Enduring Summer Trauma Season
As the days grow longer and hotter, it's time to bring out the bikes, skates, lawnmowers and boats. But for families with children, it's also time for helmets, kneepads and the watchful eyes of an adult supervisor.
Summer can be a busy time in emergency rooms because of the types of activities children engage in during the warmer months, says Marie M. Lozon, M.D., of the University of Michigan Health System. She recommends that parents prime their children and teens for outdoor activities by giving them the right equipment, such as bike helmets, and lessons for swimming and driving.
"In the summer, we see an increased number of injuries and accidents that can cause injury to children because of the warm weather and the activities that are taking place outside," says Lozon, director of Children's Emergency Services at the U-M Health System. "We call it 'trauma season.'"
One of the best things parents and guardians can do is stay aware of their children's activities, and to watch them when they are playing outside, she says.
"During the summer months, the need for additional supervision definitely increases," she says. "One has to think about your child's development level, the child's ability to control impulses, for example, to run into the street or to try a stunt on their bike."
Bike-riding can be particularly dangerous, she says. Helmets are a must, even if children are reluctant to wear something "uncool," Lozon says.
"I would say that children who are going to be bike riding need to wear a bike helmet," she says. "I know that a lot of kids think it's not cool and they look like a dork, and I could go on and on about the objections that kids will have to proper helmeting with bicycle riding. But you only have one brain, and you really don't want to injure it."
Other hazards are associated with the more grown-up tasks of maintaining the lawn and garden. Lozon and her colleagues have seen many children in the emergency room who have fallen off riding lawnmowers when they were riding with an adult. Lawnmower injuries can result in amputations of fingers, toes, hands and feet, she says. Mowers also can catch rocks and debris in their blades, which can harm children who are playing in the yard.
"The push mower and the riding lawnmower can create a very rapid projectile shooting out from under the blade," Lozon says. "There's just no reason to have a young child outside during lawn-mowing activities. Just keep the child inside; if there's no one to supervise them in the house, wait until another person can take care of them. I just wouldn't take the chance."
Parents also should be careful to keep pesticides and other chemicals out of the reach of children to avoid ingestion, inhalation or skin contact, and they should apply these materials to lawns and gardens only when children are not around.
When it comes to backyard swimming pools, Lozon thinks lessons are a great idea. But they are not a "panacea" because children still may harm themselves if they are playing carelessly in the water. She also warns of the problem of teens drinking alcohol while partying at a lake or pool.
"That's where we see a lot of judgment errors and drownings as a result of teens being intoxicated, falling in and drowning and unable to assist themselves," she says. "You can't always monitor them 24 hours a day, but I think everybody should talk to their teen about the impairment of judgment that occurs when one uses alcohol, especially when one is going to be near a water activity."
Fire-related injuries are common in the summer, including burns from barbeques and bonfires. A particular danger occurs when young people add fuel to the fire