Break Point!

Volume 2, Issue 6 View the Archives June, 1999
Splash Into Summer!
Supervision the Essential Ingredient for Pool Safety
Kids and Wading Pools
Operating a Personal Watercraft
BAC .0 the Safest Way on the Waterways
Grilling Up a Good Time this Summer
Lighting the Sky with Fireworks Safely
Next Month in Injury Prevention

Splash Into Summer!

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

Summer seduces. The smell of the warm humid air and the bright skies offer more pleasures than any other season. Summer lures us outdoors to swimming pools, beaches and parks. It captivates us, even those who claim they hate summer for it's hot weather can't help but welcome it's arrival. But, summer also has a dark side, more unintentional injuries occur during these months than any other season. Children are most at risk during the warmer months.

This month Break Point is focusing on fireworks safety, swimming pool safety and boating safety. To make you aware of the obvious dangers is not enough. To keep you and your family safe, it is important to alert you to the hidden dangers related to warm weather activities.

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

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Supervision the Essential Ingredient for Pool Safety

When the weather heats up, the best place to be is poolside. The combination of the heat and the cool water lifts our spirits and cools us off. Watching the faces of giggling children in the water puts smiles on our faces. Pools are also dangerous. So dangerous that according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety commission, 300 children under age 5 and 2000 more children visit hospital emergency departments for submersion injuries each year. Toddlers are most at risk because of their ever-changing capabilities. A toddler can drown in just 2 inches of water! Even if you have placed barriers or fences around your pool, have had your children take swimming lessons or even provide flotation devices for your children, unintentional injuries still do occur. These are just tools but they do not replace constant vigilant supervision of children when they are around water. According to the CPSC, most children were being supervised by one or both parents and were not expected to be at or in the pool, yet they were found in the water. A child can drown in the short time it takes to answer the phone.

Survival depends on discovering the submersed child quickly. Here are some additional safety device recommendations to increase safety around the pool:

  • Install a fence or other barrier, such as a wall, completely around the pool. The fence should be at least 4 foot high and have no foot or handholds that promote climbing. Vertical fence slats should be less than 4 inches apart to prevent a child from squeezing through. Fence gates should be self-closing and self-latching. The gate should be well maintained to close and latch easily. The latch should be out of the child's reach.
  • Pool motion alarms emit a shrill sound when someone falls into the pool, or when the pressure of the water changes or when movement in the water is sensed. There are also installing gate alarms or door alarms alert the caregivers when the child has either left the house or is near the pool.
  • Pool covers can also be a safety device. They should be able to withstand the weight of two adults and one child and meet other specifications outlined by the CPSC.
  • Call 911 for emergencies and don't attempt to rescue if you can't swim.

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Kids and Wading Pools

Most families do not have access to an in-ground or above ground pool. Many families buy small pools made especially for young children. These pools provide fun and a place to cool off. These types of pools pose the same dangers as larger pools. The pool may be filled with water in the morning and left up for one or two days. There are no safety devices for these types of pools. In-ground pools can be walled off or special alarms can be placed to notify an adult a child has fallen into the pool. Above ground pools can have folding ladders to deter a child from entering the pool. Wading pools are also small enough for very young children to swim in. This eliminates the fear associated with the larger pool allowing the child to think it is OK to jump in without supervision. A parent or caregiver should treat wading pools the same way they would treat children around an Olympic sized pool.

Here are some tips to keep the fun in the water no matter what size the pool may be.

