Guest Author - Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, M.D, F.A.A.P
There are 2 outdoor activities that will continue all year long, regardless of where we live: riding on things that move and swimming. There are three important principles to keep in mind as we say goodbye to another summer: anything outdoors can be dangerous; things that move are always dangerous; and adult supervision is needed for everything.
Kids love things that move and most kids nowadays wear helmets and appropriate pads naturally. This is one area that you should never compromise with your children and enforcing their use can be challenging, especially in teenagers and older school-aged kids. There are a few basic rules that are important to enforce to keep your kids safe. In addition , any child old enough to learn to ride a bike, rollerblades, scooter, or skateboard is old enough to understand what will happen if they hurt their heads without wearing a helmet.
• No helmet, no ride – regardless of the vehicle: bike, roller blades, skateboard, scooter.
• No pads, no roller blades or scooter.
• We can fix a broken limb, but we can’t fix a broken brain. Even the youngest of bike riders can understand this one.
• Teach by example and wear a helmet yourself.
Keep in mind that just because a small child can learn to ride one of these does not mean you should allow it. Small children, younger than ages 5 or 6, simply do not have the coordination or strength to really master the skills needed to ride anything other than a cozy coupe, tricycle, 3-wheeled scooter, bike with training wheels, or bigwheel safely. And, kids younger than 8 years of age should never be allowed to ride a scooter. These young kids may very well be able to tell you all the rules of the road by heart but not yet the experience or developmental maturity to remember to follow them.
There are 2 moving things that kids should never be allowed on: riding lawnmowers and home trampolines. They are very dangerous and a few times a year kids to fall from these and injury their arms and legs in very serious ways. trampolines may be great fun but the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly warns against backyard use. They are just too dangerous, even with supervision, and with protective netting. The AAP cautions that trampolines should only be used at professional gyms with certified instructors.
Finally, pool safety. Pools should be fenced and gated from the public, even at your own home, and have alarms that sound when the water is entered. Rescue equipment needs to be within an arm’s reach, as do small children. Even kids who “know how to swim” at a young age don’t have the strength to swim alone for long and don’t have the reasoning skills to keep them safe around the water. Keep in mind that bubbles and other floatation devices help a child float but can create a false sense of security in the child and in us. Make sure there are plenty of adults around – resist the temptation to host the neighborhood children unless you have help supervising them. Finally, if you have a pool, make sure to get trained in CPR – it can be a life saver. Most communities offer the course for a nominal fee or free of charge.
That just about covers our whirlwind tour of outdoor safety topics for now. Don’t forget that you can email or write me with any questions you may have or ideas for future columns.
Here’s to safe outdoor fun – all year long.