When the last school bell of the school year rings, children race outside and parents reach for the first aid kit. Summer activities often bring scrapes and bruises -- or worse. Here are simple things you can do to ensure that your children's summer fun involves minimal risk.
Head to the Helmet
Accidental falls are the number one cause of childhood injury, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Usually it's just a scraped leg or arm, but when kids fall off bikes, they can hit their heads. You can reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85% by equipping your child with a well-fitting helmet. Any time your child rides her bike, scooter, or roller blades, she should wear a helmet.
Take a close look at last year's helmet to see if you should get a new one. Helmets break down with age and use. "Pay attention to how many crashes a helmet takes," says Beth Johns-Thomas, director of summer programs at the Fenn School, Concord, Mass. After a number of small crashes or one large one, replace your child’s helmet with a new one.
Run a Sports Equipment Safety Check
Helmets aren’t the only thing. All sports equipment should be well maintained and the right size for your child. "Kids grow from one year to the next," says Johns-Thomas. This may sound like a no-brainer but your child's growth can be hard to keep up with. Run a size check on all of your child’s equipment. Does his bike still fit? Has he outgrown his athletic padding?
If your child is headed to summer camp, or attending day camp in town, check out the camp's equipment as well. Is the equipment covered in cracks and dents? "It’s perfectly reasonable to call a camp director and ask when the camp’s equipment was last inspected," says Johns-Thomas.
Prevent Heat Stress and Dehydration
It seems so simple, and it’s so easy to forget. Children need to stay hydrated. Playing in the hot sun without water breaks can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, which can be life threatening.
"We recommend that kids hydrate before any athletic endeavor," says Wayne Moss, senior director of sports, fitness, and recreation at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Atlanta. Moss advises children to drink 2 to 3 cups of water about 2 hours before a game. The nonprofit group Safe Kids USA suggests 12 ounces half an hour before a game. Even with pre-hydration, children should take a break every 20 minutes or so during the game to drink some water or a sports drink.
Lock Away Chemicals and Medications
When children hang around the house, they have time to get into things. Household products as mundane as laundry detergent or oven cleaner can be poisonous for curious kids at home.