Summer Safety Guide: Essential tips for OKC families - MetroFamily Magazine
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Summer Safety Guide: Essential tips for OKC families

By Bethany Children's Health Center

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

As summer approaches, metro families are gearing up for a season of adventure and relaxation. As you’re planning family fun like embarking on a road trip, enjoying the outdoors or lounging by the pool, safety should remain at the forefront of your mind. These essential safety tips will help safeguard your loved ones this summer and throughout the year.

“With conscious effort, useful information and vigilance by parents and caregivers, our children’s summers can be filled with joy and memory-making rather than tragedy,” said Elizabeth Koldoff, director of injury prevention at Safe Kids Oklahoma.

Hitting the road

Wherever your family ventures this summer, the most important thing is to buckle up! In 2021, the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO) reported 259 deaths of unrestrained individuals in motor vehicle crashes. Adults can lead by example by always wearing their seat belts. Ensure children’s car and booster seats are properly installed, which can prevent injuries in the event of an accident. Safe Kids Oklahoma offers frequent free car seat checks in the OKC metro (with events posted to Safe Kids Oklahoma’s Facebook account) and provides a free online car seat safety guide, accessible via bethanychildrens.org.

Whether you’re on a road trip or running errands, never leave children alone in the car. Summer temperatures can rise rapidly, with a car heating up by 19 degrees in just 10 minutes, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. The heatstroke that can ensue is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. The National Safety Council reported 29 child hot car deaths in the United States in 2023. On average, 38 children under age 15 die each year from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle. Safe Kids Worldwide recommends parents place their purse, briefcase or phone near their child as a visual reminder to check the back seat before exiting the vehicle.

Hello, sunshine!

While the warm summer sun feels great, it’s crucial to protect babies and kids from harmful ultraviolet (UV) exposure. Babies under 6 months should be kept out of the sun completely. Find a shady spot and use a stroller awning, hat, sun-protective clothing and even sunglasses. For toddlers and young children, make sunscreen application fun and involve them in the process. For kids and teens, regular reapplication of sunscreen is essential, along with wearing sun-protective clothing and hats.

The thrill of riding

Summer is peak season for biking and hitting the trails on All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). The number one safety tip for both activities is to always wear a properly fitted helmet.

The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSO) reported 32 fatalities and 62 serious injuries from ATV or Side by Side crashes on public roads in 2019-2020, with helmet use verified for only three of those incidents. In 2023, children up to age 19 accounted for more than 25 percent of ATV fatalities in the United States, according to the Consumer Federation of America.

Always ensure bicycles and ATVs are the proper size for your child. Outfit bicycles with lights and reflectors, and wear brightly colored clothing when riding. ATV riders should wear long sleeves, long pants, goggles, gloves and boots.

Ride Safe Oklahoma recommends adult supervision for ATV riders under the age of 16 and to never allow a child under age 10 to operate an ATV. Ride Safe Oklahoma offers educational programs for schools and organizations as well as a hands-on rider course for ATV safety.

Making a splash

Swimming and enjoying water activities are favorite summer pastimes for many families. When near the water, supervision should be the number one priority. Children should always be actively supervised by an adult in and around water, even when a lifeguard is present.

According to Safe Kids Oklahoma, drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 and the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 5 to 14. Each year in Oklahoma, about 20 children die from drowning, and 15 more are hospitalized for near-drowning incidents.

Teach children to never go into or near the water without an adult present. Swimming aids such as water wings or noodles should not be relied upon for safety and are not a substitute for supervision. Swimming skills improve with practice, but even older, more experienced swimmers should always swim with a partner.

Backyard family fun

After everyone has finished swimming and it’s time for a barbecue, establish a three-foot safety zone around the grill and keep kids and pets away from the grilling area. Ensure all matches and lighters are stored out of reach of children, and have an adult supervise the grill while it’s in use.

The safest way to enjoy summer fireworks is to leave them to the professionals and attend public fireworks displays. Even sparklers pose a burn risk for children as they can reach temperatures of up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. Glow sticks are a safe and fun alternative for after-dark entertainment.

If you do choose to use fireworks at home, they should be lit by adults and kept at a safe distance from others. Always have a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher on hand when lighting fireworks. 

 

Editor’s note: Bethany Children’s Health Center is committed to enhancing the health and safety of Oklahoma children. The community health programs sustained and developed by the center focus on providing education and community resources. Programs like Healthy Schools OK, Safe Kids Oklahoma and ATV Ride Safe Oklahoma are dedicated to creating a healthier and safer community for every Oklahoman. For more information and safety tips from Bethany Children’s Health Center, visit bethanychildrens.org/community-health.

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