Summer offers up a yearly opportunity to get outside and have a great time with family and friends. But the great outdoors and the many excursions it offers can also spell trouble. This month in News You Can Use, we will offer expert tips to keep you safe. Whether it is protecting your skin and eyes from the harsh UV rays from the sun, or staying in the clear while out for a swim, UAB News will have you covered. And for those days you are forced to stay in during the weather for alternative exciting experiences, we will also help you with ways to keep your kids safe. Stay tuned for weekly updates to this month’s Summer Safety News You Can Use.
Children are at increased risk for eye injuries in the summer, according to University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) researchers. Eye injuries are much more common in May and June before reaching a peak in July, then falling off as school begins in the fall, says Gerald McGwin, Jr. Ph.D., a professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Ophthalmology at UAB.
“Overall, the leading cause of eye injury in children 15 and younger is sports, specifically swimming,” said McGwin.
He notes that pool chemicals, which can cause eye irritation, play a prominent role in these injuries, as does being hit by water toys or flying elbows and feet.
“Ensuring that a pool’s pH level is within normal range is one way to reduce these injuries,” he said. “Goggles and swim masks are another way by providing a barrier between eyes and water.”
With more than 15,000 nationwide, indoor playgrounds have become increasingly popular venues for play dates and birthday parties. They are like kiddie heaven, stocked with pillowy inflatables and candy-colored tubes, ball crawls, trampolines and more.
But, are they safe?
Brian Geiger, Ed.D., a professor of health education in the Department of Human Studies University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), has assessed playground safety at schools and communities around Alabama. He said that while playing indoors may offer reduced threats of uninvited visitors, animals and motor vehicles, there are things parents should keep in mind to help keep their child free from injury.
Installation and maintenance guidelines for playgrounds are set by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and municipalities require initial inspections before granting a license to a new operator, but dangers still exist.
Geiger recently teamed up with Gary Edwards, Ph.D., chief executive officer of United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham, to share helpful tips for parents.
The tornado that ravaged Moore, Okla., on May 20, 2013, was another reminder that Mother Nature has a temper. Experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have said fighting complacency and preparing for what is ahead are important.
UAB Department of Health Care Organization & Policy Assistant Professor Lisa McCormick, Dr.P.H., said people – whether they live in areas of rare or frequent tornado activity – often disregard the dangers.
“When the probability of an event occurring is small, and there is a lesser chance you will be affected if that event occurs, people become complacent,” McCormick said. “False alarms have the same effect.”
Mass media coverage, like that following the Moore tornado, as well as the tornadoes that hit Alabama on April 27, 2011, and Joplin, Mo., on May 22, 2011, can help increase sensitivity.
“Research has shown that people become more aware of the need to be prepared after events occur, even if the event didn't occur in their own community,” McCormick said. “If the event is catastrophic, there is more media coverage for a longer period of time, reinforcing the need to be prepared.”
While there is never a guarantee of 100 percent safety from a tornado, McCormick shared several ways to be ready for the worst.
Fun in the summer often means kids spending time in the water, whether at a pool, the beach, a lake or river. A pediatric safety expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) stresses proper training and supervision to avoid drowning and other injuries.
Three children die each day in the United States as a result of drowning, which is the leading cause of injury death for young children ages 1 to 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Backyard swimming pool drownings are far too common,” said David Schwebel, Ph.D., director of the UAB Youth Safety Lab. “These incidents are devastating to families, and they can be prevented.”
Part of the problem leading to these fatalities is many people believe a drowning will be easy to notice, with the troubled swimmer splashing and yelling for help.
Most people know the basic tips about preventing skin cancer, but a deeper insight can make a big difference in protection. An expert from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has compiled important information and actions consumers can take to better arm themselves against sun exposure.
Sunburn vs. moderate exposure
“The primary cause of melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer, is sun burning, more so than sustained moderate sun exposure,” said Robert M. Conry, M.D., associate professor in the Division of Hematology and Oncology and scientist at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Sun burning involves high doses of ultraviolet light to the skin which can mutate the DNA of pigment producing cells in the skin called “melanocytes” and cause these cells to form a potentially lethal cancer called melanoma.”
Although sunburns at any age should be avoided, evidence indicates that sun burns during childhood and in young adults are particularly dangerous due to increased risk of melanoma.