Summer Safety Guide | Ways to keep your kids safe and healthy this summer
Learn ways to keep your kids (and pets) safe and healthy while they enjoy the summer fun.
Author: WMAZ Staff
Published: 11:22 PM EDT June 8, 2018
Updated: 4:10 PM EDT June 1, 2020
LOCAL 16 Articles

Summer is here, and kids all around Central Georgia will be enjoying different indoor and outdoor activities. 13WMAZ has put together some information that can help your kids (and pets, too) stay safe and healthy while they enjoy the summer fun.


Summer Safety Guide | Ways to keep your kids safe and healthy this summer

Chapter 1

Ways to keep your children safe in swimming pools

Hopping in the pool is the perfect way to beat the summer heat, but sometimes it can be a parent's worst nightmare.

“If a child gets into the water, unintentionally, it can be a life-altering scenario,” Victoria Campbell, owner of Middle Georgia Little Swimmers said.

For nearly 20 years, she's been teaching people as young as 8 months old how to swim. She says getting kids comfortable in water as young as possible is key to prevent drownings.

“Drownings don't just happen to parents that are negligent,” Campbell said. Sometimes it is the case, but it happens a lot of time to well-intentioned parents and caregivers where there’s a momentary distraction.”

She says there are a few things you can do to help keep your child alive.

  • Have effective supervision, making sure you're not just present, but your eyes are on your child every moment.
  • Have a pool fence to prevent children from getting in without your knowledge.
  • Add alarms to doors and gates that access your pool.
  • Get your children swim lessons as soon as possible.
  • Learn CPR just in case your child does drown because every second counts.

Campbell says the biggest tip for parent’s is don't let your children learn to swim with flotation devices.

“You're teaching them to be comfortable that they are not skilled in, so it’s very important to teach safety and skills first before you try to make them love the water, because they can actually love the water to death,” Campbell said.

She says it’s up to parents to make sure their child is ready for any possible situation. Campbell says if your child is swimming, you should know how to swim, too. She says several places offer adult swim lessons.

Chapter 2

Gates, alarms can help keep children safe poolside

This summer's heat isn't the only thing posing some risks.

Just this week, a child drowned in a Byron pool, and another died while swimming in Warner Robins earlier this summer.

We wanted to take a closer look at how you can protect your child around your pool or other pools near your home.

It's hard to keep a close eye on children all the time.

You may have a pool in your backyard, but there a few things you can do to worry less and enjoy more fun this summer.

It's summer time, which means more time at the pool.

To Holly Stickler, having fun swimming is important, but to protect her children and children who live nearby, she always locks the gate.

"We do keep the gates locked when we're not out here, so we keep both gates locked. When we are out here, somebody always has to be out here with the children. We do not allow them to swim when no one is out here at all," said Stickler.

That includes friends and neighbors children, year round.

According to poolsafety.gov, parents should install multiple safety devices around pool areas.

They recommend you have safety rafts near by, gate alarms, and pressure-sensitive alarms around the pool.

"They know to not horseplay around here or all privileges will be completely revoked," Stickler said.

Holly says with recent drownings, she wants to do more to keep the area safe. "It makes me want to be a little more proactive with different safety things, things I didn't think about even though they've had swim lessons since they were 2."

In addition to all of the safety measures around the Sticklers' pool, they also say that close supervision is key.

According to the CDC, barriers such as pool fencing are key in preventing young children from drowning.

A 4-sided fence around a pool can cut down the risk by 83 percent.

Chapter 3

Germs can spread in pools, at water parks

Before you dive into a pool this summer, there could be something in the water that may ruin your fun.

13WMAZ visited a public pool Thursday to see if you should be worried about water diseases possibly sending you or your children to the doctor.

The Jones family loves to spend the day at the South Bibb Recreation Center pool.

Donald and China Jones say that they keep coming back because they trust it's clean enough for their daughters.

The pool's head lifeguard Joana Cohen makes sure it stays that way.

"So we will put some more chlorine in the pool and the pH is perfect," said Cohen.

She says she checks the pool's levels every two hours because when the pool gets crowded, they have to keep up.

