A Summer Safety Survival Guide for Parents

A Summer Safety Survival Guide for Parents

By Jason Haug, Program and Project Management Officer, Ottawa Public Health and Daniel Osterer, Program and Project Management Officer

Summer is here! The sun is shining, the birds are chirping. The odd, fluffy white cloud marks the blue sky. Though enjoying the outdoors in t-shirts and shorts is a welcome treat after a long winter, it's important to remember to protect family and friends from the elements during the spring and summer months.

UV Safety and Heat

The sun is one of the most enjoyable parts of summer. It's important to stay sun-safe to get the most out of it. The sun can potentially cause a lot of harm. People who have had at least one blistering sunburn as a child or as a teenager have an increased risk of developing melanoma skin-cancer later in life. 

How can I protect my child from the sun?

Seek shade

Babies under one year should be kept out of direct sunlight completely. You can also place a canopy or umbrella over your baby's stroller.

Try outdoor activities under a tree, umbrella, or shade of a building instead of direct sunlight. The most dangerous times for UV exposure are between 11am and 3pm.

Wear sunscreen

  • If your baby is less than 6 months old, do NOT apply sunscreen. For children older than 6 months, slip, slap, slop on a sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, labelled "broad-spectrum" and "water-resistant". Also, be aware that sunscreen does expire, so make sure to check the expiration date before applying.

Wear sun-smart clothing

For extra protection from the sun, have your kids wear:

  • A hat with a wide brim
  • Close fitting/wrap-around sunglasses with UV 400 or 100% UV protection
  • Tightly woven, loose fitting, full-length shirts and pants

Beware the heat

Though we may all love the heat, it can be a health hazard. Stay hydrated. Be sure to drink LOTS of water. Be mindful of humidity and heat levels when outdoors, whether you are having a lazy-hazy day, working the yard, or playing outdoor sports. Know the signs of heat stress to help prevent illness:

  • Flushing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Disorientation

On especially hot days, seek shade or air conditioned environments.

Water Safety
A swimming pool can be a lot of fun during the summer, but it's important to swim safe. Swimming pools are the most common place for near-drownings requiring an emergency room (ER) visit for children and youth. Children under five years have the highest rate of ER visits for near-drowning. 55 per cent of these events occur at home.

It is vital that you provide the right supervision and safety provisions. Supervise or swim with kids only if you are free of drugs, alcohol or distractions. Keep young children within arm's reach in and around water. A sobering stat is that most children who have drowned in backyard pools fell into the water during a very brief period when their parents or caregivers were not actively watching them.

Have young children or weak swimmers wear a lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD) around open water. You can also build your child's (and/or your own) swimming skills by enrolling them in swimming lessons.

What are the most important pool safety items? The base of any pool safety kit should include:

  • A first aid kit
  • A phone for emergencies
  • A reaching pole
  • A ring buoy attached to a rope.

Surrounding your pool with 4-sided fencing is also recommended. According to the Children's Hospital of eastern Ontario (CHEO), 4-sided fencing:

  • Stops children in your house from getting to the pool
  • Protects children outside your home
  • Prevents 7 out of 10 drownings or near drownings of children under 5  in private pools (according to a researcher's estimates)
Child Passenger Safety
It can be tempting to find creative Tetris-like car solutions during family vacations to make everything fit into place. Regardless of space, your child's safety is always a priority.  Motor vehicle collisions are the number one cause of death for children in Canada. Never put two children in the same seat belt or place the shoulder strap of seat belts behind the child's back. Also, avoid leaving loose items in your vehicle. They can hurt someone in a sudden stop or crash. All children under 13 years of age are safest in the back seat of the vehicle. Most vehicles have front seat air bags that can seriously hurt children if the bags inflate. Drivers are responsible for ensuring passengers under the age of 16 are properly secured. It is mandatory for anyone transporting children to make sure they are properly secured in a child car seat, booster seat or seatbelt. To find out more about car seat safety visit our child passenger safety page.  

It's important to also remember:

  • Never leave a child or pet unattended in the car during the hot weather.
  • Smoking in a motor vehicle, while someone else under the age of 16 is present, is against the law. Second-hand smoke can be up to 27 more concentrated in a car than in a smoker's home. 
Food Safety
Grab the whicker basket, blanket and cooler - it's picnic time! Protecting your family and friends from food borne illness can be particularly tricky in the warmer weather. Bacteria can multiply quickly in the heat. The way you pack and store picnic items is key:
  • Ensure cold foods are kept cold; and hot foods kept hot
  • Separate raw and cooked menu items to avoid cross contamination
  • Wash all produce before eating.
  • If cooking meats on site, be aware of the safe and proper internal temperatures.
  • Make sure you use separate platters and utensils for raw and cooked food products.
  • Do a careful check of the picnic area before eating - you wouldn't want a creepy crawler to ruin your meal!
  • As always, hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of gems - if possible, wash hands under warm water and liquid soap for 15 seconds. If there is no access to running water, plan ahead and bring an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Summer is short, so enjoy it while you can. Be safe and be aware. Mother Nature has lots to offer, just make sure you are protected from the unwanted gifts she has to share.

Have a great summer!

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