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Stressing Summer Safety for Children
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Read The Connection story about the Keep Your Child Safe town hall meeting I held last week.

Stressing Summer Safety for Children
Members of Safe Kids educate parents on ways to keep children safe.

By Alex McVeigh
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
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As summer sets and children prepare for three months of swimming and playing outdoors, Safe Kids of Fairfax County is trying to make sure they do it in the safest way possible. Del. Barbara Comstock (R-34) hosted a meeting at the Great Falls Library on Tuesday, June 7, to help parents find ways to make sure their children stay safe in the water and outdoors. 
Safe Kids is an initiative led by Inova Fairfax Hospital Trauma Center. According to Safe Kids, almost 3 million children per summer go to the emergency room with injuries resulting in falls, motor vehicle crashes, swimming accidents and more. More than 2,000 of these children die every year from injuries that Safe Kids say can be prevented. 

"We all get a little relaxed during the summer," Comstock said. "But there’s plenty to be on guard about, especially if you have little ones."

Leaving children in a car while unattended resulted in almost 50 deaths last year from hyperthermia, which occurs when the body starts to produce more heat than it can dissipate. Even with a window open on a mild day, temperatures can still climb to dangerous levels in a car. 

"Even in temperatures around 70-72 degrees, there have been fatalities from hyperthermia," said Linda Watkins of Safe Kids. "Never leave children in cars, even for a minute. I know sometimes we all think we’re just going to go into 7-Eleven for a minute, but what happens if the line is long, and you’re there for 10 minutes? In just 10 minutes, a car can heat by up to 19 degrees."

Watkins said that children’s bodies can heat three to five times faster than adults. 

When temperatures climb, it’s natural to cool off in community or personal pool, but those are also danger zones for young children. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1 to 4 in the United States. 

According to Safe Kids, almost 75 percent of drowning victims are male. Victims are usually toddlers, but children ages 11 to 12 are also at risk. Almost 90 percent of victims were being "supervised" at the time of the incident. 

"Toddlers can fall into a pool with no sound, no splash, they just fall right to the bottom. This idea of it happening silently while the supervisor is right there is a huge issues," said Rebecca Fish of Safe Kids. "Constant supervision is a must. Everybody thinks they can do it, but we all get distracted, you pick up your phone, you talk to your friend and that’s all it takes."

Fish said children can drown in just an inch of water, meaning bathtubs, buckets and other containers can also pose a risk. Safe Kids recommends appointing a "dedicated watcher" at all times, who focuses exclusively on children in the water. 

They also recommend that pool owners use isolation style fences, which surround the pool on all sides and keep it separate from the yard and house. Older pools, spas and hot tubs need anti-entrapment drains, which children can get their hair or fingers caught in, trapping them underwater. 

Even while staying away from the water, children (and adults) can still get themselves into trouble. Lyme disease is an issue in Great Falls, as the rural nature allows animals such as deer to spread the disease around. Sharon Rainey of Great Falls got the disease when she was 19 and lived with it, undiagnosed, for 29 years. She has been in treatment for the past two years. 

"Lyme disease can present in a myriad of different ways. You might think a bulls-eye rash or a tick, but you don’t have to have that," said Rainey. "If you have a gut feeling something is wrong with your child, but you can’t seem to get it figured out, just keep going, keep talking to doctors."

After six years of testing by more than 20 doctors, as well as a few false diagnoses, Rainey was finally diagnosed with Bartonella, a co-infection of Lyme disease. Rainey passed the disease to her son in utero, and her husband also has it. She says all three of them manifested very different symptoms. She remembers her son not liking birthday parties or the circus, because he was sensitive to light and sound. He would also get unexplained fevers and have digestive problems. 
Other symptoms such as joint pain, memory loss, sleeping problems, unexplained stretch marks, increased irritability or repeated bouts of mono or the flu can also be symptoms. 

"If any of your family pets have tested positive for Lyme, your family needs to be tested," Rainey said. "The most important thing is to keep out of tall grass. Wear protective clothing, ticks like to jump from the blades of grass onto a child."

More information about diagnosing and testing for Lyme disease can be found at the National Capital Area Lyme Disease Association at www.natcaplyme.org. 

Susan Kurtz of Cultural Care Au Pair brought 10 of their au pairs who are from overseas to learn about risks facing the children they will be caring for this summer. The au pairs come from Germany, Sweden, Columbia, Slovakia, Austria and Poland among others, and Kurtz said this was a valuable learning experience for them. 

"These are issues that are different than ones they could face in their countries, so I think this was very important for them to learn," Kurtz said. "I think the part about drowning and pool safety was particularly relevant, because a lot of homes they will be working at might have their own pools."

More information about summer safety from Safe Kids can be found by calling 703-776-3259, or online at www.safekids.org.


Paid for by Friends of Barbara Comstock.