Summer Safety: How to Keep Kids Safe
Summertime means time off from school, camp, swimming, vacations, and spending the long days outdoors. Even if our activities may look a little different this year with some social distancing practices still in place, most kids will be getting more outdoor time in the summer than they do at other times of the year. Along with the many health benefits of outdoor time come specific health and safety risks that can be managed with some precautions.
(Keep in mind, public health recommendations for COVID-19 will be evolving over the next few months, so be sure to stay apprised of local and national recommendations.)
Why it’s important: Too much unprotected time in the sun can increase your child’s risk for skin cancer later in life. Additionally, overexposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to eye or skin damage and even immune system suppression. Protecting against these risks doesn’t just mean slathering on the sunscreen for a day at the beach or when you’re planning to be poolside for a few hours. Protecting the skin from the sun should be a daily habit whenever your children will be outdoors.
- Use sunscreen with at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 that has protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). Apply it half an hour before going out in the sun and reapply every two hours.
- When possible, make sure your child wears clothing that comfortably covers their skin, avoiding unnecessary UV exposure. Hats can be an excellent source of shade for the face, scalp, neck and ears.
- Plan your activities so your children can come indoors during the most intense midday hours.
- Whether you’re at the beach, pool, yard, or playground, create or find spots for children to play or take breaks in the shade.
- Give your children sunglasses to protect the eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. The best protection is provided by wraparound sunglasses styles that block as much UVA and UVB rays as possible.
- Babies less than 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight altogether.
Home care and when to see a doctor: Even 15 minutes in the sun can lead to sun damage to the skin. If your child’s skin begins to look pink, get them out of the sun right away to prevent further burning. The full effect of sun exposure may not be able to be seen for up to 12 hours. If your child gets a sunburn, they can take a cool shower or bath or use cool compresses to treat discomfort. Children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen and aloe vera can also help alleviate symptoms. Make sure to keep your child hydrated while recovering from a sunburn.
In most cases, a sunburn will not require a visit to the doctor. However, you should seek medical care if your child develops blisters, is in extreme pain, or develops swelling in the face, a fever or chills, headache, confusion, or dizziness.
Why it’s important: Swimming and water activities are a big part of summer fun for many people, which is why water safety is so critical. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the second leading cause of injury death for children ages one to 14 years. Even non-fatal drownings can lead to hospitalization, severe brain damage, and long-term disability.
Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs) can spread when germs contaminate water in pools, water parks, lakes, oceans, and rivers. RWIs can lead to diarrheal illness, rash, ear infections, and respiratory infections.
- Always make sure children are properly supervised both when they’re in the water and when they’re around it.
- Make sure your children have mastered basic swimming skills, including floating.
- Consider learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
- Use flotation devices and properly-fitted life jackets on the water.
- Regularly check chlorine and other disinfectant and pH levels of your pool or hot tub.
- Avoid swimming in natural bodies of water after strong rainfalls or in areas that public health departments have deemed unsafe. Find out the current water quality for a particular U.S. beach you plan to visit.
Home care and when to see a doctor: If an accident occurs requiring a water rescue, perform a safe rescue and CPR immediately, if needed. If your child has no symptoms after exiting the water, drowning did not occur. If your child must be revived through CPR or can’t be revived, call 911. After a water rescue, if your child experiences breathing difficulty, prolonged coughing, or confusion, seek medical attention immediately.
The most common symptom of RWI is diarrhea and most RWIs will go away on their own. Take care to stay hydrated. See a doctor if you have a fever, vomiting, or severe pain that doesn’t subside. Those with weakened immune systems can develop life-threatening illness from some RWIs and should seek medical care. Other RWIs, like “swimmer’s ear” may require antibiotic treatments to clear up.
Why it’s important: Heat can overload the body’s temperature control system and children under 4 years old are especially at risk. Heat-related illness can lead to heat stroke and even death.
- Avoid strenuous physical activity and play during hot weather.
- Wear appropriate, light-weight clothing in the heat.
- NEVER leave children or babies in a parked car.
- Avoid outdoor play in the hottest parts of the day.
- Stay hydrated and avoid sugary drinks.
Home care and when to see a doctor: Learn the signs of different heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Call 911 if your child has symptoms such as a body temperature over 103°F, skin that is hot and red, heavy sweating, increased or weak pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, loss of consciousness. Cool your child while awaiting medical care by moving the child to a cooler location, apply cool cloths or a cool bath. If heat stroke is suspected, don’t give your child water to drink.
Enjoy the Summer!
For many kids, summer is their favorite time of year. With knowledge or sensible precautions and appropriate supervision, you can help your kids have a blast in summer while keeping them safe.
Learn more about summer safety from the CDC, including injury prevention, as well as mosquito and tick safety. Never hesitate to contact your care provider with concerns about your child’s health.