Prevent summer injuries: top tips to stay safe

Montreal, June 18, 2024 - Summer is here and families are already spending quality time outdoors. To ensure that these events are full of fun times and good memories, the Montreal Children’s Hospital (MCH) Trauma Centre issues this important alert.

Every summer, the MCH Emergency Department treats more than 4,000 children and teens with assorted traumatic injuries, the majority of which are preventable.

Some important tips:

  • Children left in cars: On average, 37 children die each year in the United States from heat stroke after being left alone in a car.

Cars heat up quickly. A study funded by General Motors of Canada showed that on a 35ºC day, the air temperature in a previously air-conditioned small car exceeded 50ºC within 20 minutes and the temperature soared to 65.5 ºC within 40 minutes.

Leaving a window ajar does little to impact the temperature. Infants and children under four years of age are among those at greatest risk for heat-related illness. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child's body temperature may increase from three to five times as fast as an adult’s (Canadian safety council). High body temperatures can cause permanent injury or even death.

By incorporating the following measures in your daily routine, you can help prevent this type of tragedy from happening:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
  • Do not let your children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach them that a vehicle is not a play area.
  • Make a habit of looking in the vehicle - front and back - before locking the door and walking away.
  • Make sure your childcare provider knows to call you if your child has not been dropped off at the usual time.
  • Always place an item (purse, bag, etc.) in the backseat so that you have to open the door every time you leave the vehicle.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in your child’s car seat when it is not occupied. When your child is in the seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat. This is a visual reminder: any time the stuffed animal is in the front seat, you know your child is in the back seat.
  • When you arrive at your destination, avoid any distractions including talking on the phone or texting while you exit your car.

If you see a child alone in a vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible. Cool the child rapidly. Call 911 immediately.

  • Water safety: As we know from a recent study, in Quebec, one child or teen a day is expected in emergency rooms for drowning or near-drowning this summer.

In the last 30 years, the MCH Trauma Centre saw over 400 drowning and near-drowning traumas, of which 73 per cent occurred in home pools, park pools, aquatic centres or water parks, according to a review of the MCH’s Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program data. In terms of home pools, 50 per cent of the drownings happened in ground pools and the other half, in above-ground pools.

It is clear that preventing drowning requires a multifaceted approach:

  • Constant adult supervision: close, undistracted and attentive surveillance of children around any body of water, all eyes on the water at all times. This means no phones, screens, books, and no chatting with neighbours or drinking alcohol;
  • The supervising adult should be within arm’s reach of anyone with weak swimming skills;
  • Swimming lessons are encouraged;
  • CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training is recommended;
  • Never swim alone, regardless of age;
  • Know the swimming skill level of those in your pool.

MCH Trauma Centre experts emphasize the following life-saving measures to prevent drowning:

  • Install fencing compliant with Quebec regulations around the pool and ensure there is no direct access to the pool from the house or patio;
  • Close and lock the gate to the pool when not in use;
  • When there is direct access to a lake, make sure doors remain locked at all times to prevent a child from wandering into the water;
  • Ensure that children are properly supervised when going on a field trip to a pool, lake or water park;
  • Teach children to always swim with a buddy;
  • Make sure to swim in an area that matches swimming ability.

The government recently amended the Residential Swimming Pool Safety Act, requiring all owners of swimming pools in Quebec to install fencing and to ensure there is no direct access to the pool from the house. Even though the government has given owners of pools installed before November 2010 a grace period until 2025 to conform to the new rules, timely action is recommended.

  • Windows and balconies: At least 15 children are seen at the MCH Emergency Department each summer after falling from a window or balcony.

Screens are useful for keeping insects out, but are not strong enough to keep children in. They are flimsy and are weak barriers giving a false sense of security. Children can easily push through and fall out. Toddlers are curious, impulsive, enjoy exploring their environment and are not aware of the consequences of their actions. Follow these important tips to keep them safe.


  • Do not place furniture such as a bed, chair or dresser in front of a window since it is an invitation to climb;
  • Use window guards which create a protective barrier or window stops that limit window opening. Windows should not be able to open more than 10 cm (four inches). These devices are available at hardware stores;
  • Adult supervision is essential at all times.


  • Keep the door to a balcony locked at all times;
  • Ensure that there is no furniture in close proximity to the railings to avoid encouraging climbing;
  • Never leave a child alone on a balcony;
  • If you have a barbecue on the balcony, keep a three metres child-free zone.
  • Barbecues and backyard fire pits
  • Keep a three metres child-free zone surrounding the BBQ and fire pit;
  • Always have an adult supervise when teaching teens to use the BBQ;
  • Never start a gas grill with the lid closed. The propane or gas can accumulate inside and when ignited, could explode and blow the lid off;
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and know how to use it;
  • Keep your child away from grilling areas at all times. The metal surface of a gas grill may remain hot for a long period of time;
  • If using a lighter to start the barbecue, keep it out of sight and out of reach of your child;
  • Keep water, a shovel and a fire extinguisher nearby when using a fire pit and never leave the fire unattended.

Many families are eager to enjoy the summer months. The MCH Trauma Centre urges all citizens, however, to follow the prevention recommendations above and not let a beautiful day end in a preventable, life-altering tragic event.



For an interview or more information, please contact:

Christine Bouthillier

Information Agent, Montreal Children's Hospital
[email protected]