  • Constant supervision of children in and out of the water! Make sure the adult who is watching the children is a good swimmer.
  • Have a designated "child watcher". Especially at parties when adults can get distracted in conversation and there is an increased noise level.
  • Keep a cordless phone handy. This will save precious time in case of emergencies.
  • Do not read books or talk on the phone by the pool while the children are swimming. Most drownings happen during momentary lapses in supervision.
  • Do not rely on your child's swimming ability. Even children who have taken swimming lessons can drown.
  • Learn CPR. Quick initiation of rescue breathing can prevent death or brain damage.
  • Know where your children are at all times in and out of the house if a wading pool is filled with water. Statistics show that 46% of children who have drowned were last seen in the house and less than 5 minutes prior to the incident.
  • Insist the children follow the pool safety rules: no running, pushing or dunking.
  • Do not let children dive into a pool. They are to enter the water feet first to prevent head and spinal cord injury.
  • Don't develop a false sense of security with water wings and other flotation devices. They are not a substitute for supervision.

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Operating a Personal Watercraft

The growing popularity of Personal watercraft (PWC) use has been established in recent years by the fact that over half of the new boat sales in the U.S. are PWCs. There has been an increase of over 400% in PWC use in the past six years. This explosive growth has lead overcrowding on the waterways which correlates with the increase in PWC related crashes.

Some of the reasons that PWCs have a higher percentage of crashes and injuries than other boats; is that PWC users operate their crafts for longer hours during the day and are on the water more days per season than motorboats.

If carelessly operated PWCs present the potential for serious crashes and injury not only to the operator but also to the passengers, swimmers and other boaters they come in contact with.

A PWC should be fun and safe. Before going out on the water you should:

  • Wear your personal flotation device (PFD). Law requires an approved PFD for the operator and any passengers.
  • Know your craft. Study your owner's manual and practice handling your craft under supervision in open water away from other
  • Take a boating safety course. Learn the common boating rules, regulations and safe practices.
  • Ride defensively. Collisions with other boats or stationary objects like rafts or docks are the number one cause of personal watercraft injuries.
  • Watch the weather. Check the forecast before starting out. Be alert for any weather changes.
  • Know the area. Do not assume the water is clear of obstructions. Stay on marked channels.
  • Carry safety equipment. Besides an approved PFD, you should have a sound-signaling device (like a whistle), a towrope and some type B flares in a watertight container.
  • Never operate a PWC without the safety lanyard attached to you. The lanyard immediately cuts the engine if the operator falls.

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BAC .0 the Safest Way on the Waterways

Many boat owners are taking their boats out of dry dock and are eager get on the water. This is especially true in Chicago where the avid boater has the occasional view of Lake Michigan during the winter months and longs for warmer weather. Unless you are a true landlubber, boating is a treat in the summer months. Unfortunately, waterways are second only to highways when it comes to unintentional deaths.

Alcohol is a major contributing factor in recreational boating casualties. Someone operating a boat with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above .10 is ten times more likely to be killed in a boat crash than a boater with no alcohol on board. Alcohol impairs your vision, balance, your sense of judgment. Research has shown that alcohol combined with sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion can impair a person faster than alcohol consumption on land.

Consuming alcohol also increases the onset of hypothermia if a person in immersed in water .If you plan to drink while operating your boat, remember it is against the law, and your boating license can be revoked. There are also the passengers who ride with you. Drinking while driving directly affects the safety of everyone around the water.

Think about these safety tips before you plan to operate your boat:

  • Never drink while operating your boat. Save the cocktails for when you are finished boating and you do not plan to drive home.
  • Wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD)/ even if you are a good swimmer. No matter how experienced, swimmers can get tired in the water if there is a prolonged time before rescue.
  • Make sure everyone on the boat wears a PFD.
  • Do not boat alone. Tell others where you are planning to go when you are leaving and when you plan to return.
  • Check the forecast before you go on the water and bring a radio to check the weather reports.
  • Don't overload the boat with too many passengers or equipment.
  • Take a boating safety course to learn the rules of the water.
  • It is safest to boat during daylight hours.

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Grilling Up a Good Time this Summer

There is something about the smell of a hot grill that seems to whet the appetite. Cookouts are great fun. The word cookout is synonymous with party and good times. On a hot summer day, cooking on the grill is the only way to get a hot meal without heating your nicely air conditioned home.

