School is out and summer is here, which means tons of great summer activities for you and your family. But it’s also time to remember safety is always important, and that is why we sat down with Nicole Matthews, an ICU, and Trauma Nurse and Injury Prevention Coordinator at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan.
Nicole’s job is to educate the community about practical solutions to help prevent injuries. We talked to Nicole to help better prepare for the summer and gain insight on how to prevent some common injuries that are seen in the emergency room every summer.
Nicole suggests that people first visit the website, safekids.org. The site is filled with a lot of resources to help the community with safety, including car seat events, helmet safety, road safety, and more.
The number one preventable injury comes from motor vehicle accidents. Nicole explained that there was a 34% increase in car crashes that included a fatality last year. These fatalities included children who were not properly buckled in or car seats that weren’t properly secure. Nicole advised making an appointment to get your car seat checked, which you can do by visiting the Hurley website (http://www.hurleymc.com/services/emergent/injury-prevention/program-request/) or attending one of the car seat events listed on the safekids.org. She also stressed the importance of using booster seats for children under eight years old because seat belt can cause considerable damage in a crash if used by young kids under four feet nine inches tall. The strap of the belt should always sit correctly and snug against the hips, not along the belly. If your child isn’t tall enough, it is vital that they have a booster seat to ensure that they stay safe.
Nicole also mentioned the difference between an intentional injury such as suicide, domestic violence, child abuse, school shootings, etc. and unintentional injuries, which include motor vehicle crashes, drowning, falls, and other incidents not intended to happen. She stressed that parents need to be aware of what their children are doing at all times, who they are hanging out with, and the websites they are visiting. With a combination of cooperation between parents and other authority figures within communities and the proper interventions, even issues that fall in the realm of intentional injuries, such as cyberbullying, assault, violence, and suicide, can be addressed by the appropriate medical professionals and sometimes be prevented.
Nicole’s top advice for summer safety is packing medication when traveling. She wants everyone to make sure that essential medicines, like an EpiPen, are packed in a place that is easily accessible. (For instance, keep it in your carry-on instead of your checked bags on a flight.) If you carry all necessary medications with you, it can easily be administered in case of an emergency.
Kids often don’t think bike helmets are that important, but Nicole said that she always does a demonstration of a watermelon falling with a helmet on, and then another with no helmet so that children can see how much a helmet can protect them in case they fall off their bikes.
“Be proactive and not reactive,” said Nicole. “Don’t wrap your kids in bubble wrap, but be educated and get a helmet for your kids. Motivate and encourage your kids to wear the helmet.”
Open water fatalities occur mostly with teenagers between the ages of 15 to 19. Nicole recommends that everyone wear a certified (and well-fitting) personal flotation device to help prevent drowning. If you are on a boat, there must be one Coast Guard-approved life jacket per person.
“Know your weakness and don’t be daring,” Nicole recommended. “Understand what your strengths are and understand your weakness. If you can’t swim, don’t jump into the water.”
Nicole also mentioned using things around you to help save a drowning victim. A pool noodle is an excellent rescue device since it is long, it floats, and you can avoid getting in the water unless absolutely necessary. When it comes to pool safety, children between the ages of 1 to 4 years old are the most common victims of drowning. Parents need to pay attention when their kids are playing near water. Know basic first aid and CPR in case of emergencies, and if you can, enroll your kids in programs to help them learn to swim. Although sitting in the sun on your phone seems like a great time, if your kids are in the water you need to minimize distractions and keep the focus on them.
If your kids need to stay home while you work, make sure to get a certified babysitter who is first aid certified. Apply parental controls to the television and computer so children aren’t watching videos they shouldn’t be, and inform your babysitter of your household rules. If you take medications, safely store them somewhere a child can’t access. Plus make sure the babysitter knows the number for poison control and can take action in case your child accidentally ingests any medication. Nicole also suggests making sure heavy furniture is bolted to walls. Children love to climb, and she has seen a number of injuries from falling furniture that could have been prevented.
Going over a fire escape plan with your children is also a smart move, since having a plan will help your kids and family get to safety in the event of a fire. Make sure that your house is properly equipped with fire alarms and smoke detectors and that both your kids and the babysitter know what to do in the case of an emergency. Your children should know how to dial 911, and they should also know their parents’ full names and phone numbers. The number of children who don’t know their parents’ full names, their address, or a contact phone number is much higher than it should be! Being prepared is key to preventing injury.
Summer also comes with the 4th of July and fireworks. While sparklers may seem innocent enough for your children to play with, they can also be dangerous. A sparkler burns at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that into perspective, glass melts at 900 degrees Fahrenheit! Fireworks are responsible for 1 in 4 burn victims in hospitals and 2 out of 5 of all fires started—both of which are things that can easily be prevented. Burn injuries take a lot of time to heal and can be quite painful, so be careful this 4th of July.
When it comes to vehicle safety, there might be some unknown factors you didn’t even think about. Having a coffee cup or screwdriver laying in the back seat instantly becomes a projectile in the case of an accident. No one wants a screwdriver flying towards their head at 40 mph! Remember, if you have loose items in your car, store them in your trunk for safety.
So far we have been talking a lot about child safety, but never forget the elderly. Make sure the elderly are always well-hydrated, and the easiest way to do that is by giving them Jell-O. (Be sure to make it sugar-free if the senior in question has glucose issues.)
Nicole also mentioned the importance of using insect repellent and of course always wearing sunscreen when you are in the sun. She also mentioned the importance of learning how to stop bleeding. Using a tourniquet is a critical skill, and knowing how to stop the flow of blood could be the difference between life and death. There are classes you can take to learn the correct method if you are interested.
If you want to learn more, check out safekids.org to get prepared and learn about other essential safety areas. Have a safe summer!
Published Kudos magazine 5.3
By Tami Benedict