Preventing Injuries: Simple steps to keep your family safe

The holiday season is usually a time of relaxing, reflection, fun-in-the-sun and exciting outings. But regrettably it is also a time when people are more careless. Statistics show that over the holiday season, the number of accidents, whether it be at home, on the road or on the beach, sharply increase. We take a look at how you can prevent injuries with a few simple actions.

The holiday season is usually a time of relaxing, reflection, fun-in-the-sun and exciting outings. But regrettably, it is also a time when people are more careless. Statistics show that over the holiday season, the number of accidents, whether it be at home, on the road or on the beach, sharply increase. We take a look at how you can prevent injuries with a few simple actions.

Safety at the beach and at the pool

In a country like South Africa, where beaches, pools, rivers and dams are such a part of our outdoor way of life, it is vital that your child learns to swim from a young age. Most importantly, children should know how to float, tread water, and stay close to the shore. Children should also be taught about the difference between swimming in a pool and swimming in open water like the sea or rivers. They should be made aware of dangers such as currents, tides and uneven surfaces and only swim in areas designated for swimming.

Active adult supervision is essential when there are children in and around bodies of water. Remember that small children can drown in as little as one inch of water, so when you are supervising kids near water they should be the only thing on your mind. If there are other adults present then it is a good idea to take turns watching the little ones for ten-to-fifteen minute stretches.

Also, make time before this holiday season to learn CPR. It is an invaluable skill that can literally save lives and it can give parents tremendous peace of mind. There are many courses offered around the country and there are even videos available online and phone apps that can teach you this lifesaving technique. Do ensure that you only get information from reliable sources, however.

Helmets are lifesavers

This holiday season you and the family will undoubtedly be indulging in fun pastimes such as cycling, quad biking and horse riding. However, remember the golden rule: No helmet, no ride! Even if you are a seasoned professional, or if you’re just riding to the shop down the road, whenever you engage in an activity where your head is vulnerable to injury, a helmet should be worn.

Statistics show that wearing a helmet on a bike reduces the risk of serious head and brain injury by 85%. The thick plastic foam inside the hard outer shell of a helmet absorbs much of the force of impact that would otherwise be directed at the head. Although cuts, bruises and even broken bones will eventually heal, head injuries can be permanent and result in serious disability. After suffering from a fall it is important that you purchase a new helmet, even if it seems fine, as the interior may be damaged.

A helmet must also be the perfect fit in order to ensure that it protects you adequately. Make sure you set aside time to try on a variety of helmets in many different sizes and shapes. If you are buying a helmet for your child, buy one that fits him/her now; helmets are not something you should grow into. Choose a helmet that is a snug fit, that is level on top of your head and stable. Because chinstraps help to keep the helmet in place, it is vital that you replace your chinstrap should any part of the buckle break.

Buckle up

So you’ve packed the car, filled up with petrol, checked your tyres, set the GPS coordinates of your destination, and you’re ready to go. Before you drive off, however, make sure that everyone is buckled up safely. It is estimated that only 65% of South Africans wear seatbelts, which is a shocking statistic given the 10,000 deaths and 150,000 injuries on our roads annually.

The Automobile Association (AA) advocates four simple, quick actions that take a mere 10 seconds and can save lives:

Ensure children are always in a car seat, booster seat or harness. In a 50-kilometre-per-hour crash, which is a rather low speed, a child weighing 20 kilograms would hit a solid object with a force of 400 kilograms. This means that, no matter how hard you try, you are never going to be able to stop your child from catapulting forward if they are sitting unbuckled on your lap. Using a properly fitted child seat can reduce fatal injuries by 75%. It is essential that your child seat is the right size and correctly fitted. Children under 13 should also always sit in the back seat of the car.

Any loose items should be placed in the car boot. This is because, if you come to a sudden stop, everyday things such as map books, umbrellas, toys and even the family shopping can hit the car occupants at a lethal force.

Ensure you adjust the head restraint when climbing into an unfamiliar vehicle, as the head restraint is there to reduce whiplash, the most common form of injury in a bumper bashing.

Wear your seatbelt every time you are in a vehicle, no matter what the length of the journey, the speed of the trip and whether you are in the front or back seat. Remember that an unrestrained passenger in a car that is involved in an accident can hit other passengers with the force of a baby elephant.

Dangers in the home

For those who may not be going on holiday and staying put this festive season, remember that even your home can have dangers lurking around every corner, especially for inquisitive children.  If you are sprucing up your house with decorations, lights and a tree, bear the following in mind:

If you have children, ensure your decorations are child-friendly, i.e. not breakable, sharp, or easy to swallow. Keep those for the top of the tree where the young ones can’t reach.

Fairy lights can really brighten up the home, however, they can be very dangerous if wires are exposed or frayed. Also, watch out for loose connections or broken sockets.

Candles certainly set a great mood, but a fire is always a danger, so ensure you keep candles far away from anything that can burn, such as curtains. Also, remember to blow them out before leaving the room.

Nothing says Christmas like mistletoe and holly; however, bear in mind that their berries can be poisonous so keep them out of reach of children and pets.

Real Christmas trees certainly add the right atmosphere during the festive season, but don’t forget they can be a fire hazard if not watered regularly.

The holidays usually mean lots of time cooking for family and friends, however, you should be aware of the kids who might be running around your kitchen while you chat. Try and use only the back burners on your stove and turn pot handles away from the edge. Keep hot foods and liquids away from counter and table edges.