"As the day goes on, you see the pool gets a little bit cloudier. That's because you have more users in it, more sunscreen, more people peeing in the pool," Cohen said.

The CDC says recreational water diseases like ear infections, rashes, and even diarrhea can spread in public places with water, but chlorine can kill a lot of the germs.

"No messy diapers in the pool -- that's normally where the problem stems from," said pediatrician Edward Clark.

Clark says if a pool is contaminated, it can cause an outbreak, like E. coli. "Usually those outbreaks and bad symptoms, they are going to start presenting with bloody stools and diarrhea and stuff like that."

So if you're heading to the pool this summer for a little fun in the sun, look at the water before getting in, and then make sure to watch if you have young kids.

In order to prevent the spread of viruses or diseases, The Georgia Department of Public Health recommends showering before getting into a pool, not swallowing the water, avoiding a pool if a drain cover is missing, keeping children close by, and reporting possible hazards to your local health department.

Chapter 4

VERIFY: Can you swim right after eating?

As you spend time at the pool this summer, should you wait a half hour to dive in after you eat?

13 WMAZ set out to verify.

The sources were Warner Robins pediatrician Robert Ford and the Centers for Disease Control.

It's the rule everyone has heard, wait 30 minutes after eating before you go swimming.

“They didn't really tell me why, honestly, there was no backup story, it was just like a wives tale, or like a superstition. So, it was never really confirmed but growing up you know whatever your parents told you that's just what you abided by,” said mom Michele Decker.

Decker said she heard it all the time growing up and she'll probably pass it on to her active kids.

But, is it true?

Doctor Robert Ford says the theory sinks.

“I would say not true,” Ford said.

Ford has been practicing medicine in Warner Robins for ten years and says parents don't have a reason to worry.

“A light meal, or a snack, followed by low to moderate activity, which is your average child's play in the pool is perfectly safe to do even immediately following eating,” Ford explained.

The Centers for Disease Control do not list eating as a reason not to go swimming on their steps of healthy swimming.

The CDC also does not list eating as an influencing factor in drownings.

A Duke University Health blog also says the rule holds no water.

So 13 WMAZ verified that if you're diving in, it's okay if you've had a bite to eat.

“That is fair to debunk it, you know again, knowing that most people are not going to try to have a five-course meal in the middle of the day, so with the exception of overeating, absolutely fair to swim right after eating,” Ford said.

This summer you can tell mom you're going from the table to the pool with a splash.

Ford added that while eating is okay, it is important to stay hydrated when swimming so you can avoid cramps.

VERIFY Sources

Dr. Robert Ford - Warner Robins pediatrician

Centers for Disease Control

Duke University Health

Chapter 5

Tips for parents who want to teach their children pool safety

After seven drowning deaths in Central Georgia in roughly a month, WMAZ is taking a closer look at how you can teach your child about water safety.

Two of the seven drowning deaths involved young children in swimming pools.

While not everyone can find time or money for swimming lessons, there are a few simple things to teach your kids that could end up being life-saving.

For Sarah Fripp and her children, summer time means more time spent in the water.

“We visit my mom a lot and she lives on a lake. I want them to be able to go outside and enjoy nature and not be afraid of going by the water and me not be afraid that they’re going to go in the water and drown,” said Fripp.

Water that – to young, seemingly invincible minds – doesn’t appear to hold a hazard.

“They both tell me all the time they know how to swim because they can kick their feet,” said Fripp. “But they’re learning right now that it’s a little more difficult.”

Jason Swaim, the head coach at Swim Macon, says there are some simple skills you can teach kids before they jump in, and it starts at the bottom.

“Teaching them breath control [and] how to do bobs off the bottom. If they fall in, they can go down to the bottom and push off and take a breath,” said Swaim.

It can help them bounce over to shallower water or to the edge of the pool, which leads to the next skill.

“Exiting the pool,” said Swaim. “Putting both hands on the side of the pool and pressing up. We try to keep the elbows up [and] get kids out of the water.”

Fripp says as a mother, her children learning the basics are important.