The avid grill master grills in the winter even if there is cold and snow. Most people wait until the first hint of warmer weather. Unfortunately, hundreds of fires are caused each year by careless grilling.

If you use a barbecue grill, use common sense and follow these safety precautions:

  • Be sure the grill is sturdy and is on flat ground.
  • Use heavy aprons and thick grilling mitts to prevent burns and to protect your clothing.
  • Do not leave hot embers in your grill. Douse the coals with water when finished grilling.
  • Never barbecue in a confined space.
  • Never use gasoline, kerosene, alcohol or a cigarette lighter to light the coals.
  • Never leave a grill unattended once the coals are lit.
  • Never discard coals in a combustible container.
  • If using a gas grill, open the lid before attempting to light the burner.
  • Transport, store and use propane gas cylinders in an upright position.
  • Grill masters should quench their thirst with non-alcoholic beverages.

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Lighting the Sky with Fireworks Safely

Fireworks are as common to the 4th of July as hamburgers are to a cookout. Every year families plan to watch fireworks displays at local townships. Others plan to have fireworks at home as a special wrap up to a 4th of July party. This is the time of year when we begin to see makeshift fireworks shops advertising "safe and legal" fireworks. The only safe fireworks are those ignited by licensed professionals at displays sanctioned by local authorities.

Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates for 1998 show that 8,500 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with fireworks. 55% of those treated were for burn injuries mainly to the hands, face and eyes. Nearly half of the victims were under the age of fifteen.

Most of burn injuries were from the use of firecrackers, bottle rockets and sparklers. Many people think that sparklers are safe and give them to young children to hold. Sparklers can heat up to 1800 degrees F, hot enough to melt gold! Often the adult has a full hand of sparklers and is lighting the sparklers with another. This is a dangerous combination. The other sparklers can ignite and cause serious burns.

Bottle rockets and firecrackers are very dangerous. They are unpredictable and can misfire causing burns to hands, face and eyes. They can also cause fires if they land in an area with combustible materials.

The most dangerous of fireworks are the illegal or homemade fireworks. They also cause the most injury. Last year, the Trauma Team at Loyola treated a 19-year-old woman with severe injuries to her face from a homemade explosive, which was thrown at her at a party. She underwent several surgeries and the day changed her life forever. Homemade fireworks are explosives! They are illegal in Illinois and are deadly! You can have fun and be safe on the 4th of July. If you plan to use fireworks, follow these safety rules:


  • Never attempt to ignite fireworks while holding them. Put them down, then ignite them and move away.
  • Use metal or glass containers to light fireworks, they could explode spraying the bystanders with shards of glass or shrapnel.
  • Never try to re-ignite fireworks that malfunction.
  • Don't stand over fireworks.
  • Never let children hold or light fireworks.
  • Never carry fireworks in your pocket
  • Do not delay medical attention for seemingly mild injuries. Injuries can worsen and result in serious vision loss and even blindness.
  • Never approach fireworks after it has been lit, even if it appears to have gone out. It is likely to still be excessively hot and it may explode unexpectedly.
  • Never throw fireworks at anyone!

Consider safe alternatives for your 4th of July celebration. Attend community fireworks displays handled by professionals. If you choose to have fireworks at your party here are some safe alternatives:


  • Help your children plan safe activities. Give them glow-in-the-dark wands or necklaces. Noise makers for children are a safe alternative to sparklers.
  • Teach your children about the dangers of fireworks. Have your children to notify an adult immediately if they find fireworks. The best way to teach children is by example. Don't use fireworks yourself.
  • Keep spectators at least 50 feet away from where the fireworks are being used.
  • Do stay calm in case of emergencies. Keep the injured person calm. Call 911.

The Injury Prevention staff wishes all a happy and safe 4th of July.


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Coming Next Month in Injury Prevention

  • Fireworks Safety Month
  • Vacation Safety
  • Summertime Safety

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