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Sunday, June 29, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.
Summer: We love it, but does it love us back? The days of sunshine, hiking, boating and swimming are sometimes called "Trauma Season," when the very pastimes we enjoy, the tools we use and the toys we play with can turn against us. But with a little caution and common sense, many summer mishaps can be avoided.
Chances of drowning in an area with lifeguards on duty: 1-in-16 million. Chances of having lifeguards at all public beaches especially in tough economic times: zero.
"I'm probably one of the few people rooting for green algae (in Green Lake) just to shut down the swimming," said Tony Gomez, chair of the Seattle/King County Drowning Prevention Coalition, noting that East Green Lake Beach is one of four beaches within King County with lifeguard service discontinued this year. (Others are Pritchard Island on Lake Washington, Lake Wilderness in Maple Valley and Five-Mile Lake in Federal Way.)
On the plus side, a growing number of public pools, such as the Lynnwood Pool, have lifejackets available for free use to encourage swimmers to make them a habit.
Wear a life vest. Don't rely on an inflatable toy; it could easily slip away or deflate.
Swim with a buddy, never alone.
If you tire while swimming, relax your body, tilt your head back and push your stomach toward the sky.
Don't try to swim to shore if a strong riptide is pulling you out. Swim parallel to the shore until free of the current.
If you have a pool in your yard, fence it securely and have a phone nearby. In an emergency, seconds can matter.
For youngsters, open water and pools aren't the only dangers. Toddlers have drowned in hot tubs, garden ponds, bathtubs, toilets and five-gallon buckets.
Stay sober on the water. Drinking is a factor in up to half of adult drownings.
SUNLIGHT'S DARK SIDE
Even that big yellow orb that virtually defines summer can paint tender bodies with sunburn and lead to deadly skin cancer. Use sunscreen, but don't forget the little ones. Here are tips for putting sunscreen on squirming children:
Play connect the dots. Put dots of sunscreen on children's bodies and have them connect the dots by rubbing in the sunscreen.
Babies under 6 months of age should not wear sunscreen and should be kept out of the direct sunlight. Keep your baby in light clothing and under the shade of a tree, umbrella or stroller canopy.
"Fireworks bans are almost irrelevant. Invariably, we will have a finger or a hand blown off over the course of the Fourth of July weekend," said Jurkovich.
Which fireworks cause the most injuries?
Firecrackers: 46.5 percent
Roman candles: 7.3
Aerial shells: 4.9
People under 20 account for nearly two-thirds of all fireworks injuries in the country.
Fire officials say there's no such thing as a "safe and sane" firework. A sparkler burns at 1,800 degrees, hot enough to melt gold.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE
On the street: Traffic accidents are a danger all year, but summer sees a spike. Deadliest months on Washington roads? July, August and September. Drivers are spending more time behind the wheel; pedestrians are exploring unfamiliar areas and summer-only cyclists are less experienced at handling the hazards.
Float your boat: Drowning isn't the only boat-related danger. Shipboard fires, accidents, even carbon monoxide build-up take their toll. And two or three times a month, Harborview will see someone who's been run over by a boat propeller.
Your furry friends: Summer is also the deadliest time for pets. Make sure animals get plenty of water, and don't leave them in parked cars with the windows rolled up. Poisoning is another danger and can be caused by:
Large doses of the flea and tick medicine used on the animals.
Bait in traps set for rats and mice.
Insecticide and herbicide used on lawns and gardens.
Mower mishaps send 68,000 Americans a year to the hospital with cuts, burns and other injuries.
With a walk-behind power mower, mow an incline from side to side to decrease the chance that mower and feet may meet. But with a riding mower, mow up and down the slope to prevent a rollover. Do not use a riding mower on or near a steep slope.
Keep kids off riding mowers. Children riding in the operator's lap may fall or jump into the path of the machine. Nationally, 75 people are killed each year and 20,000 are hurt by riding lawnmowers and garden tractors.
Wear leather shoes with good traction.
Move a mower away from the fuel supply before starting. Mixed with the right amount of air, a gallon of gasoline can pack the punch of 83 pounds of dynamite.
For the brochure "Water Safety: A Parent's Guide for Children and Teens," from Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center, call 206-987-2500 and press 4.
Summer Safety sites
Sources: Harborview Medical Center, Public Health Seattle & King County, National Fire Protection Association, Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Washington Traffic Safety Commission, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
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