especially in the middle of the day, as suncream only reduces the risk of sunburn it does not prevent it. 
For further information on sun safety see the leaflet about Outdoor Play the Sunsmart Way, published by Sunsmart
  • Water safety is essential, as children aged 0-4 have the highest rate of drowning of any age group in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  The figure suggest though that few of these children die while swimming, paddling or wading, but rather as a result of falling or wandering into water.  The difference seems to be attributed to the fact that children of this age are generally not allowed to swim or paddle without adult supervision.  Backyard pools and inland waterways are high danger areas and children of this age are not able to reliably obey rules like 'don't go near the water'.  Often drownings in these circumstances are the result of confusion about who is meant to be supervising the child, so be sure to make this clear.  Older children are not appropriate as supervisors for their younger siblings as they can get involved in their own games.  Most public swimming pools now have signs about the minimum age required for those supervising little children.
For more information on water safety see the Child Safety Handbook published by the Royal Children's Hospital and Safe Fun with Water on the Raising Children network site.
  • Supervision of children around barbecues, and camp fires, is essential.  Burns can be very painful and can scar for life.  Charcoal barbecues can be easily tipped over by children, or knocked over when they run past, and all retain enough heat to cause a burn for some time after they are extinguished.  Campfires are fun, but need to be properly extinguished and children kept away from the site until the ashes are cold. It should go without saying to obey the laws relating to Total Fire Ban days but this is just a refresher!  Given the weather on these days, it is also wise not to venture into bushland for a picnic.
For more information on children and barbecues I found a great page on www.air-n-water.com
  • Insect bites can be a problem in summer.  Use the various repellents if children will be outdoors, especially in the late afternoon and early evening. Snakes can be a problem in some suburban areas, especially near lakes and creeks.  Teach older children to keep well away from snakes and keep a look out if younger children are outside in areas where snakes are prevalent, especially at dawn and dusk.
For more information on bites, stings etc see the Child Safety Handbook .

Summer in Australia is a wonderful time for holidays and outdoor living, which with a few sensible precautions can be a safe experience for people of all ages. Enjoy it, have fun and be careful when the weather is extreme.

1 comment:

  1. Tragic to read of the death of a 6 month old baby in a car last night.

    It happens so easily.

    NEVER leave a child in a car, particularly not on a hot day.