The word summer is synonymous with fun in the sun, family barbecues, and unexpected trips to the emergency room because your teenage son’s patella is now floating somewhere around the edge of his upper calf because he just did something dumb in the backyard. For all of summer’s most welcome delights — no school for three months, anyone? — there are many hidden (and not-so-hidden) dangers. Take boozy backyard barbecues, for example, and the two too many Bikini Martinis that are sure to send your second cousin Sheryl high-kicking into the Weber. Aside from dinner and her dream of cheering for the Dolphins being ruined, suddenly you’ll have to contend with the avalanche of flaming charcoals cascading across your patio. And did anyone bring burn cream? Because you kind of need it now, please.
When you’re having a good time, it’s all too easy to let your guard down. But it’s in these moments that accidents happen, and people can get hurt, and before you know it you’re racing to intercept your toddler before she plays the world’s worst game of hot potato with a burning charcoal briquet.
The thing is, most of the time these accidents are completely avoidable. So with that in mind, we wanted to kick-off our Summer Safety Series with a trio of quick safety tips geared toward keeping your family out of harm’s way — and you sane until school starts up again in August.
Make Splash With Poolside Safety
CANNONBALL! If you’re trying to beat the heat, there’s no better place to be than poolside — and there’s no word more fun to scream at the top of your lungs before leaping into the water. There’s no denying it: swimming is the perfect summer activity. It’s a wonderful form of exercise, it’s fun-fun-fun, and it has the added bonus (for parents) of being a great way to tucker those kiddos out. But for all its positives, the family pool has a deep undercurrent of danger associated with it: drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five.
If you have a pool at home, securing it behind a four foot fence (at least) and a self-locking gate is paramount, and all children should be enrolled in age appropriate swim lessons as soon as possible. If your pool is not in use, it should remain covered, and children should not be allowed to play unsupervised near it. This holds doubly true for toddlers, or anyone who is inexperienced.
Drowning is a silent killer. The sad reality is that drownings are so quiet, they can occur right before your eyes without you knowing it. One of the most dangerous misconceptions about drowning is that a person will call out for help. This is a myth. In fact, 50% of child drownings occur within 25 yards of a parent, and 10% occur while the parent is watching. Because parents don’t see their kid thrashing around, like they expect, they continue to assume everything is fine.
The terrifying truth is that drowning doesn’t look like drowning. Really, it looks like nothing. It’s someone’s head bobbing above and below the surface, without enough time to breathe and call for help. Their head may be tilted back, their eyes closed, and their hair over their forehead. The latter of those three is a telltale sign. Someone who is okay will brush their hair off their face so they can see.
Drowning isn’t the only hazard pools offer. Slippery concrete decks provide the perfect setup for slips and falls, and one person jumping from the pool’s edge and landing atop another makes concussions and broken bones a real possibility. Diving into a pool that is too shallow is all but asking for a broken neck. Leave all diving to the deep end, and to the more experienced swimmers, too.
Oh, and no running please!
Stick the Landing on Trampoline Safety
Trampolines are the best. There’s no other backyard apparatus that can so readily make you feel as if you’re flying, and all those jumps and bounces are great for the heart as well. As delightful as a trampoline session might be for both kids and adults alike, you may have realized we used the word “apparatus” to describe it; not “toy.” That was very much by design. Trampolines, for all the fun they provide, are absolutely NOT toys.
Broken bones, along with head, neck, and back injuries are incredibly common, especially for kids who fancy themselves backyard acrobats. But unless you’re a trained gymnast (emphasis on the trained), doing any tricks that take you upside down is just asking for trouble. Sure, you might have a relatively forgiving place to land if you mess up, but if you under-rotate while doing that backflip you might land yourself in a long-term care bed instead. Trust us, that is one medical bill you will not flip for.
If your kid has a propensity for flying, it might make sense to throw them in a gymnastics class or two. A lot of gyms hold mini-camps or day-classes over the summer — a great way to get them out of the house so you can relax. There, they’ll learn the right way to bounce — and yes, there is a right way: with only one person on the trampoline. Double and triple bounces, guaranteed as they are to send you soaring, also have a tendency to launch little bodies off the tramp — which according to most medical experts is probably not good for their growth plates.
Lesson #1: No unsupervised jumping!
May You Please Not Eat the Mayo
You might be surprised to find a discussion of food poisoning on this list of summer safety tips, but think about it: how long has that potato salad been sitting in the sun? Hot summer days and egg-based condiments are a recipe for disaster, so take care on your picnics and family reunions to make sure all foods that are meant to stay cold actually do. When it comes to hot foods, the opposite holds true: undercooked meat is a surefire way to serve up a big batch of bacterial gastroenteritis. No one wants to interrupt their summer fun with a one-hundred meter dash to the bathroom every five minutes.
Surviving Summer Should Not Be Hard
Humans have been making it to the fall equinox for millenia untold — and your family can too. It just takes a bit of awareness. Knowing the dangers and risks that lie in wait make it that much easier to prevent them. Whether it’s a sprained ankle at your community pool, or a case of food poisoning making your kiddo miss summer camp — surviving summer should not be hard. We sure hope it’s fun while it lasts, though.
This was the inaugural post in The Howard Blau Law Summer Safety Series. Over the coming weeks wheel be visiting a variety of topics relevant to your family and loved ones, from how to stay safe in the sun, to the risks of illegal fireworks, to the danger of hot cars — and more!
If you have a topic you’d like us to cover in this series, drop us a comment here or on Facebook, and we’ll check it out.
Stay safe out there, and Happy Summer!
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Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“Pool Safety Tips: Simple Steps Save Lives.” U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
“Think Again Before Letting Your Kid on a Trampoline.” Slate. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
“Avoid Food Poisoning During Summer Picnics.” Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
“Make Summer Safe for Kids.” Centers for Disease Control. Retrieved 7 June 2019.