Friendships & Activities

Make Summer Safer

A how-to guide to summer safety.

Discovering nature, such as this frog on a lillypad offer fun educational summer alternatives
Stay afloat this summer, like this frog on a lillypad, and keep safe

Childhood injuries and trips to the emergency room seem to climb right along with the summer temperatures. This summer children ages 14 and under will be rushed to emergency rooms nearly 3 million times for serious injuries resulting from car crashes, swimming accidents, bike wrecks, scooter scrapes and other hazards. More than 2,500 of these children will die. Many of these hurting children will have had ADHD.

Children with ADHD are more likely to end up in an emergency room and are more likely to have serious injuries throughout the year. Their chances don’t improve over the summer months, when they’re often unsupervised and left to find their own creative and typically high-risk ways to pass the time.

Medications help

Parents who choose to discontinue their child’s medication during the summer months may be placing their children at an even greater risk of injury. Unmedicated children are more likely to have accidents and are less likely to think about the consequences of what they’re about to do.

There are also social advantages to staying on medication during the summer months. Ritalin and other medications help the child pay attention during games and other organized activities and allow the ADHD child to better interact with others.

“Unfortunately, some children are not able to do well with peers or to participate in organized peer activities without medication,” says David Rabiner, Ph.D. of Duke University. “Problems getting along with parents are also often helped substantially by medication — I’ve had many parents tell me how much easier it is to have a good time with their child when he or she is on medication and that they are able to spend time together in ways that are just not possible otherwise.”

[Special ADDitude Collection: Summer Learning Ideas for Kids with ADHD]

Choose developmentally appropriate activities

Accidents happen when parents over-estimate their child’s maturity and ability to perform. Children with ADHD are typically less mature than their same-age peers. What was appropriate for big brother when he was 10 may not be appropriate for a 10-year-old who has ADHD. Keep that in mind when considering activities or lessons for the summer.

Know the rules

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends these specific safety tips for these some popular activities:

Fun in the sun

For older children:

  • The first, and best, line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that block 99-100% of ultraviolet rays), and cotton clothing with a tight weave.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, and avoid sun exposure during the peak intensity hours — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The risk of tanning and burning also increases at higher altitude.
  • Sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 should be effective for most people. Be sure to apply enough sunscreen — about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
  • Some self-tanning products contain sunscreen, but others don’t, so read the labels carefully. In addition, tanning oils or baby oil may make skin look shiny and soft, but they provide no protection from the sun.

[Free Download: Choosing the Perfect Camp for Your Child]

For young children:

  • Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of the direct sunlight. Move your baby to the shade or under a tree, umbrella, or the stroller canopy.
  • Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs and use brimmed hats.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside, and use sunscreen even on cloudy days. The SPF (sun protection factor) should be at least 15.

Heat stress in exercising children

  • The intensity of activities that last 15 minutes or more should be reduced whenever relative humidity, solar radiation, and air temperature are high. One way of increasing rest periods on a hot day is to substitute players frequently.
  • At the beginning of a strenuous exercise program or after traveling to a warmer climate, the intensity and duration of exercise should be limited initially and then gradually increased during a period of 10 to 14 days to accomplish acclimatization to the heat. When such a period is not available, the length of time for participants during practice and competition should be curtailed.
  • Before prolonged physical activity, the child should be well-hydrated. During the activity, periodic drinking should be enforced, eg, each 20 minutes, 5 oz of cold tap water or a flavored salted beverage for a child weighing 88 lbs, and 9 oz for an adolescent weighing 132 lbs, even if the child does not feel thirsty. Weighing before and after a training session can verify hydration status if the child is weighed wearing little or no clothing.
  • Clothing should be light-colored and lightweight and limited to one layer of absorbent material to facilitate evaporation of sweat. Sweat-saturated garments should be replaced by dry garments.

Pool safety

  • Never leave children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment.
  • Make sure adults are trained in life-saving techniques and CPR so they can rescue a child if necessary.
  • Surround your pool on all four sides with a sturdy five-foot fence.
  • Make sure the gates self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach.
  • Keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook — a long pole with a hook on the end – and life preserver) and a portable telephone near the pool.
  • Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties.” They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
  • Children are not developmentally ready for swim lessons until after their fourth birthday. Swim programs for children under 4 should not be seen as a way to decrease the risk of drowning.
  • Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm’s length, providing “touch supervision.”

