Suzanne Grace (Guest): Thank you for having me. The unique thing about the summertime is that many people take advantage of being outside more. A lot of the risks that we associate with the summer have to do with our outdoor recreational activities, primarily water. Being around the water, whether it is swimming in the water, whether it’s boating in the water--all have to do with increasing that potential risk if we don’t do things safely and take some necessary precautions. Number one, both children and adults should know how to swim. That is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe around any type of water whether it’s a pool, or the ocean, or a river, or a lake. You need to know how to swim. Children can learn how to swim at a very young age. It is really important that they develop the skills early so that they can keep themselves safe. Another activity related around the use of water has to do with a life jacket. An approved life jacket that fits the person appropriately and is worn appropriately is what is going to keep that person or increase their chances of surviving in an incident involving the water should they be faced with that situation. Swimming is great but having a life jacket will also help keep that person afloat until rescue can help him. The other big thing that I want to mention is everybody should know how to do CPR. For children, it is especially important that the adults who are supervising them know CPR. Children, generally, have healthy hearts so they are not going into a cardiac arrest because of a heart condition. They are going in because of a respiratory condition – they can’t breathe. When it comes to water, if they are involved in a near-drowning incident or a full on drowning incident, knowing CPR and using it immediately as soon as possible greatly increases their chance of survival.
Melanie: That’s great information. It really is because that is so, so important. The life jacket information, also, is so important. You can be a great swimmer but there are sometimes you are just taking them out in the water, or whatever. So, that is good advice. Give us some more of these good, standard safety bits of advice.
Suzanne: Absolutely. When it comes to boating safety, number one is the person operating the boat should have taken a boating safety class. That prepares them to not only know and follow the rules in that waterway but also how to respond in an emergency situation. They also know what to keep on their boat. It is unique and there are special things on a boat that are needed in case of a water emergency. That’s really important. Alcohol and boating never mix. The operator of the vehicle should not under the influence of alcohol or drugs of any sort. They need to be fully aware and responsive to operating that motor vehicle, essentially, on the water so that they keep themselves, their passengers, and others in the water as safe as possible. The other thing to consider, also, is that when it comes to water safety supervision is key. No matter how many pool barriers around the fence you have or, if your child has had swimming lessons, it still doesn’t replace adult supervision. We want to make sure that children are watched when they are around water. That includes any type of water. In fact, drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages one to four. Most of that has to do with the fact that they were unsupervised or they accessed water they shouldn’t have such as a pool. That is the most common spot that they drown in. The older a person gets, they more at risk of having a drowning incident in a river, a lake or the ocean, a pond, etc. They are more likely to be out and about in those areas versus the child at home around a pool. There are some great safety devices out there but that never replaces adult supervision.
Melanie: We love our kids to be outside. We want them to be outside but it seems, as a parent, that the dangers lurk around every corner. There are skateboards and bicycles and even the play park. Give us some safety concerns there.
Suzanne: Yes. Absolutely. Unfortunately, you think about all of the fun activities that we can do during the summertime and they shouldn’t have to end up in an injury. We want to have our children participate in these activities but do it in a safe manner. Playgrounds, for example, are a great place to play with lots of equipment, but, unfortunately, over 200,000 children are treated in the emergency room every year due to a playground injury. Oftentimes, it is a fall from a higher surface because either they weren’t prepared physically, emotionally and developmentally to be on that type of equipment. People don’t realize that certain types of equipment are made for certain ages of children. It is not a one for all, all for one. It’s not “bring your two-year-old and let them run free and try every piece of equipment there”. That’s not what it’s for. It’s designed for specific children. Parents being aware of what their child should and should not be doing at the playground. Again, adult supervision is key and making sure that the playground is up to specs: that it has been inspected; that it has proper surfacing. A lot of people don’t realize that when a child does fall either from a swing, a slide, a climbing apparatus, landing on the dirt or the grass is not an appropriate surface that is going to help absorb the impact of that fall. A sand, bulk mulch, or even recycled rubber mulch are great surfacing that can help absorb those impacts and reduce injury. But, even when children are out riding their bikes and their skateboards and their scooters, they can do so in a safe manner. There are a number of things that can happen that can increase their enjoyment and reduce their injuries. Number one is making sure they understand the rules of the road. If they are going to interact with traffic on their side road or wherever they are, they need to understand the rules of the road and follow those appropriately. Oftentimes, it’s how they are operating before the crash that is one of the most important factors involved in that. Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment – helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, things like that. Whatever that device is, the proper protection equipment that is required, they really should follow that. Parents need to enforce it. A lot of times, parents are lax in making their child wear a bicycle helmet, especially the older they get. What they don’t realize is the older they get, in the teenage years, children are more risky, they perform stunts on their bicycle, they operate their bicycle in a much more dangerous manner. They are at more risk. More than anything, they need to wear their helmets and wear them appropriately. I know a lot of teenagers don’t think helmets are cool and maybe they don’t fasten them. They just set them on their head. But, in order for them to work properly, they need to be worn properly. It’s not cool having a traumatic brain injury, either. We really need to educate the children and parents alike to take proper precautions and have fun while staying safe.
Melanie: Such great information and you are absolutely spot on with the teenagers. If they put on the helmet, they just don’t even bother to zip it up or clip it or anything and, yes, they are risk takers. It’s so dangerous and every parent’s nightmare to have something happen like that to your children. The texting or listening to music – being distracted seems to be such a problem also in the summer.
Suzanne: Absolutely and I’m so glad you brought that up. Not only is distracted driving making the headlines and certainly contributing to an increase in crashes in vehicles, but bicycling, walking, listening to music while on your phone or texting, on Facebook, whatever you may be doing is a huge distraction. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of pedestrians who are injured or killed because they were distracted walkers, believe it or not. They have this phone in their hand or this iPod and they are not really paying attention to what they are doing, unfortunately. That is a huge risk. With our technology increases and the more technology becomes a part of our lives, the more that we see it interfere and interact with us increasing our risk of injury. We want to make sure that people are aware that they need to be intentional when they are walking. They need to be intentional when they are riding their bike and paying attention and not falling into the statistics. Unfortunately, the statistics are growing way too high. These are not accidents. These are preventable injuries. We need to take responsibility for that and do what we can to keep ourselves and our families safe.
Melanie: That is such wonderful information, Suzanne. Thank you so much for being with us today. You’re listening to MMC Radio. For more information, you can go to MaineMedicalCenter.org. That’s MMC.org. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.