We’ve finally gotten some consistently dry and warm weather, so the kids are ready to play outside! While we always say it’s important to get fresh air, it’s also important to be aware of possible dangers that exist outdoors for kids of all ages. As parents and grandparents, we can’t prevent all accidents but we can take steps to reduce the risks.
My colleague, Dr. Donna Eckardt, is the medical director of the pediatric emergency department at Mercy Children’s Hospital. She sees her share of injuries resulting from many common backyard enhancements, especially during the warmer months.
PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT is a source of many injuries. When installing playground equipment, make certain it’s on level ground, put together securely and firmly anchored to the ground. Choose age-appropriate options when selecting a set for your family.
Broken bones are common injuries from TRAMPOLINES. The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes the use of trampolines in a home setting due to the high risk of injury. If you do have a trampoline, check to see that the springs are in working order and the vertical safety netting is secure. Also, set specific rules with your children, such as having adult supervision at all times and allowing only one person to jump at a time.
SWIMMING POOLS can lead to drowning and submersion injuries. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, more than 300 children younger than 5 years old drown—and 2,000 more children visit hospital emergency rooms for submersion injuries—every year. Take preventive precautions, including installing a fence or wall around the pool, door alarms for the house and a power safety cover over the pool.
SANDBOXES can lead to insect bites and possible allergic reactions. When purchasing sand, it’s important to check labels and only use sand meant for play. Other sand can be harmful to your child. Cover the sandbox when not in use to deter critters and make sure there’s proper drainage to prevent insect breeding.
WEATHER-related injuries are rare, but be cautious when you see lightning. During the weather transition in the spring, thunderstorms are common and come with the risk of lightning strikes. The National Weather Service has a motto: When thunder roars, go indoors. The safest thing to do when a storm approaches is to go inside until it passes.
Indoors or out, there is no substitute for supervision. While kids need time for free play and to choose their activities, make sure – especially for younger children – there’s always an adult present.
Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Children’s Hospital Services and Dr. Donna Eckardt is the medical director of the pediatric emergency department. For more information, visit mercychildrens.net.