The hidden dangers of New Zealand's summer

These are the hidden dangers of New Zealand's summer - the things we forget or don't think about until it's too late.

Cut the Kiwi death toll and stay safe with this list of things to watch out for.

Hot car deaths

Every year infants and small animals die after being left in cars on hot days.

During a typical summer day, the temperature inside a car can reach up to 60degC - even with windows down - and it's enough to cause brain damage or kill a child or pet.

Around 800 children were locked in a vehicle in 2016. In December 2016 alone, the AA was called to 90 emergency jobs involving children or pets locked inside vehicles.

In April, the parents of an eight-month-old baby pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of their baby son, who was left asleep in a car on a hot day.

In 2015, the mother of a 16-month-old boy pleaded guilty to manslaughter after she forgot her son was in the car. He died from heat stroke and dehydration.

AA Road Service national manager John Healy says people should be mindful, especially over the summer period, because being forgetful can result in serious consequences.

"Holiday brain definitely takes its toll at this time of year, but the real danger is when there are children and pets locked inside the car," says Mr Healy.

Drunken swimming

Water Safety New Zealand's 'Swim Reaper' has officially opened reaping season, warning people about the grim reality of making unsafe decisions in the water.

Water Safety research shows 33 percent of respondents had first-hand experience of a serious situation in the water, with 11 percent admitting alcohol was a main factor.

"We all know alcohol impairs our judgement, so out in surf conditions it will impair your judgement," says David Butt of Surf Lifesaving northern region.

"And you'll continue to overestimate your ability and underestimate the conditions."

One swimmer needed to be rescued in 2009 after trying to swim across the Waikato River.

The man, who police say had been drinking heavily, was fully clothed, wearing jeans, a bush shirt and shoes.

Earlier in December, a man sparked a search with a night-vision-equipped helicopter after going on a drunken swim in off Southland's coast.

"It is never a good idea to go swimming in unfamiliar water, particularly at night and especially not if you have been drinking," said Sergeant Ian Martin afterwards.

Food poisoning

Thinking about digging into the Christmas ham? Think again.

More than 500 New Zealanders get food poisoning a day. It can be a life-threatening risk if you're sick, pregnant, very young or elderly.

A Waikato family was struck down by botulism in November after eating wild boar, leaving them paralysed and unable to speak.

Shibu Kochummen had gone hunting for wild boar, and he and his family ate the animal. Within half an hour, the trio began throwing up. Emergency services found them unconscious and rushed them to hospital in a critical condition.

If you're planning a long Christmas lunch, watch out for leaving food out too long.

Perishable food like chicken should be thrown out if left out at room temperature for more than two hours. The time is even less if in the sun or a warm room.

Alcohol poisoning

Binge-drinking in New Zealand seems like part of our culture - and it's part that can kill.

Police are launching a crackdown on alcohol-related crime across Auckland. But sometimes it's the alcohol itself that's killing us.

Sixteen-year-old James Webster died in a bed at a friend's house after he had been taken home from a birthday party, drunk, vomiting and semi-conscious.

The inquest was told he had been sculling from a bottle of vodka at the birthday party.

Research from New Zealand and Australia shows one person in eight going to emergency departments at peak times are there because of alcohol-related reasons.

The start of summer kicked of drinking season with Crate Day, an annual drinking event which takes place on the first Saturday of December.

Waikato Hospital's Dr John Bonning says they were put under huge strain despite extra staff being rostered on to cope.

"Some of the doctors and nurses describe it as the worst shift ever - it really was very, very challenging, and the impact was not only on the intoxicated people who came in but also they impacted significantly the care we were able to provide other people," he says.

"Resuscitations were full of patients who were intoxicated and at risk of choking on their own vomit - semi-conscious, fighting, aggressive, needing to be sedated. I think it's quite selfish."

Jumping into shallow water

It's part of our summertime fun - jumping off bridges or wharves, or diving into rivers and waterholes.

But it's leading to a frightening number of serious injuries as Kiwis jump into shallow water.

In 2016, 230 claims were lodged with ACC - a massive rise since the 17 claims in 2002.

They include injuries like shattered ankles and smashed spines.

A number of New Zealanders now need permanent care after becoming disabled from diving off wharves.

In 2015, a man died after jumping off a 40-metre crane into the Wellington Harbour. The crane has been an attraction for daredevils.

Jump platforms have been put in place in the harbour to provide a safer alternative for the scores of young people putting themselves at risk jumping off buildings and bridges, Wellington Waterfront says.


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