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(VIDEO) Parents Talk: Don't Let Accidents Ruin Summer Fun

From flying bounce houses to escaped animals at the zoo, how do you ignore the hype while keeping your child safe?

If you're like me, you probably watched the video above of a two-story red, white and blue bounce house soaring into the air at a youth soccer tournament this past weekend.  Two other "moonwalks" flew off the ground, causing youngsters to suffer bumps and bruises and critically injuring a mother who had an inflatable crash-land on her.

As I watched the video and the shots of alarmed adults running after their children I realized it could have been any one of us in their position.  I can only imagine the nightmares both the parents and children may be suffering since that horrifying afternoon.

It seems like we're hearing stories like these all the time.  Every maternal nerve in my body reacted when I learned that a fox escaped from the Minnesota Zoo yesterday, scaring a mother and her 18-month-old and forcing workers to shoot and kill the animal. 

And who can forget the horrifying story of 6-year-old Edina-native Abbey Taylor, who died as the result of an improperly maintained pool in 2008?

I don’t think we should stop taking our kids to amusement parks or swimming pools because more often than not, day-to-day activities are what hurt our kids the most.  According to CNN, from 2001 to 2005, about 502,000 emergency visits came from concussions in children between the ages of 8 and 13 years of age. Approximately half of these 500,000 emergency department visits were from concussions related to organized sports.

Between freak accidents and "ordinary" injuries, I have to wonder: How do we keep our kids safe without wrapping them in bubble wrap or sending them into every activity in football pads?

So I went searching for some answers, and according to medical experts, many of the children checked into emergency rooms during the summer have injuries that can be avoided if parents are aware of the common dangers and put in some extra time on safety precautions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released their 2011 Summer Safety Tips.  Between their recommendations and those of other pediatric physicians, here are some common advice definitely starts to emerge that we can all follow:

Sun and heat safety: Avoid prolonged sun exposure, reduce the intensity of activities in the heat, make sure kids stay hydrated and always apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.

Water safety:  In the land of 10,000 lakes--and pools and water parks--swimming lessons for Minnesota children becomes a life-saving skill that all parents should encourage.  In and around Golden Valley, there are a number of places to sign up for lessons: the Robbinsdale District Community Education Program, the Foss Swim School in St. Louis Park or take lessons outdoors at the Crystal Cove Aquatic Center. Minnetonka's Aquatics Center also offers safety classes. You should be able to find a place near you with a quick Google search. 

In Abbey Taylor’s memory, a foundation has been established with the primary mission of keeping local kids safe. In the area, Abbey's Hope Charitable Foundation sponsors Spring Into Summer Safety events, to teach local families tips to water safety. According to Abbey’s mom, Katey Taylor, it’s her hope that no child will ever have to suffer like Abbey did. 

If you are at a residential pool, make sure rescue equipment is close and never, ever leave a child alone.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention--which maintains records on drowning statistics--about ten people die from unintentional drowning every day. At least two are 14 or younger.

Outdoor activities: Any activity on wheels--whether bicycling, skateboarding or rollerblading--should be undertaken with a helmet.  Same goes for baseball.  Concussions are the most common serious injury caused by these common summer activities. And they are mostly avoidable.  Also, look for playgrounds  that have softer surfaces such as wood chips or mulch instead of concrete dirt.

Outdoor cooking: Other than making sure that children stay far from grills to avoid burns, you should also check gas grills for any possible leaks or blockage.  Make sure you never bring charcoal indoors because it produces deadly levels of carbon monoxide.

Other Hazards: During my research, the number of stories of suffocations by children playing hide-and-go-seek surprised me.  Children crawl into old chests, refrigerators or picnic coolers thinking they have found the ultimate hiding spot. But those sports can be deadly.  Watch out for conditions in tool sheds and other smaller hiding spots that don’t have adequate airflow.  Other injuries to be aware of include falls out of windows and those that may result from unsupervised play on backyard trampolines.  

Accidents will happen. And while the highly publicized accidents will continue to happen, I'm not going to stop enjoying some of the staple events of summer with my kids.  But as a parent, I'm glad I took the time to research what I can do to keep summer fun at its best and prevent some of the dangers that could send any one of us racing to the emergency room. 

So slap on the sunscreen, fill up the water bottles and strap on the helmets. In Minnesota, we need to savor the summer sun and make memories that will last long after the beach bag returns to the closet.

Kay Gordon June 09, 2011 at 04:44 PM
Great article, Gail. While I agree that I'm not going to stop taking the kids to parks and events, I don't trust some of those carnivals and festivals that have moonwalks or Tilt-O-Whirls that are set up literally overnight. Some of those weekend carnivals are just asking for a terrible accident. My kids may not like it, but if something doesn't feel right, then I don't let them get on a ride. Do those weekend carnivals or the moonwalks like the ones in the video even have to follow safety regulations? If I can't tell you who's responsible for my child's well-being when going on a ride, then I'm responsible and the answer will be no.
Lisa Buck June 10, 2011 at 02:50 AM
My kids and their friends are into water-skiing, motorbikes, 4-wheelers,and airsoft guns---all have risks. We set rules for each that are enforced with a zero-tolerance approach. I worry about fireworks. A neighbor boy got grounded last week when his parents found him playing with some hard core fireworks, which I'm sure my kids would love.

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