Keep Kids Safe This July 4th: Tips on Drowning Prevention, Fireworks Safety, Heat Illness, ATVs
The July Fourth holiday often brings the dangers of heat illness, fireworks, drownings and ATVs. Stay vigilant to keep children safe this weekend.
By Eline Wiggins
As families and friends come together to celebrate Independence Day, it's important to keep safety in mind. According to experts at Cook Children's, drowning is the primary threat to children during this holiday. Drowning patients are commonly seen in the emergency room and these incidents can often have severe outcomes.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend, consider the following safety tips:
- Always supervise children when they are in or near water, even if they know how to swim.
- Designate a Water Watcher, an adult who will watch all children while they are in or around water with no distractions.
- Keep pool areas fenced and locked when not in use and remove all pool toys/floats. One to 4-year-olds are at the most risk to drown in a pool.
From June 1 to June 23, 2023, there were 10 drownings treated at Cook Children’s, two of which were fatal. Most of these patients have been in the 5 years old and under age group.
Since Jan. 1, 2023, there have been 25 drownings at Cook Children’s, three of which were fatal. Most drownings in 2023 have occurred in a swimming pool or hot tub.
While most patients survived these incidents, drowning injuries can result in severe effects, especially on a child’s brain development.
Drownings can happen silently and quickly. A submerged person might not attract attention or appear to be in danger
Drownings can occur even with many adults present. When there are children around water, always designate a Water Watcher, an adult who is in charge of watching all children without any distractions. The Water Watcher should not use a cell phone, socialize, drink alcohol or do anything else that might be a distraction.
Parents can put barriers in place to help prevent a child from accessing the water or make it more difficult to access when an adult is not present. Barriers – such as locks, alarms and fencing – can help keep unsupervised young children from getting into swimming pools.
Go here for more information on Water Watcher tags. Lifeguardyourchild.org shares many resources and tips for drowning prevention.
In very hot weather, high humidity, and other conditions, heat in the body can build to dangerous levels. This can cause heat illness, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke.
With highs in the upper 90s, be sure to keep these heat safety tips in mind.
Wear appropriate clothing: Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes. Wear a hat to shield yourself from the sun, until you feel yourself getting warm. Then remove any items covering your head that can trap heat close to the body.
Schedule outdoor activities carefully: Heatstroke can occur in less than an hour when you are participating in a strenuous activity on a hot day. Try to limit outdoor activity to when it’s coolest, like morning and evening hours. Rest often in shady areas so your child’s body has a chance to recover.
Hydrate: Drink plenty of water during the day, especially if you are engaged in any strenuous activity. Be sure to drink water or a sports drink before, during and after any strenuous activity.
Wear sunscreen: If you go outside, use sunscreen, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and put on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before going outside. Continue to reapply according to the package directions.
Fireworks can cause severe injuries that are both harmful and painful to children. Children should never handle fireworks. Even seemingly harmless sparklers can heat up to more than 1,200 degrees, making them dangerous for young children.
Some people light sparklers at home or even set off their own fireworks, but this is dangerous. Some of the people hurt each year aren't the ones setting off the fireworks, but people who are nearby.
The safest way to enjoy fireworks is at a professional display.
If setting off fireworks at home, adults should only set them off in a designated “kid-free” zone. Adults should not hold fireworks in their hands or keep any part of their body over them while lighting. Wear eye protection, and don't carry fireworks in your pocket — the friction could set them off.
Point fireworks away from homes, and keep away from brush and leaves and flammable substances. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that local fire departments respond to more 50,000 fires caused by fireworks each year.
It’s also important to keep children away from bonfires and grills to help prevent any accidental burns.
Though often thrilling for children, off-road motorized vehicles — including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), ATV mules, go-karts, and even golf carts — can be extremely dangerous for them to ride, especially if they don’t use safety measures once they get on board. Cook Children's sees many patients with injuries from ATV accidents every year.
To prevent such injuries among children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 16 should not drive or ride as passengers in two- and four-wheeled off-road vehicles.
- Always wear protective gear such as:
- Eye Protection
- Boots, gloves, long pants, jacket
- Do not ride an ATV at night
- Take an ATV safety course
- Never ride on public roads
- Perform ATV safety checks
Lifeguard Your Child
Lifeguard Your Child began in 2016 and continues its regional collaboration, led by Cook Children’s, to prevent drownings in North Texas. The campaign aligns consistent messages and educational goals across our region. Together with community partners across 11 counties, we work year-round to provide education, Water Watcher tags, swim lessons, life jackets and other prevention tools to families.
The Lifeguard Your Child campaign is spread through the Safe Kids North Texas Coalition, which is based in Fort Worth and led by Cook Children’s.
The campaign’s strategies include Cook Children’s Loaner Life Jacket Stations at many lake entry points across the region. Families can go to the stations to find U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets in a variety of sizes with easy tips for a proper fit.
Safety tips for home swimming pools:
- Assign a water watcher, aka an adult who will commit to 100% supervision of children in and around water.
- Restrict access by installing door locks high out of children’s reach. Door and window alarms can signal if someone leaves the house.
- Install four-sided fencing around pools with a self-latching gate that only opens out. The fence should be at least 4 feet (preferably 5 feet) high.
- Remove all toys and floats from the pool area so children are not tempted to get close to the water.
- For above-ground pools, make sure the ladder is removed and not accessible when it’s not swimming time.
- Consider a pool surface alarm to alert if anyone/anything falls into the water.
Safety tips for the bathtub:
- An adult must stay at the side of the tub in reach of the child.
- Pay attention. This is not the time for multitasking.
- Ignore distractions like the doorbell or phone calls.
- Drain the tub after each use.
About Cook’s Children’s Health Care System
Cook Children’s is more than a health care system: we strive to be an extension of your family, growing with your child from their first steps to adulthood. By collaborating to deliver on our Promise—to improve the well-being of every child in our care and our communities, we connect the dots for our patients. Between primary and specialty. Between home and medical home. Between short-term care and long-term health.
Based in Fort Worth, Texas, we’re 8,000+ dedicated team members strong, passionately caring for over 1.5 million patient encounters each year. Our integrated, not-for-profit organization spans two medical centers (including our new, state-of-the-art location in Prosper), two surgery centers, a physician network, home health services and a health plan. It also includes Child Study Center at Cook Children's, Cook Children's Health Services Inc., and Cook Children's Health Foundation.
And our impact extends beyond the borders of Texas. We proudly treat children from virtually every state in the nation and 32 countries. By seeing the world through the eyes of children and their families from all backgrounds, we’re able to shape health care suited to them: connected by kindness, imagination and respect—with an extra dose of magical wonder. Discover more at cookchildrens.org.