Summer is a time for playground fun, camping, boating, swimming, biking and other fun outdoor activities. Playground falls, lawnmower accidents, campfire and fire pit burns are some common and potentially life-altering childhood injuries that happen during summer months.
Darren Rottmann knows first-hand how easily accidents can happen, particularly in the summer months when outdoor activities increase. He lost his leg in a lawn mower accident when he was 3 1/2 years old. He was treated at Shriners Hospitals for Children(r) – St. Louis, where he was fitted for different prosthetic legs as he grew. Despite his injury, Rottmann was able to walk then run, and eventually, play baseball, basketball and football.
Now 37 years old, Rottmann is a certified prosthetist at the same hospital where he was treated. He was inspired to help children the same way he was helped as a boy.
“I started out as a technician building the prosthetic legs but have worked my way into patient care,” he said. “I think it puts the kids’ minds and their parents’ minds at ease to see that somebody else has been through it.”
Today, Rottmann is helping Shriners Hospitals for Children encourage kids to become “Superheroes of Summer Safety” by learning and following a few simple rules of safe summer play.
“We’re here to help kids who need us, but we’d prefer that a child isn’t injured in the first place,” Rottmann said. “These tips, like keeping children inside while mowing the lawn, are good reminders for all of us.”
Including the St. Louis location, there are 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children in the United States, Canada and Mexico that provide specialized care to children with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate, regardless of their family’s ability to pay.
“Sustaining a serious injury can be a life-altering event for a child,” said Jerry Gantt, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Shriners Hospitals for Children. “We see patients every day with injuries caused by accidents and we are committed to raising awareness about how to stay safe.”
Here are some tips from Rottmann and Shriners Hospitals for Children to help your family enjoy a fun, injury-free summer.
Go Outside and Play
The physical and mental health benefits of outdoor play are great for children. It provides opportunities for exercise, creative expression, stress reduction and access to a free and natural source of vitamin D – sunlight. Before sending kids out to play, make sure they always wear shoes to protect feet from cuts, scrapes and splinters, and wear sunscreen to protect from sunburns and harmful ultra-violet rays.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger every year for playground-related injuries. Before your kids head to the playground, keep these precautions in mind:
* Choose parks and playgrounds that are appropriate for their age and offer shock-absorbing surfaces.
* Teach children that pushing and shoving on the playground can result in accidents and injuries.
* Remind kids to go down the slide one at a time and to wait until the slide is completely clear before taking their turn. Teach them to always sit facing forward with their legs straight in front of them and to never slide down headfirst.
* Remind children to swing sitting down. Encourage them to wait until the swing stops before getting off and to be careful when walking in front of moving swings.
Make a Safe Splash
While playing poolside may be a blast, Safe Kids Worldwide reports that drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 4 and it is the third-leading cause of injury-related death among those under 19. Additionally, the University of Michigan Health Systems estimate that about 6,000 people under age 14 are hospitalized because of a diving injury each year, with one in five sustaining a spinal cord injury.
Prevent accidents and injuries with these tips to ensure your family’s safety around water:
* Instruct children to never swim alone or go near water without an adult present.
* Give children your undivided attention when they are swimming or are near any body of water.
* Always jump in feet first to check the depth before diving into any body of water.
* Never dive in the shallow end of the pool or into above-ground pools.
Fun on the Water
Boating, tubing and other water sports can be great fun but can also be dangerous. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 71 percent of all boating fatalities are drownings, 85 percent of which are a result of not wearing a life jacket. Here is what you can do to enjoy the water safely:
* Always have children wear a Coast Guard-approved, properly fitted life jacket while on a boat, around an open body of water or when participating in water sports.
* Educate yourself. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 86 percent of boating accident deaths involve boaters who have not completed a safety course.
* Always check water conditions and forecasts before going out on the water.
Fire Safety Simplified
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 126,035 children ages 19 and under were seen in emergency rooms for fire and burn injuries in 2013. Use these tips to keep children safe around fires, fireworks, grills and other heat sources:
* Teach kids to never play with matches, gasoline, lighter fluid or lighters. Make a habit of placing these items out of the reach of young children.
* Do not leave children unattended near grills, campfires, fire pits or bonfires. Always have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby whenever there is an open flame.
* Take your child to a doctor or hospital immediately if he or she is injured in a fire or by fireworks.
* Leave fireworks to the professionals.
To see more tips, find activity pages and learn how to become a “Superhero of Summer Safety,” visit shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/safesummer.
Like Rottmann, thousands of children are injured in lawn mower accidents each year, some severely. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 4,000 children under the age of 14 were treated in emergency rooms for lawn mower-related injuries annually from 2010-2014. Lawn mower injuries account for a large percentage of accidental, partial or complete amputations, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. To avoid accidents involving lawn mowers, keep these tips in mind:
* Teach children to never play on or around a lawn mower, even when it is not in use. They should never be permitted to walk beside, in front of or behind a moving mower.
* Children under 6 years of age should be kept inside the home while mowing.
* Children should be at least 12 years of age before operating a push lawn mower and at least 16 years of age before operating a riding lawn mower.