Medical Minute: Outdoor injury prevention starts in your own backyard

By Susan Rzucidlo

Each of five major child injury hazards — motor vehicles, drowning, burns, falls and poison — can be found in the back yard during the summer. Riding mowers, inflatable pools, home playground equipment and even natural vegetation and sunlight require a few simple precautions.

All of the safety guidelines you apply to sports, playgrounds and swimming apply to those activities in your own back yard. For instance, an inflatable pool needs to be surrounded by a fence, just like any other pool. A home playground needs to be anchored on an appropriate surface just like equipment on a public playground.

Safe Kids Dauphin County recommends these precautions for activities in the back yard:

  • Install four-sided isolation fencing with self-closing and self-latching gates around pools and spas. Wading pools should be emptied after each use and stored upside down. Always actively supervise children around water.
  • Be sure home playground equipment is age-appropriate and surrounded six feet in all directions by at least 12 inches of loose fill materials such as shredded rubber or wood chips. Grass and asphalt are not safe surfaces for equipment.
  • Treat a riding mower like any other motor vehicle: Keep ignition keys out of reach. Remember not to give rides on a riding mower, as a child may become injured if he approaches for a ride when an adult is mowing. Look before backing up. Children should be kept in the house whenever a mower or other power equipment is being used.
  • Remove potential poisons from your yard, including poisonous plants, pesticides and pool chemicals. Teach kids not to handle or eat any part of a plant unless you know it is safe.
  • Keep children away from the grill area while preheating and cooking and while the grill is cooling.
  • Teach children not to disturb or feed any wild animals, no matter how harmless the animals may seem.
  • Look all around vehicles in the driveway before backing up to make sure that no children or adults are behind the vehicle.
  • Apply sunscreen rated SPF 15 or higher to your child’s exposed skin 15 to 30 minutes before going out, and reapply frequently. Remember that it is possible to get sunburned in cloudy conditions.
  • Make sure your child stays hydrated.

For more information on keeping you and your family safe at home, play and on the way, call the injury prevention line at (717) 531-SAFE (7233).

Safe Kids Dauphin County led by Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital is part of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, the first and only national, nonprofit organization dedicated solely to the prevention of unintentional childhood injury—the number one killer of children ages 14 and under. More than 300 state and local Safe kids Coalitions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico make up the Campaign.

Susan Rzucidlo, M.S.N., R.N., is coordinator of the Dauphin County Safe Kids Coalition, led by Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, and the pediatric trauma program nurse manager at Children’s Hospital.

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Last Updated July 22, 2015