“Learning how to kick and learning how to put their face underwater and not panic,” said Fripp.

However, Swaim says all these skills *must* be paired with a set of eyes.

“Even if you have a lifeguard, you should always have eyes on your child. I know it’s nice to go to the pool and not have to worry about it, but you always need to keep a second pair of eyes on your child,” said Swaim.

He says floaties for your child’s arms and pool noodles are NOT effective in keeping children afloat.

If you want to use a flotation device, look for one that says it’s Coast Guard approved on the tag.

Chapter 6

Things to remember before getting in lakes or rivers

Seven drowning deaths have been reported in Central Georgia since May. Five of them happened in lakes or rivers.

Before going out on the water, the Department of Natural Resources says the most important thing to take with you is a life jacket.

Ethan Franklin, a game warden for DNR, says, "Life jackets are one of the things we stress on or having safety equipment on a vessel or on a boat."

He says even the best swimmers need life jackets, "Just because you're a good swimmer doesn't mean an accident can't happen. Not saying that you may get in something and actually get away because you are a good swimmer, but it's better to be safe than sorry to have a life jacket accessible to you, to have it on if you need it."

By state law, children under the age of 12 must wear a life jacket at all times, but adults aren't required.

The Centers of Disease and Control says adult males and young children are the most likely to drown. Franklin says it's important to pay attention to hazardous areas especially after heavy rainfall or bad weather.

"What's a life jacket going to do? It's in the name -- it's meant to save your life and keep you above water and from drowning," says Franklin.

The Hall family visits Lake Tobesofkee and always makes sure that everyone has a life jacket on, regardless of age.

"We have a boat and if we're ever on the boat, the rule is as soon as you're on the boat dock, the rule is 'put your life jacket on,'" says Virginia Hall.

Virginia Hall says Lake Tobesofkee has a life jacket loan program where you can borrow life jackets, so there is no excuse to not have one.

"There are life jackets hanging so if you bringing a friend, it's on an honor system so you can borrow and bring back."

Officials also say it's important to create a safety plan with your family or friends in case of an emergency.

The DNR has guidelines to creating safety plans, and more tips on safety in the water with their new

SPLASH Campaign.

Chapter 7

Know the signs of drowning

With so many taking to the water this summer, experts are warning people to know the signs of drowning, because it may not look like what you think.

Instead of thrashing or yelling, you might see:

- Person's head low in the water with their mouth at water level

- Head tilted back with mouth open

- Eyes glassy and unable to focus

- Hair flopped over the person's face or eyes

- Hyperventilating or gasping for air

- They might look like they're trying to swim in one direction but not going anywhere

The Department of Public Health says most drownings are preventable.

Chapter 8

How to 'self rescue' if your kayak flips

Around this time of year, kayaking and canoeing are popular summertime activities.

But if you fall out of your boat, it can be quite dangerous if you don't know how to get back in.

Kayaks are lightweight, about 60-70 pounds. They're made to sit on top of the water so it can flow easily along with the current, but because of this, it's easy to flip if you're not experienced.

There are a number of ways your kayak can flip, but most times, it's from people sticking their head over the side, which causes uneven weight distribution.

You can get your paddle caught up underneath the boat or you can get caught on a rock and the current can tip it over.

Kayak expert Kathleen O'Neal from Ocmulgee Expeditions demonstrated how to 'self rescue' if your kayak flips over.

"Hold onto your paddle, get back near your boat and flip it back over so it's upright. Then climb back in. Use a scissor kick to throw yourself up onto the boat. Then once you're on to the boat, roll over so that you're sitting upright, grab your paddle and go," she said.

Neal also instructed that when you get into a kayak, always remember to go bum first then swing your legs forward. That way, your bottom anchors your weight so you have more control when you bring your legs inside.

Always remember before you go kayaking to wear the proper river shoes and always wear a life jacket.

Chapter 9

Temperatures on playground equipment can be dangerous in the heat

Amerson River Park is a hot commodity now that summer is in session, but with temperatures forecast to stay in the 90s for the next several days, parents and grandparents at the park are paying extra attention.

