CATES: Summer safety more important than ever

I was talking to a friend yesterday and she shared that during one of the Memorial Day get- togethers several of the kids were severely sunburned.

She said, “It’s been so long since we’ve been able to get together as a group, we all thought someone else was making sure the kids had on sunscreen.  We didn’t figure out we hadn’t ‘assigned’ someone like we normally do until it was too late.”

I hadn’t thought about until she said those words, ‘‘it’s been so long,” that last summer we were in the first peak of the pandemic here in the Permian Basin. We were barely coming out of shut down, and every recommendation from Memorial Day to Labor Day and beyond was “don’t gather” and “stay home.”

Following those guidelines puts the normal summer safety practices on the back burner.  But as we are coming out of this pandemic, summer safety is something we do need to think about, maybe even more than “normal” because people are wanting to get outside and do things more than usual because we have been cooped up for so long.

Here are some summer safety tips from the National Safety Council (NSC).

The first is to avoid heat-related illness and death.

That is a big issue here in West Texas because we do have such high temperatures in the summer months. In 2018, 182 people died from heat exposure in the U.S.  Fifty three of those deaths were children that were left in hot cars, a record number.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t gotten better.  2019 tied that record with another 53 child deaths related to being left in hot cars.  2020 statistics related to hot car deaths have not been released yet.  The three main causes are kids that are forgotten in a vehicle (54.2%), kids that gained access to an unattended vehicle (25.2%), and kids that were knowingly left in a vehicle (19.1%).

I cannot say this enough. Never leave a child unattended in a car. Running, not running, it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter if you think you will “only be a minute.”

Don’t leave a child unattended in a car.  The dangers far outweigh any possible benefit of leaving a child in the car. Lock unattended vehicles, keep the keys out of reach so kids can’t access, and teach kids that cars are not play areas.  If you put your child in the car, especially if you are out of your normal routine, put something with them that you will miss quickly, like your shoe, your wallet or purse, or your phone. That way you can’t forget.

If you or your loved ones are out in the heat, remember to take breaks away from the heat frequently, seek shade whenever you can, and stay hydrated by drinking before you get thirsty.   Watch for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke in others.

The NSC is a great resource on recognizing heat stroke and heat exhaustion at

The NSC also has a wonderful app available from the Apple App Store and Google Play store with extensive first aid information.  Search for the National Safety Council Emergency Medical Response Quick Reference Guide to find the app.

The other big safety concern we need to think about especially in the summer months is water safety — pools and spas are like cars — a place where a child should never be left unattended or be able to gain access by themselves. In 2017, drowning caused 3,709 deaths in the U.S., 74% of those were in children younger than 15.

Some 6,400 kids every year are taken to the emergency room related to pool or spa injuries.  With kids and water, the younger the child the higher the risk.  Some 12% of the drowning deaths in 2017 were in kids aged 4 and younger, so many small children die each year from drowning, it is considered a leading cause of death for that age group.

Never leave a small child unattended around any collection of water, not just pools and spas.  Bathtubs, toilets, and even buckets of water have been related to drowning deaths in young children.

When you are around pools, spas or other bodies of water, remember lifeguards are not babysitters. Even with a lifeguard present you still need to pay attention to your child’s safety in the water. Also remember swimming lessons make children safer around water, but they don’t make kids “drown-proof.” Kids that know how to swim still need to be supervised around water.

I am so excited that we are heading back to normal this summer and we will be able to get outside and have summer fun with family and friends. One last safety tip.  Don’t forget the rules of sunburn prevention.  Slip-slop-slap.  Slip on a shirt and sunglasses, slop on sunscreen liberally and frequently, and slap on a hat.