School will officially be out for the summer and that means our kids will have a lot of extra free time to do the things they love! As we get closer to May, many kids are already gearing up for vacations, summer camps, sports, outdoor recreational activities, having a great time with family and friends, and much more. The Children’s Wellness Center pediatricians encourage all patients and their families to have fun in the sun, but want to remind everyone of some key summer safety tips to make sure that everyone in your family stays safe this summer.
Sun Safety for Kids
Too much sun exposure can cause sunburns or worse, skin cancer. Sunburns and skin cancers can be detrimental to anyone in the family and a big reason why we are big advocates for safe sun practice, especially in the summertime when we’re spending more time outdoors under the sun’s bright rays and sweltering heat. For kids under 6 months, they’re particularly susceptible to the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays so we recommend limiting their exposure to direct sunlight and providing extra shade (like under trees, umbrellas, and beneath stroller canopies) for when you’re spending time outside.
No one is immune to sunburns/sun damage and it’s important to deck everyone in the family out with wide-brimmed hats or baseball caps that cover the face, sunglasses with 99% UV protection (they even make these to fit kids), ALWAYS use sunscreen, and when possible, wear lightweight clothing that covers exposed parts of the skin. Picking the best sunscreen for your entire family is crucial in providing that extra layer of much needed sun protection. Choose a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection from both UVB and UVA rays with an SPF of at least 15 (but the higher the SPF, the more UVB protection you’ll give yourself). Generously apply sunscreen according to the manufacturer’s recommendations before heading outdoors to allow it time to really get absorbed into the skin (this can range from 40 minutes to 2 hours) and reapply every two hours, or immediately after being in water.
Outdoor Safety for Kids
Outdoor fun is something many kids look forward to during their summer vacation. Whether going on a family vacation, having a sleepover at a neighbor’s house, play date in the park, or heading off to summer camp, outdoor activities are in abundance. Not every activity requires adult supervision, but it’s vital that certain safety precautions be taken to give your child extra protection when they’re playing and enjoying land and water activities. We’ve rounded up some of the top safety tips for a variety of summertime activities:
- Bicycle, Skateboard, Skating, & Scooter Safety – there should never be a time when your child should not be wearing a helmet while they’re biking or skating, no matter how long their ride is or how close to home they’re staying (yes, even in the driveway). Falls can cause minor to severe injuries including trauma to the brain, cuts and bruises, sprains and broken bones, so making sure your child is wearing their helmet, wrist/elbow guards, and kneepads whenever possible is the best defense for their body’s protection. Protective gear should be properly fitted, snug but not overly tight, and worn by all in the family (parents can help set the example themselves by promoting helmet use at all times). Young children under eight should be supervised and older kids should always have a buddy when riding/skating. Just as important, make sure they also stay away from major traffic areas as vehicles can pose greater threats to young riders.
- Bug Safety – insect bites can introduce a plethora of viruses into the body, like West Nile, Chikungunya, Zika, etc. so using insect repellent gives that extra layer of defense when spending time outdoors. Avoid using hygiene products that are fragrant (mosquitos will be attracted to the scent) and playing in areas where high concentrations of mosquitos are living (like stagnant water). When choosing a bug repellent, make sure that it contains DEET (note that it’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians that DEET not be used on children under 2 months), which is the active ingredient needed to prevent-insect related diseases and cover up exposed areas of the body with long clothing when outside at night.
- Water Safety – splashing around in pools, lakes, and oceans can be a great way to beat the heat and enjoy time with friends and family, but water safety is vital as kids are at risk of drowning under certain conditions. Often, parents can get a false sense of security from floatation devices but nothing is a substitute for supervision and a bit of swimming instructions. Life vests should be mandatory whenever boating and also work extremely well in other large bodies of water. Kids should NEVER be left alone around a pool, in fact, home pools should be secure and completely fenced in so children can stay out, in the event they attempt to swim on their own. Having an adult on deck who is trained in CPR is also recommended to help act fast in the event of a water emergency – even the most experienced swimmers can harm themselves in water and therefore approach this activity with the mentality that nobody is immune.
- Fireworks Safety – fireworks can cause severe burns, scars, blindness, and even death. Even those types of fireworks we may consider “harmless” for kids, like sparklers, can generate enough heat to burn your child or even those they happen to be nearby. They may be fun for a short period of time, but injuries resulting from fireworks or fire are not something that should be on the menu for the 4th of July celebration.
Kids are going to be kids, and accidents can happen virtually anywhere, so we don’t want you to feel you have to keep your kid indoors or covered up in bubble wrap to keep them safe. We want to make sure you’re well equipped to reduce your child’s risks of injuries like sunburns, broken bones, insect-related diseases, etc., and with a little diligence, leading by example, and prevention, you can help them to have a wonderful summer full of fun and adventures!