By Janet Imp, M.D. FAAP
It is summertime, and that means hours and hours of outdoor summer fun. While enjoying summer activities, it is very important for you to keep your child safe when he/she is outside in the heat, and in or around water.
Some facts about drowning in the United States:
- 10 people drown per day.
- About half of those who drown are under the age of 15.
- Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in children between the ages of 1 and 14 (behind car accidents).
- Boys and minorities are at higher risk of drowning.
There are steps you can take to prevent your child from drowning. Most importantly, take your child to swimming lessons. Evidence shows that formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning, especially for children between the ages of 1 and 4. The YMCA, city park and recreation departments, and private swim schools all offer options for swimming lessons. The Central Florida YMCA is also offering Safe Start, a one-on-one drowning prevention program based on the developmental abilities of your child. You are never too old to learn.
Drowning often happens very quickly and quietly. Therefore, it is essential that children be supervised closely when they are near water. Ironically, the risk of drowning is higher when there are more people around, so make sure a non-distracted adult is watching the children at all times. Even if there is a lifeguard, an adult must always be watching the children when they are near water.
If you have a pool, make sure there is a barrier around it to prevent young children from gaining access to the water when no one is around. Ideally, this barrier should be 4-sided with separation from the house and yard. Stairs to an above ground pool should be inaccessible when the pool is not being used.
When boating, everyone should always wear a life jacket. It should be worn correctly and be the correct size based on weight of the individual.
Another summer issue is that of dehydration. The body can lose fluids quite rapidly due to extreme heat and humidity; therefore, it is extremely important to stay well hydrated during the hot summer months. Unfortunately, children are at a higher risk of dehydration and heat complications due to their inability to get rid of the heat, and they lose fluids faster than adults do.
Thirst is not a good measure of hydration. To prevent dehydration, make sure that your child is well-hydrated with water before spending time in the heat. While in the heat he/she should drink small sipsof water often. If physically active, children should drink at least 1 cup of water every 20-30 minutes. Sports drinks are only recommended during physical activity lasting longer than 1 hour.
The color of your child’s urine can often help determine if he/she is well-hydrated. Urine color should be pale yellow. If it is a darker color, the child’s body is saying that he/she should drink more water.
Heat exhaustion can happen quickly, especially in children. If your child starts sweating profusely, vomits, becomes lightheaded, has a rapid pulse, is breathing fast, has a headache, or develops muscle cramps, it may be a sign of heat exhaustion. Should this happen, any physical activity needs to stop, and the child must be taken to a cooler location. Blow a fan or spray a cool water mist on the child, and give him/her water, Pedialyte, or a sports drink for rehydration.
If heat exhaustion is not recognized and treated, it can progress to heat stroke, which is a life-threatening emergency. Signs of heat stroke include absence of sweating, seizures, lethargy, and loss of consciousness. Should those symptoms develop, call 911 immediately.
Please contact us if you have any questions about how to stay safe during Florida’s hot summer months.