Texas Parenting News
Keep children safe in summer
Summer outdoor activities often include swimming, trips to the park, picnics and backyard barbecues, and visiting family and friends. Don’t ruin summer fun by ignorance or carelessness with children.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rate. Most of those drownings occur in home swimming pools.
If you have a home pool or use a friend’s or relative’s, take steps to keep your child safe.
Teach children to swim. Research has shown that formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning for children 1 to 4 years old.
Don’t rely on air-filled or foam toys, such as water wings or noodles, to keep children from going under. These are toys, not lifejackets.
Supervise children constantly while they are in a pool, including wading pools. With babies and toddlers, stay within arm’s reach. Even if children have had formal swimming lessons, constant supervision is imperative. Adults should not be reading, talking on the phone, or otherwise engaged in a distracting activity.
Keep children away from drains, pipes, and other openings to avoid entrapments.
Set rules for pool use: No running around the pool. No diving in the shallow end. No holding people’s heads under water. No glass at poolside. No swimming alone. The rules apply to everyone, not just children.
Make sure the pool is surrounded by fencing at least 4 feet high on all sides. Check local zoning codes for specific height requirements. Latches should be self-closing and out of children’s reach.
If your house serves as one side of the barrier, install door and window alarms that sound when they are opened.
Consider installing a cover for the pool or spa to prevent a child from falling in. A cover will also help keep out pets, toys, and leaves.
Just in case
Learn how to perform CPR on children (and adults).
Have a phone nearby at all times.
If a child is missing, check the pool first.
For more information, check these websites:
Prevent illness from waterborne germs
Despite chlorination and routine maintenance, the water in pools and water parks can make people sick, commonly with diarrhea but also with skin, ear, respiratory, eye, and other infections.
Yes, chlorine kills germs but not instantly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some germs have become “very tolerant to chlorine.” “Once these germs get into the pool, it can take anywhere from minutes to days for the chlorine to kill them.”
Diarrheal illnesses are caused by germs such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, norovirus, and E. coli. Swallowing such germ-infected water, breathing its mists, or having contact with it can make you sick.
As parents we can help prevent illness in others by doing the following:
Take children on bathroom breaks at least every hour. Don’t let them urinate or defecate in the water.
Change diapers in the bathroom, not by the pool.
Don’t let children or any family members in the pool if they have diarrhea.
If you have a pool, check the free chlorine level and pH before getting into the water. Proper free chlorine level is 1-3 mg/L or parts per million, and pH is 7.2 to 7.8. Most pool supply and hardware stores sell pool test strips.
We can help prevent illness in our children and family by doing the following:
Don’t swallow the water.
Avoid getting into the water if you think others are carelessly peeing into it or babies are wearing dirty diapers.
Ask the pool or water park operator if the chlorine and pH levels are checked at least twice a day, or whether ultraviolet or ozone disinfectant technology is also used to treat the water.
For more information, check this website:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Healthy Swimming/Recreational Water,” www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/.
Prevent Salmonella illness
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children younger than 5 have higher rates of Salmonella illness than any other age group.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that causes diarrhea and stomach cramps. In most cases, the illness lasts four to seven days and patients recover, but if diarrhea is severe, patients may need to be hospitalized. In severe cases, the infection may spread from the intestines to the blood and then other parts of the body. If not treated promptly with antibiotics, the illness can be fatal.
People get sick with Salmonella usually by eating infected animal products such as poultry, beef, fish, eggs, and dairy products or by other foods that have been in contact with infected animal products. In recent years, the bacteria has also been found in fruits and vegetables, including melons, alfalfa sprouts, and cucumbers.
Take steps to prevent Salmonella by practicing food safety habits in the kitchen and in outdoor cooking activities.
Wash up first
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before handling any food.
Wash hands after handling raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.
Clean cutting boards, counters, and other surfaces before using.
Wash your hands thoroughly after contact with animals, especially chicks, turtles, and lizards, and their environments.
Keep food properly refrigerated
Keep perishable food refrigerated before cooking. The temperature inside the refrigerator should be at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Transfer frozen or refrigerated foods directly to a cooler with ice or freezer packs for travel or camping. Keep the cooler in the shade or cover it with blankets.
Keep raw meats wrapped separately from cooked foods or other food meant to be eaten raw, like carrot sticks and fruit.
Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Don’t let food remain on the table longer than two hours.
Handling and cooking
Separate cooked foods from ready-to-eat foods. Keep utensils and platters used on raw food separate from other utensils and platters.
Wash and scrub vegetables before cooking.
Thaw meats thoroughly in the refrigerator or microwave or by placing sealed packets in cool water.
Cook meats to the recommended internal temperature, usually between 145 and 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer to make sure. Thorough cooking can kill Salmonella.
Heat leftover cooked food to at least 165 degrees before serving.
