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DCFS Warns of Safety Risks Associated with Summer Holidays

Drowning is second-leading cause of death for children ages 1-14 in Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. -- With the Fourth of July just around the corner, the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) reminds parents and caregivers to take extra precautions with festivities like fireworks and swimming.

U.S. hospital emergency rooms saw more than 10,000 people for fireworks-related injuries in 2014, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Two-thirds of those injuries occurred during the month surrounding July 4.

Two-thirds of child drowning deaths also occur in the months of May through August, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.

Fireworks and swimming, both common summertime activities, pose safety risks for young children in particular: Drowning is the leading cause of preventable death for children between 1 and 4 years old, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Children ages 5-9 are more than twice as likely - at 2.4 times the risk - as the general population to be injured by fireworks, the NFPA says.

"Summer is a time for gathering together for a bit of relaxation and fun. During the summer fun, we must remain watchful over our children to ensure a time of celebration doesn't become a time of tragedy," said DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following fireworks safety tips:

  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.
  • Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. If you do give kids sparklers, make sure they keep them outside and away from the face, clothing and hair.
  • Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.
  • Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.
  • Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have not ignited fully.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person, even in jest.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.
  • Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.
Water Safety

Celebrating the holiday around the pool or other bodies of water also presents safety risks for children.

Louisiana had the second-highest rate of drownings in the nation in 2013-2015, with 71 children dying from accidental drowning or submersion during that period, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. It was the second-leading cause of death for children ages 1-14 in Louisiana.

Nearly half of those drownings - 48 percent - occurred in swimming pools, while 21 percent occurred on natural water bodies. The remaining 31 percent occurred in bathtubs, canals, ponds, storm drains and other manmade water bodies.

In addition, each year about 28 children between 1 and 4 years old are hospitalized because of near drownings, which can lead to lifelong disabilities.

"Parental supervision and knowing the signs of drowning distress are vital to keeping our children safe," Walters said.

Safe Kids Worldwide offers the following swimming safety tips:

  • Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water, giving the children your undivided attention.
  • When there are several adults present and children are swimming, prevent lapses in supervision by establishing "shifts" that designate a single adult who will watch the children in the water for a certain period of time, like 15 minutes.
  • Whether you're swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake, teach children to swim with a partner every time. From the start, teach children never to go near or in water without an adult present.
  • Educate your children about the dangers of drain entanglement and entrapment, and teach them never to play or swim near drains or suction outlets.
  • Look; don't just listen. Many times, a person in drowning distress is calm and quiet under the water, not thrashing at the top.
  • Remove all toys from the pool area when it's not in use to keep children from going near the area.
  • If you are the pool's owner, install a fence around all sides of the pool, along with a locked gate that is beyond a child's reach. Refer to local ordinances for fence height and other requirements.
  • Learn CPR.