"You know, we don't want to put him on a slide or a swing set that's too hot," grandparent Ladon Kozee said.

Slides and swing sets can suffer under the sun in summer. Kozee says her grandson knows better by now.

"When we got here, he said, 'Let's touch it to see if it's really hot.'"

To figure out just how hot some of the playground equipment can get, we took an infrared thermometer to measure temperatures.

The lowest temperature was obviously found in the shade -- around 90 degrees. However, seats of swings rang in around 110 degrees, and slides were over 120 degrees.

The hottest temperature recorded was on a rocking bench made of plastic. The temperature was 153.

These are dangerously hot temperatures that could burn skin.

Pediatrician Christy Peterson says treatment is simple if your child does get a burn while out to play.

"Cold water at first. If it still continues to hurt, then still cold water," said Peterson.

Peterson also added, "Don't ever pop a blister. If it does pop, then you need to put some antibiotic oil or cream on it."

Other tips Peterson mentioned are going before the day gets a chance to really heat up, or to have parents touch the playground equipment before letting their kids go on it.

Chapter 10

How can I protect my children from the sun?

(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Kids don’t have to be at the pool, beach, or on vacation to get too much sun. Their skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays whenever they’re outdoors.

  • Seek shade. UV rays are strongest and most harmful during midday, so it’s best to plan indoor activities then. If this is not possible, seek shade under a tree, an umbrella, or a pop-up tent. Use these options to prevent sunburn, not to seek relief after it’s happened.
  • Cover up. When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.
  • Get a hat. Hats that shade the face, scalp, ears, and neck are easy to use and give great protection. Baseball caps are popular among kids, but they don’t protect their ears and neck. If your child chooses a cap, be sure to protect exposed areas with sunscreen.
  • Wear sunglasses. They protect your child’s eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
  • Apply sunscreen. Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection every time your child goes outside. For the best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. Don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet.
  • Take sunscreen with you to reapply during the day, especially after your child swims or exercises. This applies to waterproof and water-resistant products as well.

Follow the directions on the package for using a sunscreen product on babies less than 6 months old. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your or your child’s skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or call a doctor. Your baby’s best defense against sunburn is avoiding the sun or staying in the shade.

Keep in mind, sunscreen is not meant to allow kids to spend more time in the sun than they would otherwise. Try combining sunscreen with other options to prevent UV damage.

Chapter 11

Four-gulp rule keeps kids hydrated, safe during summer

(WXIA) - The four-gulp rule can help children stay hydrated and safe during the hot summer months.

"For every 15 minutes of outdoor activity, kids should drink about 4 ounces of water, which is approximately 4 gulps," said Laura Synder, MS, RDN, LD and regional director of health strategies for UnitedHealthcare. "That equals about 16 ounces of water per hour, or more, depending on activity level."

Snyder said hot weather can be more dangerous for children because their cooling systems aren't fully developed yet.

"The surface area of a child is smaller and sweat glands aren’t fully developed, which makes it much harder for the body to cool itself," she added.

Here are common signs of dehydration:

  • A dry or sticky mouth
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Eyes that look sunken
  • In babies, the soft spot (fontanelle) on top of the head looks sunken
  • Urinating less or fewer wet diapers than usual
  • Dry, cool skin
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • Not sweating – seek emergency care immediately

In addition to the four-gulp rule, Snyder suggested other ways to avoid dehydration:

  • Skip the Soda and Sports Drinks: Avoid soda and sugary name-brand sports drinks which were developed with an adult’s body in mind. Carbonated water mixed with fruit juice is a great alternative to soda. Use frozen fruit as ice-cubes in water or seltzer waters, too.
  • Pretzels, Fruit and Cheese, Please: Every 30 – 45 minutes give the child a small snack with salt and potassium to help protect against electrolyte loss and promote hydration. Pretzels or goldfish or a cheese stick with some oranges, banana, or strawberries are good options.
  • Smoothies are a Smart Choice. As an alternative to ice cream, children should drink half of their fluids from water and the other half from milk, 100% fruit juice or smoothies.
  • Increase Hydration with Popsicles, Gelato, Smoothies, Yogurt: Fun ways to increase hydration in children is to make home-made popsicles and gelato with real fruit, providing a fresh fruit smoothie made with coconut water, milk or milk substitute, or yogurt after some time outside is another great choice!
  • Be alert to medications. Some prescription medications can be dangerous with excessive exposure to sunlight or may speed up dehydration. Make sure you research any medications your child is taking to see if additional precautions should be taken in excessive heat.
  • Hang a pee chart in the bathroom. Make a color-coded chart from clear to light yellow to dark yellow to teach children what a healthy level of hydration looks like, and when they need to drink more water. Many of these can be found online and printed off at home.
Chapter 12

