TIPS: Protect children in summer weather
BOSTON (Mass.gov) – As summer weather approaches and as COVID-19 restrictions on daily activities begin to lift, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) reminds residents to take precautions recommended for the safety of young children this summer.
Prevent tick bites
Ticks can make you sick when they bite. They are most often found in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas. Ticks only attach themselves when you come into direct contact with them – they cannot jump or fly. Follow these steps to protect yourself from tick bites:
- Check yourself for ticks once a day – this is the most important thing you can do.
- Use repellents that contain DEET on your exposed skin and those that contain permethrin on your clothes.
- When walking or hiking, stick to the main trails and the center of the trails if you can. Brushing against tall grass and bushes will increase your exposure to ticks.
- If time permits, wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into the socks. This will help keep ticks away from your skin and make it easier to spot ticks on your clothes.
Because dogs and horses are particularly susceptible, talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to protect your animals from tick-borne illnesses.
Prevent mosquito bites
The 2019 and 2020 mosquito seasons have been active for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in Massachusetts. This mosquito-borne disease usually appears in 2-3 year cycles, traditionally peaking in August. The presence of EEE last year, a relatively mild winter and historical trends suggest an active season this year.
Although the risk of human infection with EEE or West Nile virus does not occur until late summer, people have an important role to play in protecting themselves from these diseases which can be very serious. To prepare for mosquito season:
- Drain the standing water in and around your home or garden to prevent mosquito breeding.
- Repair window and door screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.
- Use a mosquito repellent with an ingredient registered by the EPA according to the directions.
- Wear clothing to reduce exposed skin when weather permits.
For more information on preventing mosquito and tick-borne diseases, visit www.mass.gov/mosquitoesandticks.
Water and pool safety
Drowning is a leading killer of young children, both nationally and in Massachusetts, with backyard swimming pools the highest risk for children under 5. To help prevent water-related injuries and drowning:
- Children should be supervised in and around the water at all times.
- Whenever infants and toddlers are in or near water, including the bathtub, an adult should be on hand at all times to provide “tactile supervision”.
- Completely separate the house and the playground from the pool yard with a fence. Consider automatic door locks or alarms to prevent access.
- Remove floats, balls and other toys from the pool after use so that children are not tempted to reach them. Once the kids are done swimming, secure the pool so they cannot return to it.
- Keep life-saving equipment (such as a shepherd’s hook or life jacket) and a phone near the pool.
- For children who cannot swim, use a properly fitted, US Coast Guard approved life jacket. DPH, in cooperation with the USCG, has created a fit test video that can help test the fit of lifejackets: https://youtu.be/1I3VZf-NqPc.
- Do not use toys such as “water wings” or “noodles” in place of life jackets. They are not designed to ensure the safety of swimmers.
In public bathing areas:
- Where possible, choose lifeguarded swimming spots and swim only in designated swimming areas.
- Always swim with a buddy.
- Look for signage on the beaches. The DPH collects data on beach water quality and educates the public about bacteria levels to minimize illness and injury associated with swimming.
Falls are the leading cause of injury to children, and falls from windows involving young children are particularly serious. Falling windows are preventable. Mosquito nets are not strong enough to prevent children from falling out of windows. To prevent window falls, parents and caregivers should:
- Keep furniture – and anything a child can climb on – away from windows.
- When possible, open windows from the top, not from the bottom, and lock all unopened windows and doors.
- Make sure children are always supervised.
- Install quick-release window guards that can be found at most hardware stores.
To learn more about preventing childhood injuries, visit DPH Injury Prevention and Control Program website.
Additional tips on preventing falls in children can be found on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. falls prevention website.
The interior of a vehicle can be a very dangerous place for children left inside. During the summer months in New England, the temperature in an enclosed car can rise rapidly and the vehicle can become a deadly place for a child, left even for a moment.
To ensure the safety of young children in and around cars:
- Never leave children alone in a parked vehicle, even when they are asleep or tied up, and even if the windows are open.
- Always check the interior of the vehicle – front and rear – before locking the door and walking away.
- If a child is missing, check your vehicle first, including the trunk.
- Do things to remind yourself that a child is in the vehicle, such as placing your purse or briefcase in the backseat to check the backseat when you exit the vehicle.
- Always lock your car and keep the keys out of the reach of children.
- Provide adequate supervision when children play in areas near parked motor vehicles.
If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress from the heat, get them out as quickly as possible and call 911 immediately.
Remember that all children 12 and under should sit in the backseat, securely buckled up, even during fast runs. Infants and toddlers should stay in rear-facing car seats until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer. At a minimum, children should ride rearward facing until they are at least one year old and weigh at least 20 pounds. Yes