Keeping Your Kids Safe Outdoors

For kids, summer usually means a lot of swimming, biking and playing outside.

But this time of year is not all fun and games; it's actually the most dangerous time of year for kids. More children visit the emergency room during the summer months than they do at any other time of the year.

On the Fourth of July your kids face additional risks, even in your own backyard. Camille Chatterjee, an editor with Parenting magazine visits The Early Show to offer advice on avoiding some of the most common outdoor hazards.

Fireworks injure nearly 4000 kids each year. Boys aged 10 to 14 are actually at the highest risk, but fireworks - even "safe" fireworks - pose a danger to all kids. You may be surprised to hear that sparklers are one of the top three fireworks most likely to hurt someone. They burn at temperatures up to 2,000 degrees. What parent would hand their child something that hot? Sparklers also easily ignite clothing.

What can parents do?

  • Parenting magazine suggests not allowing young children to even touch fireworks, and closely supervising other children. The best way to avoid injury is to visit a professional fireworks show.
  • Make it clear that kids should never use fireworks unless an adult is present, and they should leave the area immediately if their kids begin playing with fireworks.
  • Teach your children to "stop, drop, and roll" in case their clothing does catch on fire.
  • Never try to re-ignite fireworks that malfunction.
Find information about Drowning and Sun exposure in page 2, and Bugs and Active Driveways in page 3.

This is one of the biggest summer dangers kids face. Sixty percent of drowning occurs among children four and under. The vast majority are boys. What should scare parents most of all is that seven out of ten children who drown are being "supervised" at the time.

And kids don't need a pool or lake to get in trouble. A cooler full of melted ice or a wading pool can spell trouble. Keeping a child safe involves more than putting up a fence around a pool.

What can parents do?

  • Safety experts recommend "actively supervising" kids around water. This means trying to maintain eye contact with kids at all times. Parents should NOT be drinking, grilling, talking on the phone or reading while supervising.
  • At a party, designate an adult as the "water watcher." You can rotate this responsibility, but make sure one person is assigned at all times. What often happens is that all adults assume someone else is keeping a close eye on the pool.
  • Remember - inflatable water wings and inner tubes will not keep kids from drowning and any child using one should not be considered "safe."

All parents realize they need to protect their kids from the sun, but sometimes this is easier said than done. Plus, there are so many different sunscreens out there, you have to wonder: Is one better than another? Parenting magazine has some suggestions:
  • You need to buy a sunscreen that provides both UVA and UVB protection, and is paba-free. Paba is a chemical that irritates children's skin.
  • For babies 6 months and younger who will be in direct sunlight, opt for a swimsuit with as much coverage as possible, or have boys cover up with a t-shirt. Babies this young should use chemical-free children's sun block with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, like Mustela's High Protection sun lotion, since regular sunscreen can be irritating at this age.
  • Kids older than 6 months can use standard infant sun blocks like Coppertone Water Babies, but make sure they're paba-free and be sure to apply it 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Other good picks include: Banana Boat Baby Magic Sunblock Lotion SPF 50 and Coppertone Kids Sunblock Lotion SPF 40.

    A note on these high SPF numbers - they do not protect skin better than a lower SPF, but they do last a bit longer, which is great for kids.

  • Of course, the best protection is to keep kids out of direct sunlight whenever possible. Products like the Kel-Gar Sun Dome and the Graco Pack n' Play Sport provide safe, sun-free areas for kids to hang out and play in the shade.

    The Kel-Gar Kids' Sun Dome is the cheaper option at $35. It easily pops up and easily folds back into its own carrying case to provide shelter from the sun - not to mention a fun hangout spot for naps and snacks. ($35. Available at: 800-388-1848,

    The Graco Pack 'N Play Sport is a new version of the old standard, and it's much easier to open: Just take it out of its carrying case, expand the walls with one push, and secure the latches on either side. The padded, water-resistant floor makes for quick cleaning after a long day in the sand or dirt (you can hose it down and let it drip-dry), and the canopy, which provides UV protection, slips right into a hidden storage pocket. ($150, 800-345-4109,

Kids' sensitive skin is particularly vulnerable to bug bites, and parents certainly want to protect little ones from ticks.

What can parents do?

  • If your child can't stand bug spray, L.L. Bean offers a line of Bug-Repellent Clothing. This is the first line of kids' clothing to be approved by the EPA. A safe dose of permethrin is pre-applied to the clothes, and the effectiveness lasts for 25 washes. Unlike DEET, which repels insects, permethrin actually kills them when they get stuck on the fabric, as ticks sometimes do.
  • If bugs are really a problem for your child, you'll still need to apply bug spray to exposed skin. Buy a product with no more than a 10 percent concentration of DEET (marked on the label), and follow the product's instructions on age restrictions and how to apply.
  • Keep excess DEET absorption down by applying it only as frequently as recommended. Skip combo sunscreen-DEET products. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied often; DEET doesn't. It's especially important to keep DEET away from your child's eyes and mouth.
  • Apply the product to her face by first putting some in your hands, and then wiping it onto her skin.
  • Don't put any on kids' hands, since they often touch their faces.
    A good choice: Off!'S Skintastic Insect Repellant For The Family with 4.75 percent DEET.

Driveway Safety
On the Fourth, the driveway can be a dangerous place. There are lots of cars coming and going, and lots of kids riding bikes, playing ball, etc.

What can parents do?

  • On this busy day, it really makes sense to block off your driveway. This keeps kids and drivers contained. You can simply put trashcans or lawn chairs across the bottom of the driveway.
  • Or, invest in The Kid Safe Driveway Guard from KidKusion. It is a 36"-high net suspended between two poles that expands to separate your driveway's end from the street. Cost is $90.00.