Summertime means backyard time for kids. There's forts, trampolines, swings, pools, trees, everything you need to spark the imagination and capture the energy of youth. While there is no sure-fire way to prevent all kids from getting injured, there are some strategies that are a good start to creating a safe haven for your kids.
Plants: Make sure there are no poisonous plants in your backyard. Little kids often put things in their mouth that they shouldn't or crawl into spaces that could cause them to end up in the emergency room.
Keep an eye out for poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak around fence lines and on trees.
A short list of common posionous plants includes Oleander, the most common toxic plant with every bit of the plant being harmful. Lilly of the Valley can cause nausea, vomiting, pain and diarrhea. Hydrangea blooms will cause stomach pain if ingested and possibly itchy skin, weakness and sweating as well as a possible breakdown in the body's blood circulation.
You can find photos and more toxic plants at http://www.safetyathome.com.
Home playgrounds. Just like public playgrounds, home playgrounds need to be monitored and checked for loose screws, cracked wood and rusty metal.
http://children.webmd.com has a great list of precautions parents can take to help prevent injuries.
- Cover areas under and around the playground equipment with shock-absorbing material, such as sand, rubber, or mulch, 9-12 inches deep.
- Make sure swing seats are made of soft rubber, not hard wood.
- Don't suspend more than two swing seats in the same section of the equipment's support structure. Most home playground injuries can be blamed on swings.
- The equipment should have ladders with steps rather than rungs for easier access, or rungs with more than nine inches or less than three and a half inches of space between them, to prevent children from getting stuck.
- Cover all protruding bolts.
- Do not attach ropes or cords to the play set, which could become strangulation hazards.
- Plastic play sets or climbing equipment should never be used indoors on wood or cement floors, even if they're carpeted. All climbing equipment should be outdoors on shock-absorbing surfaces to prevent children's head injuries.
- Slides and platforms should be no higher than six feet for school-age children, or four feet for pre-schoolers.
- Platforms, walkways, ramps, and ladders should have adequate guardrails.
- Protect against tripping hazards such as tree stumps, concrete footings, and rocks.
- During hot summer days, check the temperature of the slides and swings, because they can become hot enough to cause burns to the skin.
Treated wood. Treated wood is a common product found in backyard fences and decks. Many treated outdoor wooden structures contain arsenic. The wood industry phased out production of this type of wood in 2003, but there are plenty of wood products around that were manufactured before then. Arsenic in pressure treated wood used in play sets and picnic tables pose an increase risk of cancer according to the EPA.
Pools and spas. Pools and spas pose their own special kind of risks. Drowning is a leading cause of death to children under 5. And many drownings occur at home. Take these simple precautions:
- Always supervise children who are in and around a pool or spa.
- Have fences or walls at least four feet high completely around the pool. Gates should be self-closing and self-latching, with latches out of reach of children.
- Keep rescue equipment by the pool.
- Steps and ladders for aboveground pools should be secured or removed when the pool is not in use.
- Use a cover for the pool when it is not in use.
- Make sure drain covers are properly fitted and paired or have vacuum suction releases to prevent being trapped under water.
- Consider installing a pool alarm that can alert if someone enters the pool.
- Spa water temperatures should be set to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to avoid elevated body temperature, which could lead to drowsiness, unconsciousness, heatstroke, or death.
- Keep a cell phone with you when you are at the pool with your kids. Seconds count and you don't want to have leave your child to find the phone.
These are just a few suggestions for helping parents create a safe backyard where kids can have fun and hang out. Have a great Summer!