by Sarah Hunstead RN (B. Nurs.), MN
It’s that time of year again. Pack away the winter woollies and brush off the barbie tongs!
As a paediatric emergency nurse and mother of two, I know each season brings its own set of issues. In summer, it’s the outdoor stuff — from grazed knees and sunburn to drowning tragedies. Being aware of the most common sticky situations kids get themselves into and staying calm and knowing what to do if things go wrong is the key to surviving summer.
#1 – Don’t let Santa forget the helmet
For many children, Christmas morning heralds the arrival of their first bike or scooter. For older kids, Santa usually remembers that a helmet is a very important accessory, however the bearded guy can get a bit forgetful when it comes to toddlers. We often think that a toddler on a three-wheel scooter or trike couldn’t get into too much trouble, but this is far from the truth. These little ones can get to warp speed very quickly but lack the stopping ability of the older kids. And they can’t steer. Insist on a “No hat, no wheels” policy in your household. Form good habits early. Instead of a nasty head or facial injury, your little road hog will hopefully escape with some bumps and grazes — and these will heal!
#2 – Watch the water
Everyone knows you need to watch kids around water. You know the drill: Keep the pool gate closed, watch them at the beach and take the plug out of the bath. Here’s another one: Resist the temptation to leave the inflatable kiddie pool filled with water after the kids have finished. Yes, they don’t hold much water but it only takes five centimetres of water and 20 seconds for a child to drown. Even if you’re planning to use the pool later in the day, give the veggie garden a drink with the water and refill when the kids want to play again. Squirt them with the hose while you’re at it!
#3 – Kids and barbecues don’t mix
Summer isn’t summer without the quintessential Aussie barbecue. And once the kids come along, barbecues tend to be the number one option for family socialising (gone are the days of meeting the girls for a Saturday afternoon drink at the local wine bar — at least for a while, anyway!). Curious little fingers reach up onto the hot plate of the barbecue, looking for another sausage. Toddlers can be very clever at climbing up onto anything, barbecues included. The First Aid treatment for burns is a minimum of 20 minutes of cold running tap water over the affected area. If you’re near the barbie, use the garden hose. Remove any clothing over the burned area unless it’s stuck to the skin and seek medical help. Remember: Babies and children burn at much lower temperatures and in a shorter amount of time than adults — and that goes for sun exposure too.
#4 – Cut up the grapes
Frozen or chilled fruit such as grapes and strawberries are a great treat on a hot summer day. As tempting as it may be to serve them whole once your little one has some teeth, you need to cut the grapes into quarters. A grape is the perfect size for a baby or child to choke on. It can very easily get stuck in a child’s airway with potentially tragic circumstances. So cut up the grapes and other fruits and know what to do if a wayward serving does get stuck.
#5 – Pests (not the kids)
Warm weather = insects. Mosquitoes, Sand flies, March flies and other bite-y insects are always an issue, some more so than others depending on where you live in Australia. There are many natural insect repellents on the market that are very effective. The repellent you choose should depend on the area in which you live. In tropical areas you will need a more ‘heavy duty’ repellent. To minimise insects around your home, make sure there isn’t any stagnant water lying around, such as in pot plant dishes and old pet bowls. Mozzies don’t like the breeze so turn a fan on in your child’s bedroom overnight to keep them out. If you use a mosquito net over the cot, make sure your child cannot get tangled in the material.
Take the time over summer to do a face-to-face First Aid course. The key to helping your child in an emergency situation is knowing what to do so you can stay calm and help your most precious little ones in the best way possible. Empower yourself with life saving skills and enjoy the sunshine.
Sarah Hunstead is a Registered Nurse and is the author of A Life. A Finger. A Pea up a nose. A Practical Guide to Baby and Child First Aid. Available for $24.95 with free shipping www.sarahhunstead.com