Make sure that a child wears a helmet and avoids traffic when skateboarding or biking. Picture: Pexels

Child injuries spike during summer. Professor Sebastian van As, head of Trauma Unit, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, says motor vehicle accidents, drownings, burns and falls are the most common reasons children end up in hospital over the holidays, adding that 80 percent of trauma cases are linked to road accidents where children were not properly strapped in. 

So small yet crucial interventions like a seatbelt can save little ones' lives.

Dr Marion Morkel, Chief Medical Officer at Sanlam, says, the most common kinds of injury claims Sanlam receives for its Child Illness & Injury Benefit over the holidays are for near-drownings, vehicle crashes and major burns.

She adds: "The costs of these curveballs can be extensive – from extended hospital stays to rehabilitation and counselling."

Dr Morkel and Pumla Mtambeka, Home Safety Project Specialist at ChildSafe South Africa, have put together a guide to help you mitigate injury risks at home and in public spaces.

Make the home extra safe this holiday

  • Make sure hot electrical appliances, toxic substances and sharp objects are locked away or out of reach. The same applies to matches, paraffin and lighters
  • Search the home for objects that may cause harm. Read the labels on items you’re not sure about
  • Don’t let children near candles, fireplaces or the braai unless there is continuous supervision
  • Keep cabinets locked, especially ones where you keep chemicals
  • Watch out for water in the bathroom. Be wary of little ones being near the bath or geyser
  • Keep toxic indoor plants out of reach
  • Make sure your pool cover is secure whenever the pool is unattended
  •  Mitigate choking hazards by cutting a small child’s food into pieces

Upskill your family in safety 101s

  • Always, always wear seatbelts. This should be non-negotiable for the whole family
  • Help your child to memorise your phone number and a key emergency number to call. Put a list of other important numbers on the fridge or somewhere visible and rehearse phoning these in emergency scenarios. 
  • Consider attending a first-aid course and if you have a child minder, consider taking them along  
  • Teach your child to swim from a young age
  • Explain what objects are dangerous and why

Stay safe in public spaces

  • Make sure that a child wears a helmet and avoids traffic when skateboarding or biking
  • Supervise small children on roads and teach older children about pedestrian safety (look right, look left, look right again!)
  • On hot days, keep sunscreen, water and protective clothing on hand
  • Don’t let children near any kind of water body without supervision

Dr Morkel says that it’s also important for adults to use alcohol in moderation as this can impair child supervision. She adds that risk mitigation should ideally include protection through medical aid, gap cover and a Child Illness and Injury Benefit. “Have peace of mind over the holidays and at all other times of the year."