Summer is here, and with it comes many opportunities for fun and enjoyment for children of all ages. Summer is typically associated with a plethora of outdoor activities—water play, hiking, bike riding, park visits, and maybe even some fireworks to celebrate the season. What might get overlooked in all these fun activities, however, are the inherent dangers that come with each of them. While we want to avoid raising our children in a bubble of overprotection, it is helpful to be mindful of the health risks of common summer activities. Balancing fun and safety can be achieved if we are intentional about how we approach summer activities.
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A Season of Risk
Although any season and the activities that come along with it can involve risk, summer seems to bring with it an especially noteworthy range of safety issues. Why is that? A couple of factors seem to be at play during the summer season. First, children are often much more active outdoors during the summer. This means they may be participating in activities that they primarily only do during the summer. Activities like swimming, hiking, or biking are much more common among children during this season. These activities involve children using physical skills with which they may be less accustomed or may be new to them. All of these factors have the potential to increase the risk of injury.1
Additionally, the weather conditions in many parts of the world can be extreme in the summer season. Whether it be heat, thunderstorms, or humidity, summer weather (in the northern hemisphere) can be challenging for young bodies to manage. Being active outdoors during the warm months brings a certain amount of risk, especially for children who may be unaware of the risks of dehydration or lightning.
Summer Safety Issues
Depending on each family’s level of activity during the summer months, the range of safety issues can vary. These are some of the most common summer safety issues that often arise:
Sun and Heat
Although we may love those hot summer days for enjoying water activities, the summer sun can pose risks. Sunburn, of course, is the most obvious danger associated with the sun. Ensuring that children wear enough sunscreen and re-apply it often is key to preventing a painful burn. Even on cloudy days, sunscreen is a must.2 Dehydration can be another, sometimes overlooked, danger of summer heat. Even in temperatures that are not extreme, dehydration can be a risk for children since their bodies are smaller. Whenever you and your family are outdoors, bring plenty of water. Encourage children to drink frequently, even if they do not feel thirsty. Watch closely for signs of dehydration such as thirst, dry lips or eyes, fatigue, or feeling lightheaded.3
A huge part of summer for many families is all the wonderful activities to do outside during this time of the year. Whether it is biking, hiking, skateboarding, scootering, or playing at a park, physical activities are very popular during the summer. While all of these activities involve a certain level of risk of injury, they can all be enjoyed safely if you take precautions. For many of these activities, a helmet is a key safety measure. As soon as your children are old enough to enjoy any wheeled activities (i.e., biking, scootering, skateboarding, or rollerblading), ensure that they start the habit of wearing a helmet each time. However, simply wearing a helmet is not enough to ensure their safety. One element that is often overlooked is how well the helmet fits. A loose-fitting helmet will not protect a child’s head from injury in the case of a fall. Ensure that your child’s helmet fits low on their forehead, is snug and the straps are not too loose4 (only one finger should fit between their chin and the strap).
Although playgrounds are generally safe, it is helpful to keep in mind a few possible hazards. Some playground equipment can become very hot if it is sitting in direct sunlight. Carefully check the temperature of slides and swings before allowing children on them. Additionally, monitor younger children carefully on equipment that is high off the ground or lacks railings. Young children may not have fully developed depth perception to be aware of the danger of falling.
If summertime means exploration for your family, insects can pose a safety hazard. Forests or hiking trails can be prime areas for mosquitos, ticks, bees, wasps, or other insects that sting or bite. The sting can be painful, but some of these bugs also carry diseases. Most pediatricians recommend that children over the age of 2 months wear bug repellent that contains either DEET or a natural alternative.5
Perhaps the summer safety issue that most commonly comes to mind relates to water. During the summer, there are many opportunities for children to interact and play in the water. From pools to lakes to ponds and water parks, splashing around is an enjoyable way for children to cool off in the summer. Of course, bodies of water pose an inherent risk of drowning, even for experienced swimmers. Unfortunately, drowning becomes an even more serious risk during the summer months. Throughout the year, an average of 830 children (ages 14 and under) die from drowning, but the risk increases by 89 percent from May to August.2 This means that we have to be especially watchful of our children around water, especially during the summer.
Children, even those who know how to swim, need constant supervision while in the water. Younger children typically need parents in the water with them at all times, in addition to a life vest. When in a group of children and adults, it’s best not to assume that another adult will supervise your children unless you specifically ask them to do so. Even adults can become distracted while talking or scrolling on their phone and not realize when a child is in danger. Drowning can often occur suddenly and quietly, without screaming or splashing from the child in trouble.2
Enjoy Summer Safely
Many of the fun activities of summer come with inherent risks for our children. We don’t, however, have to curtail their activities or limit their fun in order to keep them safe. By being mindful of the risks and taking smart precautions, our children can enjoy a summer of making memories and taking advantage of all the season has to offer.
The information provided on this site is NOT medical advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, provide medical or behavioral advice, treat, prevent, or cure any disease, condition, or behavior. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your child’s development to make a medical diagnosis, determine a treatment for a medical condition, or obtain other related advice.
- 2022 Summer Safety Guide – SafeHome.org. (2022). Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://www.safehome.org/data/summer-home-safety-report/
- Summer Safety Checklist for Kids. (2020). Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://www.verywellfamily.com/top-summer-safety-checklist-tips-620524
- Dehydration – NHS. (2020). Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dehydration/
- Bicycle Helmets: Getting the Right Fit. (n.d.) Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://www.chla.org/blog/rn-remedies/bicycle-helmets-getting-the-right-fit
- Summer Safety Tips: Staying Safe Outdoors. (2017) Retrieved June 28, 2022, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Summer-Safety-Tips-Staying-Safe-Outdoors.aspx/