How day care centers keep kids safe in the heat

We had record breaking temperatures on Wednesday, and there's a good chance we'll do it again this weekend. In those temperatures, it doesn't take long for a child left in a car to overheat.

Most parents know about the dangers, but dozens of times a year, children are left behind in a hot car. 

RELATED: Hot car deaths close to reaching all-time high

You park the car, you turn it off, and you're about to get out and lock up, but did you check the back seat for your kids? 

"With the heat the way it is, they could bake very quickly," says Tattnall Wee Center Director Angela Stitt. 

She says they keep up with a lot of kids, so to make sure no kiddo is left behind, they do something simple -- they count. 

"You have to make sure that you constantly count. I mean, as they get off the bus, as they get on the bus, whether it be a car or a van -- it doesn't matter, just constantly keep a head count," Stitt says.

The counting doesn't stop after travel. It keeps going after they come back to the classrooms. 

"Every 30 minutes, I think, we are calling them to make sure we know how many they have and the teachers know."

In fact, in this blazing heat, Tattnall Wee Center keeps track of the temperatures with a handy-dandy chart. If it's too hot, they don't even go outside.

"If it's yellow, it's kind of iffy. It's up to me and the co-director if they can go, but if it's in the red, it's a no," says Stitt.

Stitt says there's no such thing as excessive counting. "To me, it's very important to make sure that no child is left, ever. I don't want that on my conscience, and I don't want it on the teachers'."

Whether it's coming back from a drive or playtime outside, the goal is to make sure the number on the roster stays consistent.

Chapter 13

Tips on how to protect your pet as the temperature continues to rise

Hot weather is something many four-legged friends don't like, and as temperatures and the humidity rise, it's important to look out for pets.

If you are wanting to walk your dog, Critter Fixers Veterinary Hospital owner Dr. Vernard Hodges says go early on in the day or late in the afternoon.

This helps protect your pet's paws from getting burned. He also suggests putting on booties or even bringing a spray bottle to help cool your pooch down.

Hodges says hydration is important and suggests you give your dog 1 ounce of water per pound it weighs.

He says since your pet can't tell you it's in pain, here are some signs to watch for.

"The first signs you really see is they start to obviously pant very heavily, then they start to drool. Drooling is one of the big things. Then they will start to get disoriented, wobbling side to side, and they will sometimes vomit and they'll also have some diarrhea, and you'll know then that they are starting to get in trouble when these things happen, and you'll want to get them to your veterinarian," Hodges says.

Hodges says if you have have a hard time getting your dog to drink, he says a great trick is to feed them ice, and if that doesn't work, freeze a bouillon cube.

Chapter 14

'Veterinarians warn hot surfaces could be harmful for your pets

The hot weather we're expecting this holiday weekend isn't just a problem for people -- it can put your pets at risk, too.

Niki Morrison says with the heat climbing, she's getting concerned about her dog, Baxter.

"During my lunch breaks, I only take him right outside to the grass and back," said Morrison. 

Being a dog in the heat can be hard. When the temperature heats up, the surfaces dogs walk on heat up, too.

"In the mornings and evenings, and I try to take him on longer walks when it's not as hot and we can go further without him overheating," said Morrison. 

Veterinarian Angela Shurling says your dog's paw pads can get too hot on a lot of the surfaces we walk on, like concrete walkways or asphalt. 

At 140 degrees, they can burn badly enough to require treatment at an animal hospital.