Avoid eating raw or lightly cooked meats, eggs, and foods that contain uncooked eggs, like cookie dough.
Don’t eat meat, poultry, eggs, or sliced fresh fruits and vegetables left out longer than two hours.
For more information, check these websites:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Reports of Selected Salmonella Outbreak Investigations,” www.cdc.gov/salmonella/outbreaks.html.
Eating Well, “10 Commandments of Food Safety,” www.eatingwell.com/food_news_origins/food_news/10_commandments_of_food_safety.
Food Safety, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.foodsafety.gov/keep/events/summervacations/index.html.
Prevent dog bites
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, children are the most likely people to be bitten by dogs and are also the most likely to be severely injured by dog bites. Furthermore, dog bites usually occur during everyday activities and with a dog you know.
Take steps to prevent your child getting bitten—and your dog from biting others.
Dogs you don’t know
Back away slowly from a growling dog. If you feel threatened, stay still. Don’t turn and run.
Beware of a dog that is still and staring at you, which can mean the dog sees you as a threat.
Don’t assume that a wagging tail means a friendly dog. It could be overly excited or stressed out. The same is true of a dog that is licking its lips, yawning, or looking like it is smiling.
Avoid a dog that is pulling on its leash and not walking easily.
Stay away from a dog that is moving away from you, which could mean it’s afraid.
Avoid a dog wearing a yellow bandana, usually a signal that the dog needs space from other dogs and from people.
Avoid a dog wearing a muzzle around its jaws. The muzzle could mean the owner wants to keep the dog from biting people or barking.
Avoid a dog wearing a cone (lampshade) on its neck. It may be used as a protective device to prevent the dog from licking a wound, or it could be intended to keep the dog from biting people.
Should you try to pet a friendly looking dog?
Ask the owner: “Is your dog friendly?” It’s not wise to ask, “Can we pet your dog?” Few dog owners want to say no to a child.
Don’t put out your hand to the dog’s face, or your face to the dog’s face. That’s invading the dog’s physical space.
Don’t look directly into a dog’s eyes. It’s threatening.
Approach the dog from the side and pet its shoulder, not its head.
If the dog begins looking nervous or tense, move away.
Don’t reach through a fence to pet a dog.
With your dog:
Don’t interrupt any dog that is eating, playing with a toy, sleeping, or taking care of puppies.
Monitor your children’s interaction with the dog. Don’t allow pulling the dog’s tail, yanking its ears, or sitting or riding on the dog’s back.
Keep your dog healthy. Get it vaccinated against rabies and other diseases. How a dog feels can affect its behavior.
The veterinary association recommends that parents wait until a child is at least 4 years old before getting a dog as a pet.
For more information, see these websites:
American Veterinary Medical Association, www.avma.org.
Yellow Dog Project, www.theyellowdogproject.com/The_Yellow_Dog_Project/About.html.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, “Teaching Your Dog to Wear a Muzzle,” www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/teaching-your-dog-wear-muzzle.
Returning home after flooding
Have flash floods or storms hit your home? Coming back to clean up can be dangerous for children and families. The guidelines below can help.
Watch for public announcements that the area is safe for return. Listen for announcements about whether water is safe to drink and use.
As you approach your home, look for loose power lines, structural cracks, and other damage. If power lines are down, don’t step in puddles of water. If you smell gas or hear a hissing sound, leave immediately.
Watch out for wildlife, especially snakes, that may have come in with the flood water.
Wear rubber boots and gloves while cleaning.
Don’t let children play with flood water, rocks, and other debris. It may be contaminated with chemicals or sewage.
Remember that a wound coming in contact with flood water may require a person to get a tetanus shot.
Don’t use contaminated water for washing your hands or brushing your teeth. Don’t use it to wash or cook food, make ice, or prepare baby formula.
Throw out foods, dishes, and other items that have been contaminated by flood water. If power has been off, you may need to throw out food in the refrigerator and freezer.
Disinfect tap water by filtering it through a clean cloth, paper towel, or paper coffee filter. Then bring it to a rolling boiling for one minute. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can use liquid chlorine bleach to make water safe to drink. Add 1/8 teaspoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water and wait 30 minutes before consuming. See www.cdc.gov/healthywater/pdf/emergency/09_202278-B_Make_Water_Safe_Flyer_508.pdf.
Disinfect surfaces, toys, linens, and other items by using a solution of clean water and liquid chlorine bleach, as directed on the label. Throw out pillows and other items that cannot be disinfected.
When using chlorine bleach, move children out of the area and ventilate the space to avoid inhaling the fumes.
Remember that natural disasters can be psychologically traumatic for children. Limit media viewing and watch news with children to help them process the information.
For more information, see the family information website, healthychildren.org, of the American Academy of Pediatrics, especially “Flash Flood Recovery Information for Families,” www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/flash-flood-recovery.aspx.