Break Point!

Volume 1, Issue 5 View the Archives July, 1998
Summertime Activities Revisited
Making Playgrounds a Save Haven for Children
Staying Cool in the Heat of the Summer
Keeping an Eye on Fireworks Safety
Prevention Web Sites of the Month
Next Month in Injury Prevention

Summertime Activities Revisited

Kathy O'Day
Loyola University Burn and Shock Trauma Institute, Injury Prevention Program

The children are out of school! Whether this is cause for celebration or dismay, children will be outside more often than at anytime during the year. Big plans are in the works for 4th of July parties and soon many children will be off to camp. The forecast calls for plenty of sunshine and hot temperatures. For many, it means soaking in a swimming pool, taking family vacations and spending more time with loved ones. Unfortunately, heat and sunshine is the mix for the largest number of unintentional injuries.

Last month, Breakpoint! Targeted a few popular summertime activities. This month, we will expand on more of the injury prevention issues of the summer such as, a continued look at fireworks, playground safety and heat exhaustion. During the summer months, many people want to relax which often means, letting one's guard down. This is the time of year where we need to be vigilant to prevent unintentional injuries.

Break Point is produced by Loyola University, Burn and Shock Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program. Please call us at (708) 327-2455 with any comments or questions.

Making Playgrounds a Save Haven for Children

Playgrounds are a fundamental part of the childhood experience. They should be a safe area where children can burn off energy and play. Many of us have fond memories of playing with our friends in the Neighborhood Park or at recess from school. Unfortunately, more than 200,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each year for injuries associated with playground equipment. Most of these injuries occur when children fall from the equipment onto the ground. Other hazards include impact by swings and other moving equipment, colliding with stationary equipment, and contact with such hazards as sharp edges, hot surfaces and playground debris.

Here are 10 important tips for parents and community groups to help ensure playground safety:

  • Make sure surfaces around playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel, or are mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
  • Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
  • Make sure play structures more than 30 inches high are spaced at least 9 feet apart.
  • Check for dangerous hardware, like open "S" hooks or protruding bolt ends.
  • Make sure spaces that could entrap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs, measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
  • Check for sharp points or edges in equipment.
  • Look out for tripping hazards, such as exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
  • Make sure elevated surfaces, such as platforms and ramps, have guardrails to prevent falls.
  • Check playgrounds regularly to see that equipment and surfacing are in good condition.
  • Carefully supervise children on playgrounds to make sure they are safe.

Staying Cool in the Heat of the Summer

When comparing layers of winter gear to swim suits, most people prefer the warmer summer temperatures. The weather fascinates us. When we engage in casual conversation the main topic is often the weather. Most people watch the nightly weather report or read about it in the newspaper. When the heat of the summer gets very hot and humid the threat of injury and deaths increase. During the summer of 1995, Chicago saw a record number of deaths due to extreme heat and humidity. More than six hundred Chicagoans lost their lives to heat stroke and the complications from it.

The body's physiologic response to heat decreases with age and hot summers can cause heat stroke in the elderly. Young persons are also at risk from this serious malady. The underlying cause of heat stroke is related to the body's inability to cool itself through perspiration, due to age or after a strenuous physical activity. When the body fails to perspire, there is an excessive rise in body temperature that can cause permanent damage to internal organs, and can even result in death if not treated immediately.

Symptoms of heat stroke include: a core body temperature of 104 degrees F, a lack of sweating, confusion, red or spotted skin, seizures and loss of consciousness. There is an increase in heart rate, respiratory rate, and an increase in body temperature. The skin becomes hot and dry. Blood pressure drops and pupil size becomes fixed. Certain medications can diminish the body's response to heat. These medications include anticholinergics, phenothiazines, anti-depressants, and Beta-Blockers.

Some ways to deal with the increased heat include the use of air-conditioning or fans. Frequent baths or showers, drinking plenty of fluids, (especially water), and avoiding alcohol. Wear light cool clothing and workout in the coolest part of the day. The early morning is cooler than late evening. Avoid activity when the sun is at its peak from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M.-especially from 1-3 P.M. when temperatures are at there highest. Maintain contact with friends and family and keep a close watch on the elderly.

Here is a list of the things you will need to do if anyone you know should develop the signs and symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Move the victim out of the sun and to a cooler location.
  • Remove the victims clothing and attempt to cool them off with a cool bath or cool rags. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
  • Do not give aspirin or other medications in an attempt to reduce the fever down
  • Avoid stimulants including cigarettes and alcohol.
  • Avoid giving the victim fluids.
  • When attempting to cool the victim, do not let them shiver or develop goose bumps.
  • Do not leave them alone.
  • Seek medical attention immediately!

Keeping an Eye on Fireworks Safety

The 4th of July is here. Plans are being made throughout the country to celebrate the birthday of our country. Fireworks continue to be as much a part of the holiday as hot dogs and hamburgers. With such a large number of people using fireworks, the chance of unintentional injury rises. There is no safe way to handle fireworks at home. Fireworks should be left in the capable hands of professionals. According to Prevent blindness America, 60 percent of injuries are caused by misuse of fireworks, 44 percent of the injured are children ages 19 and under and bystanders are more often injured by fireworks than the operators themselves are. Vision loss is permanent! According to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Fireworks accounted for approximately 5,100 injuries treated in emergency rooms throughout the country from June 23 to July 23, 1996. The correct number of injuries will never be known because of the injuries that go untreated.

Nearly 2,000 eye injuries are caused from the misuse or abuse of fireworks. One third of injuries result in permanent eye damage and one fourth in permanent vision loss or blindness. The most dangerous fireworks are bottle rockets. These fireworks careen through the air in an erratic fashion and then explode. The bottles used to launch the bottle rocket explode, showering the operator and bystanders with flying glass or metal. Sparklers seem harmless and often given to children to hold. These fireworks spray hot embers and reach temperatures approaching 1800 degrees F-hot enough to melt gold!

If an injury does occur, follow this list of do's and don'ts from Prevent Blindness America:

  • Do not delay Medical attention for seemingly mild injuries. Injuries can worsen and result in serious vision loss, even blindness.
  • Do stay calm. Keep the child calm as possible.
  • Do not rub the eye. If any eye tissue is torn, rubbing can cause more damage. Keep the child's hands away from his or her face.
  • Shield the eye from pressure. Tape or secure the bottom of a foam cup, milk carton or similar shield against the bones surrounding the eyebrow, cheek or bridge of the nose.
  • Do not let your child play with fireworks. Do not use them yourself and keep family members away from those who do.
Have a safe and happy 4th of July!


I would like to congratulate Robin Mazucca, RN, BSN., Coordinator of the Burn and Shock Trauma Institute Injury Prevention Program in her new position as Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMS-C) Coordinator. Robin has been a valued resource, mentor and friend to all whom have worked with her. Robin has held the position as Safe Communities Project Coordinator of the Injury Prevention Program for the past 2 years. We will certainly all miss her and wish her continued success in her new position.

Prevention Web Sites of the Month

American Academy of Pediatrics
American Burn Association
Children's Safety Network
Illinois Emergency Medical Services for Children
National SafeKids Campaign
United States Fire Administration - Publications and National Fire Data Center

Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • Vacation Safety Month

The information on the Loyola University Health System (LUHS) Web site is for educational purposes only. It is presented in summary form in order to impart general information relating to certain diseases, ailments, physical conditions and their treatments. The information provided through the LUHS Web site should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease, nor is it a substitute for professional care. Should you have any health-care related questions or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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