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Summer vacation is here at last! – How to keep outdoor fun safe  – PUBLIC HEALTH INSIDER | #schoolsaftey

For many families, the end of the school year can mean heading to the water, hopping on a bike, or playing at a nearby playground. While you’re enjoying these summer activities, there are some things you can do to keep you and your family safe. 

Swim safety 

King County is home to great summer swimming options. Unfortunately, preventable drownings and other tragic situations happen every year. Last year, 29 people in King County died by drowning, including 16 deaths in open water. Keep you and your family safe while enjoying the water: 

  • Wear a life jacket when swimming if there are no lifeguards. Always wear life jackets while boating, tubing, or rafting. 
  • Ensure all family members know how to swim before going in the water. Watch children closely when they are in or near water. 
  • Be aware of dangerous river conditions. All summer, King County rivers will have cold, fast flows. Some shallow areas may have warm water, but moving or deep water will be very cold. Very cold water can cause your body to go into shock – even if you’re a strong swimmer.   
  • When boating or floating, always tell someone your route and where you expect to put in and take out.  
  • For more safety tips, a list of lifeguarded public beaches and pools, and where to find free or low-cost life jackets, visit kingcounty.gov/vip/water (this webpage is in English only). 

Bicycle safety 

Thankfully, there have been no child deaths from bike riding in King County in nearly 20 years. Still, young riders are at risk for serious injuries. These tips can keep you and your kids safe: 

  • Make sure kids wear a well-fitted helmet every time they ride. 
  • Dress kids appropriately – shoelaces and loose clothing can get caught in chains or wheel spokes. 
  • Before every ride, be sure the tires are pumped to the correct pressure. Check that the brakes and chain are working properly too. 
  • Kids under age 10 are safest riding on sidewalks when possible and always with adult supervision.  
  • Teach kids to make eye contact with drivers so they know drivers are paying attention and will stop before they cross the street. 
  • Teach kids to ride on the right side of the road with traffic and use the correct hand signals.   
  • For more safety tips and where to find free or low-cost helmets, visit our Bicycle Safety webpage (translated resources available).  

Playground safety   

Playgrounds can be a great place to spend the summer. Like any physical activity, there’s a risk of injury. The answer isn’t to remove all risks and avoid playgrounds, but to be aware of the major hazards.  

The top cause of playground injuries is falling. Last year, Seattle-King County EMS reported there were 51 playground-related injuries associated with falling (40% of all playground-related injuries). So, keep an eye on your kids, especially when they’re on elevated platforms with a risk of falling. Redirect them if they misuse equipment or climb on areas not meant for climbing.  

Playground deaths are rare but devastating. The top cause is getting tangled with the equipment. Before heading to the playground, remove necklaces and drawstrings. Additionally, avoid attaching ropes, clotheslines, or pet leashes to playground equipment. Ensure children remove their bike helmets before playing on the playground because the bike helmets can trap kids’ heads on equipment.  

Safety guidelines aren’t kids’ priorities when they’re out to play. While injuries happen, watching can help prevent serious accidents. If you see broken equipment or unsafe conditions, please immediately report them to the playground operator.  

After a long school year, summer is an exciting time for children and families. We hope you enjoy a happy and safe break! 

Originally Published 6/27/2023

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