In focus: summer safety
With Scottish school holidays in full swing, and English schools breaking up this week, here’s our essential guide to summer and holiday safety.
Everybody looks forward to summer fun, and for children nothing beats going on holiday or even a 'staycation' at home. Children especially love the freedom and change of routine that the summer holidays bring.
CAPT aims to encourage parents to take simple steps to keep children safe so everyone can enjoy summer to the fullest whether on a beach holiday or having fun in the garden. Here are some important key messages for parents to help them stay one step ahead of potentially serious accidents this summer.
Keeping cool in the water is usually one of the highlights of the summer for children. Children should be able to enjoy the water without being in danger.
Yet in the past six years, 30 children from the UK under the age of ten have drowned whilst on holiday abroad.
There may not be a struggle to alert you that your child is in difficulty in the water – children can slip silently under the water and drown quickly. That’s why it is so important to be vigilant and always supervise younger children closely around water. This is especially important when away on holiday where the environment, regulations and routines are different, and parents will be relaxed and maybe off their guard.
Water safety away from home
In most cases, children who drown are unsupervised – some incidents have resulted from younger children wandering off and falling into a hotel or villa pool or even nearby pond.
- Not all hotel pools have lifeguards – where they do they may have other roles, so may not be as attentive as they are required to be in the UK.
- Check the environment when you are away on holiday – look out for unfenced ponds or swimming pools, and rivers or canals.
- Spend some time explaining to older children the dangers of swimming in canals, lakes or rivers – things like strong currents, deep water and objects in the water that they can’t see or may not realise are really dangerous.
- Nothing beats fun at the beach but remember that wind blowing off the land can make the sea look flat, calm and safe but it can easily sweep inflatable toys, airbeds or small dinghies quickly out to sea. On UK beaches look out for an orange windsock – if it’s flying, it means the wind is especially dangerous.
- Teach children that they must swim between the two coloured red and yellow flags when they are at the beach and make sure someone is looking out for your child whenever they are in the water. For more information on beach safety see the RNLI site.
Water safety at home
- Keep a close eye on children playing near or in water, especially two and three year olds who are more likely to drown at home or in your neighbour’s garden.
- Fill in, fence off or cover your pond if you have one and make sure your young child can’t get out of your garden and near your neighbour’s pond or water feature.
- Babies can drown in as little as 5cm (2 inches) of water, so even rainwater collecting in a bucket can be dangerous. Be sure to empty the paddling pool as soon as you’re finished rather than leave it for the next day.
Safety in the garden
If you can, enclose your garden so younger children can’t wander out into the road or into neighbours gardens. And while many accidents in the garden are simply active children falling over, more serious accidents can and do occur.
Keeping safe in your garden
- Remember to lock garden tools away in a shed or other secure area. Never leave electrical equipment plugged in when you are not using it.
- Keep all chemicals – such as weed killer or fertiliser – locked away and out of reach of young children, and keep them in their original containers. Never be tempted to transfer them to food jars or bottles which a child could easily open.
- Keep the washing line well above children’s heads and away from play equipment.
- Teach children to never eat anything growing in your garden unless you tell them it’s safe to do so. In particular, small children may be attracted to plants with berries which can be poisonous. Try to avoid plants with berries until children are old enough to understand that they may be dangerous. For information on poisonous plants to avoid around children go to the Royal Horticultural Society site.
Keep young children away from lit barbeques or bonfires and remember that barbeques will stay hot long after you have finished cooking. When camping don't ever be tempted to take a lit or smouldering barbecue into a tent/awning/caravan. They produce deadly carbon monoxide.
Trampolines are hard to resist and it is tempting for children to pile on at once. However unsafe use of trampolines can result in broken bones as well as more serious head and neck injuries. As a rule, only allow one person on at any one time. Most accidents happen when two or more people are on a trampoline, and generally, it is the lighter person (such as a child) who will be injured as a result. Children under six are most at risk of injury.
Safety home and away
Remember to apply the safety rules you have at home to your holiday surroundings:
- Keep medicines and cleaning things out of children’s reach.
- Put hair straighteners away and out of reach immediately after use.
- Children love to climb so keep low furniture away from windows so that they can’t climb up and fall out. Watch out for balconies and check for window catches.
- Make sure all looped blind cords are tied back well out of reach of young children who can get strangled in them. Tie them out of reach of climbing children.
- Remember children under six shouldn’t sleep on the top bunk of a bunk bed.
- Check the smoke alarms are working when you arrive. In a strange building it’s worth practising an escape route in case a fire breaks out in the night. There have been cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in hotel rooms. Travel carbon monoxide detectors are available.