Hidden Summer Dangers
Posted on 2 December 2019
Experts explain how to keep your children safe while they enjoy the festive season.
Summer activities are often the highlight of the family calendar – think poolside braais, trips to the beach, day hikes and general fun in the sun. They can also mean scrapes, bruises, stings, near-drownings, car accidents and food poisoning.
When travelling to your holiday destination, make sure your car is serviced and roadworthy. “Check that your visibility isn’t impaired by suitcases, don’t overload the car with passengers and don’t start your holiday early by drinking alcohol before you’ve arrived at your destination,” says Jannes Prinsloo, ER24 Durban branch manager.
“Keep safe following distances, don’t get distracted by your cellphone when you’re behind the wheel and ensure your children are always restrained by an adequate child safety seat,” adds ER24 Bloemfontein branch manager, Lucas Bezuidenhout.
If your child is younger than one year and/or weighs less than 9kg, they should sit in a rear-facing seat with the harness straps at shoulder level. Make sure they are in a back seat, away from the airbag. If your child is older than one year and/or weighs 10kg or more, they can sit in forward-facing seats, with the harness straps at their shoulders. If your child weighs more than 18kg they can sit in a front-facing booster seat, which must be used with both the lap and shoulder belt securely fastened. Make sure the lap belt fits below and tight across the lap/upper thigh and that the shoulder belt fits snugly across the chest and shoulder. This will help avoid abdominal injuries.
“Never leave kids or pets in the car with the windows closed,” Lucas adds. “So many people don’t realise a locked car heats up to 50 degrees Celsius within a matter of minutes, which can lead to fatal heat stroke.”
If your holiday plans include water sports, swimming or simply lazing around near a farm dam or river, ensure your children are never left unattended near water. “Restrict alcohol and glass bottles from the water’s edge (especially paved swimming pool areas) and if your child – is not a strong swimmer or use watercraft (e.g. boats, kayaks, etc.), ensure they are wearing proper floatation devices,” says Jannes. Keep your pool fenced and covered with an approved cover when not in use – and don’t let your kids swim in public swimming pools, rivers and dams if there is gross overcrowding. At the beach, stick to designated swimming areas, preferably where lifeguards are on duty.
To prevent sunburn, apply SPF30 or higher sunscreen at least 30 minutes before heading into the sun – and reapply every two hours, after swimming, or after working up a sweat. Heat exhaustion is a real threat if you allow your kids to get dehydrated, so ensure they’re drinking enough fluids when they’re active in the sun.
When it comes to picnics, braais and padkos, don’t let food stay out of a fridge or cooler box for longer than two hours. Bacteria grows and multiplies quickly and basic hygiene is the easiest way to prevent foodborne illness. “Cleaning your hands reduces your chances of harbouring dangerous bacteria,” says Dr Temlett Hockey, a paediatrician at Mediclinic Paarl. “Thousands of tiny microbes are embedded into the top layer of skin on your hands. These include germs, viruses and bacteria, that – through touching – get transferred from object to object, and then to people’s mouths.” As Lucas says, it’s vital that you teach your child proper hand-washing techniques.
Knowing how to perform CPR is also a vital skill and can be beneficial for you and your family. In addition, if you’re travelling to a different country or province, it is worth knowing where the closest hospitals and day clinics are in the case of an emergency.