Thursday, July 01, 2004
Keep summer safe A guide to warm weather fun without the ‘ER' by Graham Johnston
Before the lifeguard, the fireman and the emergency room doctor, there's a first step-prevent injuries. Here are some ways to stop accidents before they happen and keep summer safe.
1 Playgrounds. Each year more than 200,000 children nationwide visit the emergency room because of playground injuries. Dr. Karen Sheehan, medical director of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, says while most playground injuries occur at public parks, most deaths occur in the backyard. Kids will always get injured on playgrounds but public parks are designed to make sure the injuries are minimal. To make your backyard a safer place, pay attention to the surface under the equipment. Donna Thompson, director of the National Program for Playground Safety, recommends using nine to 12 inches of sand, pea gravel, woodchips or ground rubber to help cushion falls. Also remove loose strings, such as drawstrings, from clothing to reduce the chance of strangulation.
2 Picnics. Neighbors bond, children play, ants feast and bacteria may grow. To prevent food poisoning keep the hot foods hot and the cold foods cold. Don't leave the cole slaw out if it has mayonnaise in it. And get rid of half-empty beers or other alcoholic drinks to make sure children don't try them.
3 911. Dialing 911 from a cellular phone isn't as simple as dialing it from your home phone. Often emergency dispatchers cannot pinpoint the exact location of the call the way they can when you're using a land line. Cellular calls go to an emergency dispatcher at the closet cell station, which means in some communities a caller may reach a neighboring town's 911 center. Explain where you are and the dispatcher can re-route the call. Know where you are-the intersection or street address-so you can be located faster.
4 Windows. Window falls affect more than just apartment residents. "It can happen anywhere," Sheehan warns. In fact, 98 percent of window falls are from the third floor or below, according to Sheehan. The best way to prevent falls is to ensure windows open no more than four inches. Different child safety products lock the windows at that distance. Keep furniture away from windows to stop children from climbing to the window.
5 Hotels. Safety doesn't stop when you go on vacation. Battalion Chief Kevin Wiley of the Oak Park Fire Department says families staying in a hotel should take basic precautions: Count the doors between your room and the nearest fire exit so you know how far away it is in case the halls are filled with smoke. Always pack a flashlight.
6 Fireworks. Illinois law limits personal fireworks to relatively harmless products, such as snakes, party poppers and sparklers. "If it shoots anything out or makes a loud boom, like a firecracker, it's illegal," says Joel August, general counsel to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Leave the fireworks to the professionals and take in a show put on by your community rather than making your own. (See fireworks story in shortstuff).
7 Poisons. About 46,800 calls each year to the Illinois Poison Center concern children under the age of 6. But three-quarters of accidental poisonings can also be treated at home, according to pharmacist Tony Burda, a chief specialist at the center. If you know or suspect your child has swallowed poison, it is no longer recommended you induce vomiting with syrup of ipecac. Instead, reach for the phone first, Burda says. Twenty-four hours a day, dial (800) 222-1222. Magnets with the phone number and brochures on different poisons are available through the Web site at www.illinoispoisoncenter.org.
8 Helmets. The first step is buying them, the second is learning to use them correctly. Dave Glowacz, "Mr. Bike," is director of education for the Chicago Bike Federation. He says three simple checks will help you know a helmet is being worn correctly: eyes, ears and mouth. Eyes-you should be able to look up and see the front rim of the helmet. Ears-the straps on each side of the helmet should form a "V" around the ears. Mouth-when you open your mouth slightly, you should feel the chin strap tighten.
9 Swimming. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 250 children under the age of 5 drown each year in swimming pools, most in residential pools. "There's no one thing that's going to prevent a child from drowning," says Mark Ross, spokesman for the commission. But there are numerous safeguards parents can use to make their home pool or jacuzzi safer. The commission offers three free publications explaining the safety measures. They are available at www.cpsc.gov.
10 First-aid kits. Just remember: You can't learn first aid reading the tiny type in the kit's directions during an emergency. Read the manuals when you get your kit or better yet, take a first aid and CPR class so you're prepared. Also, a first-aid kit can only help you if you have it. Keep one at home and one in the car. Be cautious of first-aid kits that claim to offer quick instructions. Intelligent First Aid offers a kit Safe at Home with colorful reference cards for different injuries like burns, fractures, or choking. If you don't want to buy a kit, check these Web sites for the things you should have on hand: www.ready.gov/first_aid_kit.html and www.fema.gov/ rrr/diskit.shtm.
Graham Johnston is an intern at Chicago Parent and a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia.