Summer is a time for many families to enjoy fun activities outdoors. Whether you have a toddler or school-aged kids out on summer break, knowing how to protect your children during the hot, sunny months can be challenging and a bit overwhelming
Below are helpful tips for kids’ safety. Most apply to adults, too.
Practice Sun Safety
Sunscreen plays an important role in protecting skin from the sun. But it’s just one of the ways to protect you from sun damage. Because the sun’s rays can reflect off of the sand and water or other reflective surfaces, wide-brim hats, and sunglasses are also important in preventing UV damage (the damage to the skin from the sun).
Try to schedule playtime around the sun. The CDC recommends outside playtime be done early in the morning or late in the afternoon /evening to avoid the hot midday sun. If this is not possible, seek shade under a tree, an umbrella, or a pop-up tent.
Remember to apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside – even on cloudy days. About a shot glass full of sunscreen, at least SPF 30, is recommended for the average adult. Look for sunscreen that lists protection against “UVA and UVB.” Reapply every two hours – more often after swimming or sweaty activities.
Consider tan lines a warning sign because they mean that the skin is already being damaged. If your child has gotten tanner while outdoors, reapply sunscreen more frequently and add protective clothing. Some clothing designed for kids even has built-in SPF!
Heat Safety & Awareness
Try to stay inside when it is hottest out, usually 12 pm – 4 pm. Check the heat index regularly. This is a measurement of what the temperature outside feels like with humidity. Keep an eye on this, and when the heat index reaches potentially dangerous levels, avoid going outside.
Pay attention to cues—If your newborn starts fussing heavily or gets red-faced while outside, your little one may be trying to tell you that it’s time to go inside. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends listening to those cues and carrying your baby indoors for a break from the heat. For older children, pay attention to signs that they may be overheating – like looking for shade or taking extra breaks from playtime.
Cases of heat stroke spike during the summer months, and heat stroke can be life threatening in children. Kids show that they are too hot with milder symptoms such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Make sure children take water breaks and wear lightweight clothing when playing outside.
Never leave a child alone in a car. The temperature inside a car can rise quickly, and just a few minutes can be the difference between life and death.
Stay hydrated – Whether your child is playing sports or running around in the park with friends, frequent water breaks are very important. Children should drink water before exercise and during breaks, about every 15 to 20 minutes. On extra hot and humid days, spraying down kids with some water from a spray bottle can help them cool off.
Swimming and other water activities are excellent physical exercise choices to help children (and adults!) stay healthy while having fun. It’s important to keep everyone safe in all water sports. To prevent drowning, always watch children at all times in the water. Because drowning happens quickly and quietly, adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities like playing cards, reading books, talking on the phone, and using alcohol or drugs. Pick one adult to be the designated watcher so that no one assumes that the kids are safe. Stay safe while boating by wearing a life jacket at all times. Make sure everyone in the group knows how to swim.
Protect Against Bugs
As the weather warms up, bugs come out in full force. But insects, such as mosquitoes and bees, can also be harmful to kids. To avoid bug bites, apply insect repellent before spending time outdoors. Avoid using heavily scented soaps or lotions and cover arms and legs as much as possible. Never leave stagnant (still) pools of water around the house. Pools of water can serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Make sure you apply bug spray after sunscreen and avoid using combination sunscreen and bug spray products.
Following these recommendations are a few ways to make sure that your family can safely enjoy all that summer has to offer. If you have any questions about your child’s specific health or safety needs, contact their primary care provider.
About the Author: Dr. Sarah Wypiszynski, Family Medicine Physician, Ascension Medical Group – Koeller St in Oshkosh. She cares for patients of all ages from newborns to end of life. Dr. Wypiszynski has a special interest in pediatrics, lactation, women’s health, and palliative care. She enjoys building long-lasting relationships with patients and their families, providing education on disease processes, and partnering with patients to help them achieve their health goals.