Recent tragedies where children have drowned or died on camping trips have reminded us of the fact that accidents can happen anywhere. In this exclusive exerpt from her article in the June 2012 edition of the Journal of Family Health Care magazine, Kristin McCarthy, chief executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, highlights some common hazards to look out for.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust aims to encourage parents to take simple steps to keep children safe so everyone can enjoy summer to the fullest, whether on a beach holiday or having fun in the garden. Here are some important key messages for parents to help them stay one step ahead of potentially serious accidents this summer.

Water safety  

Keeping cool in the water is usually one of the highlights of the summer for children. Children should be able to enjoy the water without being in danger. Yet in the past six years, 30 children from the UK under the age of ten have drowned whilst on holiday abroad .

There may not be a struggle to alert you that your child is in difficulty in the water - children can slip silently under the water and drown quickly. That's why it is so important to be vigilant and always supervise younger children closely around water. This is especially important when away on holiday where the environment, regulations and routines are different, and parents will be relaxed and maybe off their guard.

At home  

• Keep a close eye on children playing near or in water, especially two and three year olds who are more likely to drown at home or in your neighbour's garden .
• Fill in, fence off or cover your pond if you have one and make sure your young child can't get out of your garden and near your neighbour's pond or water feature.
• Babies can drown in as little as 5cm (2 inches) of water, so even rainwater collecting in a bucket can be dangerous. Be sure to empty the paddling pool as soon as you're finished rather than leave it for the next day.

Away from home  

• In most cases, children who drown are unsupervised - some incidents have resulted from younger children wandering off and falling into a hotel or villa pool.
• Not all hotel pools have lifeguards - where they do they may have other roles, so may not be as attentive as they are required to be in the UK.
• Check the environment when you are away on holiday - look out for unfenced ponds or swimming pools, and rivers or canals.Spend some time explaining to older children the dangers of swimming in canals, lakes or rivers - things like strong currents, deep water and objects in the water that they can't see, or may not realise are really dangerous.

At the seaside  

• Nothing beats fun at the beach but remember that although wind blowing off the land can make the sea look flat, calm and safe, it can easily and quickly sweep inflatable toys, airbeds or small dinghies out to sea. On UK beaches look out for an orange windsock - if it's flying, it means the wind is especially dangerous.
• Teach children that they must swim between the two-coloured red and yellow flags when they are at the beach and make sure someone is looking out for your child whenever they are in the water. For more information on beach safety see www.rnli.org.uk  

Safety in the garden • While many accidents in the garden are simply active children falling over, more serious accidents can and do occur. If you can, enclose your garden so younger children can't wander out into the road or into neighbours' gardens. Teach children to never eat anything growing in your garden unless you tell them it's safe to do so. In particular, small children may be attracted to plants with berries which can be poisonous so avoidance is the best tactic until children are old enough to understand they may be dangerous. For information on poisonous plants to avoid around children go to www.rhs.org.uk  

BBQ hazards  

Keep young children away from lit barbeques or bonfires and remember that barbeques will stay hot long after you have finished cooking.

Camping safely  

• When you arrive at the campsite, explore the surround areas to spot any hazards for young children such as unfenced ponds or other stretches of water and any buildings they may be able to get into.
• Remember other cars or motorhomes manoeuvring may not be able to spot children who are below the level visible from the rear or side windows so hold your child's hand when walking in areas where vehicles are moving around.
• Make sure your child is either in the car or with an adult when manoeuvring your car and look out for other children.
• Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas. If it escapes from flame-burning appliances or open fires it can kill you. You need to be particularly careful with appliances and barbeques used when camping. Find out how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when camping by going to www.covictim.org

Child Safety Week  

Child Safety Week provides an excellent platform at the start of the summer holidays to talk with parents, carers or children about preventing serious accidents. The Child Accident Prevention Trust has developed free downloadable resources alongside a wealth of paid for resources to help community health professionals engage with the families and children you work with in a fun and engaging way. To join the CAPT mailing list and download all our free resources go to www.childrensafetyweek.org.uk.

For more information visit www.capt.org.uk/
CAPT is the UK's leading charity working to reduce the number of children and young people killed, disabled or seriously injured in accidents.   

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