Summer means freedom for children. But with the long days, road trips, and time spent playing outside of direct adult supervision, summertime can also be a dangerous time for children. In fact, pretty much all the leading causes of death for children, including car accidents and drowning, are connected to summer activities. Does that mean parents should forgo their summer road trips and beach days? No. It is, however, a good idea to be aware of the risks and manage them to the best of your ability.
With that in mind, what follows are all the ways summer could kill children, presented from most to least likely based on available data from health officials and the Centers for Disease Control.
The leading cause of accidental death for children between the ages of 1 and 4 is drowning. Of the 1,200 unintentional injury deaths for this age group in 2017, nearly half were due to drowning.
Having young children around water is a risk all year round. After all, kids can drown in a toilet or bathtub as easily as they can drown in a lake, ocean, or swimming pool. But summer often means kids are more likely to come in contact with water.
Parents need to make sure that young kids are supervised around water and have appropriate floatation and safety devices. Swimming pools should be situated behind secure fencing. Even children around kiddy pools need parents’ attention.
The leading cause of accidental death for children ages 5 to 15 is motor-vehicle accidents. Most of these deaths occurred when a child had not been properly secured in a vehicle that crashed. According to the most recent statistics from the CDC, 35 percent of children who died in crashes were not properly buckled up.
Because summer is often the time of year for road trips, it’s important that parents make sure their car seats are properly installed and secured before hitting the highway for summer adventure. Importantly, new guidelines suggest kids should stay in rear-facing seats as long as possible.
As the weather warms, kids with a sense of adventure often want to get out on their bikes and get a taste of sweet freedom. But it’s crucial that kids know the rules of the road and are wearing the proper safety equipment. Every year some 100 children die in bicycle-related accidents. Another 24,000 are hospitalized.
Hot Car Deaths
As the weather warms across the country in the summer, so too does the danger of a child dying in a hot car: 52 children died after being left in hot vehicles in 2018. Tired parents may forget a child is in the car or may miscalculate the relative risk of leaving a kid in the car on a hot day. Luckily, car manufacturers have started installing alarms and reminders in family vehicles so children aren’t left in hot cars. There are even aftermarket devices that can be installed to alert parents they may be leaving a child in an unsafe hot car. For those traveling with babies in the summer, hot car alarms may be a worthwhile purchase.
American deaths due to animal encounters have been consistent for decades. But interestingly, the animals most people consider dangerous are not the ones we should worry about. Over 50 percent of the 1,600 deaths that occurred between 2008 and 2015 were related to non-venomous animals. Most deadly animal encounters were with livestock and insects rather than wild animals. But the most deadly animal for children remained dogs.
Parents should make sure kids allergic to insects have easy access to unexpired EpiPens and know how to use them. And as kids spend more time in parks and playgrounds, parents should also make sure a child knows never to approach a strange dog.
Bad Food at Barbecues
Summer and cooking-out pretty much go hand in hand. But it’s easy to undercook meats over a grill. And it’s even easier to absentmindedly leave out a creamy salad. Both of those situations create an excellent opportunity for children to be exposed to salmonella.
Each year salmonella sickens 1.2 million people in the United States and kills 450, usually due to dehydration through diarrhea. So it’s important to make sure foods at the backyard party are cooked through, particularly poultry, and for creamy foods to stay thoroughly chilled.
Fireworks. They’re fun and patriotic — until they’re not. Of the eight fireworks-related deaths in the United Staes in 2017, one included a 4-year-old girl who was impaled by shrapnel when her father lit a metal tube full of sparklers. The store-bought fireworks parents can pick up around July 4 may seem innocuous, but they can still kill if used improperly.