A good rule to use is if you can't leave your hand of pavement for 10 seconds without it feeling too hot, it's not safe for your pets.

"Try to stick to the grass -- it'll be cooler if you're going to be walking in the middle of the day. You can get lots of burns to the paw pads when it gets hot," said Shurling. 

Another recommendation --  dog booties, but not all dogs like them.

Morrison, a first-time dog mom, says she'll try out the hot new accessory, but she's not sure Baxter will go for them. 

Shurling says it's a common misconception that you need to give your dog a haircut during the summer months to keep them cool. A dog's coat insulates their body, keeping them cool, and if their hair is too short, some breeds can get sunburned. 

Chapter 15

VERIFY: Best ways to prevent and remove ticks this summer?

As the kids get ready for summer and the days keep getting hotter, the potential for tick bites will only increase.

We set out to Verify the correct ways to prevent tick bites and how to remove them if they bite.

To Verify the proper way to deal with ticks we spoke to Michael Hokanson with the Department of Public Health and Jones County Agricultural Extension Agent Michael Abney.

“They can sometimes carry bacteria that can cause diseases in people,” Hokanson says.

Hokanson works for the North Central Health District and says the ticks can pass along Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease, among many others.

In fact, the Central District accounted for 20 percent of the state's confirmed Spotted Fever cases in the 2016-2017 season.

That's why experts say if you're bitten, it's best to act quickly.

“The best tool for the job is a sharply pointed pair of tweezers. When you use the tweezers, you want to get down to the head of the tick, as close to the skin as possible, and move up in a single motion,” Hokanson says.

Jones County Agriculture Extension Agent Michael Abney agrees.

“Just get as close to the point of where they're connected to as possible and just do a steady pull to have them release,” Abney said in his office.

And what about those home remedies we've all heard of before like Vaseline, gasoline, or even burning them off? Well the experts say it may do more harm than good.

“You're going to get them angry and they're going to secrete any saliva that they had in their system into the point where they've already bitten into you and that saliva is going to hold the things like parasites and potential diseases. In a lot of ways you may get them to release, but you're going to do more harm than if you just quickly grabbed them,” Abney says.

To prevent ticks the experts say use bug sprays with DEET, avoid tall grass and other dense vegetation, and if you’re going to hike or be outdoors to put your pant legs into your socks.

Hokanson added to check your dogs when you return from woods or other outdoor areas where ticks might be present. He says you don’t want them coming into your home and getting into the carpet or onto people. It also helps prevent your dog from getting sick.

Hokanson and Abney say the tweezer-pull method is the best method for dogs as well.


Michael Hokanson - North Central Health District

Michael Abney - Jones County Agriculture Extension Agent

Chapter 16

Tips for preventing mosquito-borne illnesses as infections rise

The CDC has released the latest numbers on illnesses from mosquitoes, fleas and ticks, and they show a large jump in infections.

As the weather and humidity continue to climb, do you know how to protect yourself from getting a nasty infection?

The CDC says illnesses have tripled in the last 13 years, with more than 640,000 cases reported.

North Central Health District public information officer Michael Hokanson says after last year’s Zika outbreak, they’re getting ahead of the game in 2018.

“We learned from that experience and [are] even more knowledgeable. We’ll be doing surveillance earlier [and] we’ll start testing these mosquitoes earlier to see if there’s any sign of Zika in the mosquito population,” said Hokanson.

Zika and West Nile virus are two illnesses with some common symptoms that can be prevented by taking proper precautions.

“Wear long clothing if you can, if it’s not too hot. If you can’t wear long clothing, use the EPA regulated repellent on any exposed skin,” said Hokanson.

With the recent rain we’ve seen, it takes roughly a bottle cap full of standing water for mosquitoes to breed.

“Any toys or anything like that that you have around your home that rainwater can get into, make sure those are emptied,” said Hokanson. “It only takes 10-14 days for them to go from egg to biting you.”

He says an easy thing to remember is to ‘tip and toss’ when it comes to getting rid of standing water around your home.

Mosquito Bite Prevention Fact Sheet (CDC) by 13WMAZ on Scribd