A Cautionary Tale: The Misadventures of Summer & Top Injuries Seen at Cook Children's
Our pediatricians, who are not afraid of fun (we promise), weigh in on what summer activities they never allow their own children to do and share some items they never leave the house without.
By Ashley Antle
Ahh, summer. It’s full of adventure. Or, if your kids are anything like mine — misadventure.
Barely two weeks into our summer break this year I made a visit to urgent care with my 14-year-old to have a fish hook removed from his hand. Totally worth it, he says, since he caught a bass. (Insert my motherly eyeroll and exasperated sigh.)
The summer months can be busy ones in pediatric emergency departments, urgent care centers and pediatrician offices. With kids out of school and looking for fun, they sometimes find trouble that results in injury. Tragically, some of those injuries can be serious, life-altering or even fatal.
“In the summer, kids have all day and night to be able to get into trouble, which is what kids are supposed to do. They're just learning,” said Daniel Guzman, M.D., a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Cook Children’s Medical Center. “As parents, we're just trying to manage the chaos so they don’t make any tragic mistakes.”
Drownings top the list of summertime injuries and causes of death at Cook Children’s, according to Sharon Evans, trauma injury prevention coordinator. In fact, it tops the list nationally. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 4. For teens, it is the second leading cause of death.
The Center for Community Health, led by Cook Children’s, offers parents and kids water safety and drowning prevention education guides and resources like water-watcher tags and life jackets through its Lifeguard Your Child program. Through this program, anyone can learn how to choose and properly fit a life jacket, how to build a water safety plan, what type of physical barriers should be in place to secure backyard pools and tips for a safe and fun swim time.
After drownings, the top sources of summertime injuries sending kids to Cook Children’s Emergency Department include:
- Motor vehicle collisions
- All-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents
- Dog bites
- Falls on playground equipment and trampolines
Dr. Guzman says car and ATV accident injuries are often the most tragic.
An estimated four kids are seen in U.S. emergency departments every hour for injuries related to ATV accidents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. From 2017 to 2022, more than 700 North Texas children, most between the ages of 10 to 14, were treated at Cook Children’s Medical Center for serious injuries involving accidents with off-road motorized vehicles.
“The most critical injuries we see from these vehicles are head injuries from kids not wearing a helmet and being ejected,” Dr. Guzman said.
Golf carts can be particularly dangerous.
“With individual ATVs, people tend to put more of the safety equipment on their children, but with a golf cart people feel more secure and protected and less threatened,” he said. “They usually are not wearing a helmet or a seatbelt, so we see these ejections. When you are riding on pavement and it’s head versus pavement, the pavement always wins.”
While common summertime injuries seen at Cook Children’s Urgent Care Centers are more minor in nature than those in the Emergency Department, the sources of injury are often similar.
“We see lots of trampoline and bicycle injuries," said Kara Starnes, D.O, medical director of Cook Children’s Urgent Care Services. “Kids get outside, they're more active and they're more likely to break things. Bicycles, hoverboards, skateboards and trampolines are a big source of fractures or sprains. Fish hooks are more common in the summer, as are lacerations because kids are playing outside more. They get more cuts and things that need to be sewn up in the summertime.”
The primary care pediatrician’s summer risk list looks a little different given their focus on non-emergency care. When temperatures rise, pediatricians see more:
- Infected bug bites
- Poison ivy
- Swimmer’s ear infections
- Leg fractures
“Believe it or not, I see lots of leg fractures in little kids from sliding down a slide while sitting in their parent’s lap, because their leg gets caught between the parent and the side of the slide,” said Diane Arnaout, M.D., a pediatrician at Cook Children’s Pediatric Forest Park. “It’s a really dangerous thing to do.”
Pediatricians and Their Own Kids
Given these common injuries, we asked a few Cook Children’s physicians to weigh in on what they never allow their own children to do, or never let their kids leave the house without in the summer. It’s important to note these physicians are not afraid of fun, they just see the negative outcomes of these thrill-seeking activities on a daily basis. For them, the dangers associated with some of these risky behaviors outweigh the entertainment.
Here’s what they had to say:
“Trampolines are a big thing that I despise. We see so many injuries from those. You get multiple kids on a trampoline and that really becomes a problem. Another thing for me is golf carts. Until kids can drive, they probably shouldn't be in the golf cart unless mom or dad is in there with them. You wouldn't let your kid drive your car. Why would you let them drive a golf cart, ATV or other off-road motorized vehicle at a young age without any experience? They just don't understand the gravity of the responsibility or have the physical dexterity to maintain a vehicle.”
“I would never let my kids ride their bikes without a helmet because we see some pretty severe head injuries from bike accidents. ATVs are an absolute hard no for me. Also, kids go barefoot a lot in the summer, so we'll see things get stuck in their feet more often, like glass or gravel. To avoid this, I would recommend they at least wear flip flops or some sort of shoe while playing outside.”
“I never let my kids leave the house without a water bottle in the summer. We don’t do trampolines without safety nets or bikes without helmets. And ATVs are a no-go for me.”
“Insect repellant, sunscreen and big hats for scalp protection are a must for my kiddos. Water safety is my No. 1 topic in the summer and must be the No. 1 focus of parents when their kids are in or near bodies of water.”
- Should My Child Ride ATVs? Cook Children's Experts Weigh In (checkupnewsroom.com)
- Sunburn Relief at Home, When to See a Pediatrician (checkupnewsroom.com)
- Pediatrician Shares Top Beach Vacation Health Tips (checkupnewsroom.com)
- Heads Up: Helmet Tips for Safer Bicycling (checkupnewsroom.com)
- Teen Driver? What to Know Before They Go This Summer (checkupnewsroom.com)