Drifting down a lazy river and racing on a roller coaster are mainstays of summer family fun. Theme parks in North America attract 375 million visitors annually, bringing countless smiles to all ages. If you’ll be among them this year, following a few safety tips may make the difference between a day of thrill rides and a ride to the hospital.
Thousands of park and carnival visitors wind up in the emergency department each year. Golisano Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Elizabeth Murray says injuries are common, mainly because people overlook the rules or get distracted.
Here’s Dr. Murray’s advice for a safer day at the park:
- Plan ahead. Bring back-pack essentials like a phone charger, water bottles, hats, snacks, sunscreen, and an extra layer of clothing for when the sun sets. Be sure all kids in your care know your cell phone number even if they don’t have their own phones. It’ll help park staff locate you if get separated. And choose a place to meet in an emergency. It’s best to select a central location that is well staffed, ideally near the park's guest services facilities.
- Be weather-wise. Keep an eye on the forecast and adjust your packing list for rain or shine. Must-haves include sunscreen, hats, and water bottles to avoid burns, exhaustion, and dehydration. Gray skies won’t protect you from the sun so apply sunscreen even when it’s cloudy.
- Know the rules. Amusement park rules are designed to keep guests and staff safe, and bending them can put people at risk. This is especially important when it comes to ride instructions, safety equipment, and park procedures.
- Keep in “touch.” Water parks and attractions require extra attention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “touch supervision” to prevent drowning deaths. That means an adult should never be more than an arm’s length from a child while in or near water. This makes it easier to react quickly if an emergency arises.
- Have eagle eyes. You should be able to see your child at all times. Kids are curious and impulsive and can quickly forget safety reminders when a favorite character is nearby. Consider dressing kids in easily identifiable outfits (bright colors are a plus), so you can spot them more readily.
Elizabeth Murray, D.O., is a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital. She was named a spokesperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2014 and can be seen regularly on Good Day Rochester. Follow her on Twitter @DocEMurray