Playground safety

  • Carefully maintain all equipment.
  • Swings should be made of soft materials such as rubber, plastic or canvas.
  • Make sure children cannot reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap any body part.
  • Make sure metal slides are cool to prevent children’s legs from getting burned.
  • Parents should never purchase a home trampoline or allow children to use home trampolines.

Bicycle safety

  • Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike until he or she is ready, at about age 5 or 6. Consider the child’s coordination and desire to learn to ride. Stick with coaster brakes until your child is older and more experienced.
  • Take your child with you when you shop for the bike, so that he or she can try it out. The value of a properly fitting bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new bike.
  • Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to “grow into.” Oversized bikes are especially dangerous.
  • A helmet should be standard equipment. Whenever buying a bike, be sure you have a Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)-approved helmet for your child.

How to test any style of bike for proper fit:

  • Sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebar, your child must be able to place the balls of both feet on the ground.
  • Straddling the center bar, your child should be able to stand with both feet flat on the ground with about a 1-inch clearance between the crotch and the bar.
  • When buying a bike with hand brakes for an older child, make sure that the child can comfortably grasp the brakes and apply sufficient pressure to stop the bike.

Skateboard and scooter safety

  • Children should never ride skateboards or scooters in or near traffic.
  • All skateboarders and scooter-riders should wear a helmet and other protective gear.
  • Communities should continue to develop skateboard parks, which are more likely to be monitored for safety than ramps and jumps constructed by children at home.

Boat safety

  • Your children should wear life jackets at all times when on boats or near bodies of water.
  • Teach your child how to put on his or her own life jacket.
  • Make sure the life jacket is the right size for your child. The jacket should not be loose. It should always be worn as instructed with all straps belted.
  • Blow-up water wings, toys, rafts, and air mattresses should never be used as life jackets or life preservers. They are not safe.
  • Adults should wear life jackets for their own protection and to set a good example.

Bug safety

  • Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on your child.
  • Repellents appropriate for use on children should contain no more than 10 percent DEET because the chemical, which is absorbed through the skin, can cause harm. The concentration of DEET varies significantly from product to product, so read the label of any product you purchase.
  • Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and gardens where flowers are in bloom.
  • Avoid dressing your child in clothing with bright colors or flowery prints.
  • To remove a visible stinger from skin, gently scrape it off horizontally with a credit card or your fingernail.

Travel safety

  • Buckle up car seats and seat belts.
  • Keep supplies with you, such as snacks, water, a first aid kit and any medicines your child takes.
  • Always use a car seat, starting with your baby’s first ride home from the hospital. Help your child form a lifelong habit of buckling up.
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions and always keep them with the car seat. Read your vehicle owner’s manual for more information on how to install the car seat.
  • Put your child in the back seat. It is the safest place in the car because it is farthest away from a head-on crash (the most common type of crash).
  • The harness system holds your child in the car seat and the seat belts hold the seat in the car. Attach both snugly to protect your child.
  • Children in rear-facing car seats should never be placed in a front seat equipped with an air bag.
  • Children traveling alone to visit relatives or attend summer camp should have a copy of their medical information with them at all times.

Lawn mower safety

  • Try to use a mower with a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is let go.
  • Children younger than 16 years should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers. Children younger than 12 years should not use walk-behind mowers.
  • Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.
  • Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins.
  • Use a collection bag for grass clippings or a plate that covers the opening where cut grass is released. Have anyone who uses a mower wear hearing and eye protection.
  • Make sure that children are indoors or at a safe distance well away from the area that you plan to mow.
  • Start and refuel mowers outdoors, not in a garage or shed. Mowers should be refueled with the motor turned off and cool.
  • Make sure that blade settings (to set the wheel height or dislodge debris) are changed by an adult, with the mower off and the spark plug removed or disconnected.
  • Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
  • Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
  • Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers.

[11 Summer Brain Builders]