SIOUX CITY | Arm floaties and inner tubes won't be enough to protect children from drowning in a pool or natural body of water this summer.

UnityPoint Health -- St. Luke's trauma program manager Alan Faith said Coast Guard-approved life jackets should be worn around water, no matter what the water's depth, as, "Kids don't float." That message is printed on two wooden life jacket kiosks to be installed this week at Brown's Lake near Salix and Hillview Recreation Area near Hinton. Neither public swimming area has lifeguards on duty.

Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In response to near-drownings over the years, St. Luke's has handed out some 200 life jackets to children and is installing the kiosks, which store several bright blue-and-yellow life jackets for use. The purchase of the safety equipment was made possible through funding provided by St. Luke's Children's Miracle Network, while Lowe's donated the lumber to build the kiosks.

"We always get concerned when the water's deeper because we think they'll be submerged, but studies have shown that children can drown in two inches of water," said Faith, who also worked with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources on the project. "It just has to be enough to actually cover their face and their airway."

Josh Van Voorst, district resource manager for Brown's Lake and Synder Bend Park, said there's usually one or two near drowning incidents at the swimming area each year involving either children or adults. He said the addition of a life jacket kiosk is a "great, great thing for any beach."

"It's like wearing a seat belt in a car," he said of a life jacket. "There's no guarantee it's going to save them, but it really can."

Last year, St. Luke's gave away bike helmets, which Faith said there has been an even greater demand for this year. He attributes the popularity of bike helmets to media attention placed on sports-related concussions.

"This year we gave away approximately 100 more (bike helmets) than we did last year, so we saw an increase in the number of people that came and took advantage of it," he said. 

In addition to having proper safety equipment, such as life jackets and bike helmets, Faith said adult supervision is extremely important in preventing summer injuries.

The campground can be a dangerous place for children, who may become fascinated with the glowing flames of a hot campfire and unintentionally burn themselves.

Fire pit embers can remain hot for several hours after a fire pit has been put out. Faith warns caregivers to keep a close eye on children around fires and avoid using an accelerant, which increases the likelihood of getting burned.

"Be aware of what you're putting in the fire and what you're burning," he said. "Cover the coals with water and such. It may look dark, but it's not necessarily out."

Toy trouble

The fidget spinner, a metal or plastic gadget that can be spun on the fingers, is a top toy with children and adults alike, but it has also been labeled a "summer safety trap" by the World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.).

The non-profit organization that works to educate the public about child safety says this trendy toy may not be safe for children because some fidget spinners have fallen apart.

Although St. Luke's emergency department hasn't recorded any injuries related to fidget spinners, Faith said the toy's small parts could pose a choking hazard for young children with airways the size of an adult's little finger. 

"We look at the fidget spinner and we think it's one big piece, but it's not. It's several pieces that make up one large piece," he said. "Supervision with any type of toys."

The trampoline, which made W.A.T.C.H.'s list of hazards, has been the source of many broken bones treated by staff at St. Luke's. Faith said not following manufacturer recommendations, which advise having only one person on a trampoline at a time, is a no-no.

"We have seen a decrease in (trampoline injuries) over the past couple of years," he said. "Parents and caregivers are becoming more aware of the safety concerns that they're actually digging holes and dropping (the trampoline) into the ground or they put enough safety nets around it."


Health and Lifestyles reporter

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