Summer is a great time for kids to get outside and enjoy the weather, but it’s important for parents and guardians to remember safety tips throughout the season.
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“We want children to run, play, and enjoy themselves, but we also need to be aware that certain environmental elements can potentially be dangerous for them,” says pediatrician Paula Sabella, MD.
Ready for fun in the sun? Be sure of it!
dr. Sabella shares 10 ways to keep your kids safe this summer, including how to avoid dehydration, tips to protect skin from the sun, and care for bites and bruises.
1. Protect children’s skin
Sunburn is the scourge of summer and children are especially susceptible. It is important that you put sunscreen on your child when they go outside. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children wear sunscreen with at least 15 to 50 SPF.
Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming, sweating, or toweling, and consider wearing sun-protective clothing for an added barrier.
Sunscreen is not recommended for babies under six months of age, who should always be kept out of direct sunlight. Protect your little ones from the sun by donning lightweight clothing and sun hats and using umbrellas for shade.
“Harmful ultraviolet rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Playing outside during these hours also minimizes the risk of sunburn for children,” explains Dr. Sabella out, “but even if they are in the shade, keep using the sunscreen!”
2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
When it comes to hot weather, hydration is key — and not just when kids are playing sports or sitting in the sun. “Keep kids hydrated at all times, especially the day before a big activity or even the day before a play date,” advises Dr. Sabella.
Stay away from soda, energy drinks, and fruit juices, which can make dehydration worse. Water is the best source of hydration for children over 1 year of age, while breast milk and formula are the preferred fluids to hydrate children under one year of age. To measure whether your child is adequately hydrated, look at the color of their urine. It should be a light yellow color, not golden or dark.
3. Maintain Healthy Eating Habits
Sodas and ice cream trucks and cookouts, oh my! There are plenty of junk food options in the summer, but if kids stick to healthy eating habits while out of school, your little ones will learn healthy, consistent habits and get the vitamins and nutrients they need to fuel their summer fun.
4. Beware of Hot Cars
You probably think you can never forget your child in the car on a hot day — but researchers estimate that half of all deaths from hot cars involve a loving caregiver forgetting a sleeping child in the backseat of their car.
“We are all human beings,” says Dr. Sabella, “and there are some things caregivers can do to make sure they don’t forget about their child in the car.”
She recommends developing daily habits that can prevent deaths from hot cars
- Never intentionally leave your child in the car ahead each rode.
- Be extra vigilant if you have a new or different routine.
- Leave another important item, such as a wallet, cell phone, or work badge, in the back seat of the car. This serves as a reminder to get your child out of the car when you pick up this item.
- Make a plan with your nanny or daycare centers to have you call if your child is late for any reason.
There is no safe situation, temperature or length of time for a child to be left alone in a car.
5. Drive Safely
If children go outside to play with friends and cycle around the neighborhood, make sure they practice cycling safety, including riding a properly fitting bicycle and wearing a properly fitting bicycle helmet.
“Adults can be good role models for children by always wearing their own bicycle helmet and adhering to the same bicycle safety rules that we ask of children,” notes Dr. Sabella on.
6. Practice Water Safety
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that drowning is the leading cause of death in American children ages 1 to 4, so take family safety tips to heart, from drain covers and gated fencing to life jackets, swimming lessons, and CPR classes.
Toddlers should not be more than an arm’s length from their guardian when near a swimming pool or other body of water. Empty buckets, bathtubs, coolers and wading pools immediately after use.
“I also recommend that non-swimming children always wear life jackets when in the water,” says Dr. Sabella. “And every time you’re on a boat or watercraft, everybody should wear life jackets – adults and children, swimmers and non-swimmers alike.”
7. Protect insects and tend to bite
Your kids aren’t the only ones playing outside! When the weather warms up, the creepy crawlies come out in droves and little ones can become victims of bites and bumps.
- Use insect repellent. Don’t forget the bug spray! The Academy of Pediatrics recommends a concentration of DEET of up to 30% in repellents for children over two months of age.
- Watch out for standing water. “Try to avoid standing water in or outside your home,” says Dr. Sabella. “Ponds and enclosed fountains with standing water can serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.”
- Check for ticks. May to October is tick season, so increase your knowledge of tick removal and watch out for these buggers that will burrow into your kids’ skin.
- Know what to do. If your child comes into contact with a bee, spider, mosquito or other painful pests, follow the doctor’s guidelines for treating insect bites and bee stings.
8. Enjoy fireworks safely
Children under 15 account for about a third of fireworks-related emergency room visits — most of which involve burns to fingers, hands, and eyes.
“By taking safety precautions, your family can enjoy summer fireworks without worry,” says Dr. Sabella.
Do not give sparklers or bottle rockets to children and practice other fireworks safety precautions for both children and adults.
9. Prevent accidents on the playground
Because they spend more time outdoors in the summer, children may be more prone to scrapes and bruises than ever before. Practice safe playing habits to avoid injury.
- Find the right playground. “Choose one that’s right for your kids, with equipment that’s appropriate for their age, size and abilities,” says Dr. Sabella.
- Take a touch test. Children can get thermal burns from play equipment, so make sure the slides and swings aren’t too hot before the kids play.
- Wear the right clothes. Opt for chunky-soled sneakers over slippery thongs, and avoid stringy clothing, such as hoodies, that can get caught in gear.
- Look for safe surfaces. Some playgrounds offer rubber or mulch on which children can run, play and even fall safely. These surfaces are more child-friendly – and less accident prone – than cement and asphalt.
Keep a first aid kit handy and learn how to treat common playground injuries, from splinters and friction burns to bumps and bruises.
10. Don’t overdo it outdoors
Kids of all ages should take breaks from playing outside by retreating to the shade – or, better yet, air-conditioned – every 20 to 30 minutes.
“Kids need time to relax, cool down, and hydrate before playing again,” says Dr. Sabella. “And when they’re done playing for the day, keep that hydration going.”
Hot, humid weather also puts active children at a higher risk of developing heat rash, so take precautions to avoid this and make sure you know how to treat it in case it happens.
Enjoy your summer!
By following common sense safety precautions, you can prepare your child for a safe and enjoyable summer — without necessarily hanging over his shoulder all season.
“Be mindful of the sun, monitor hydration, and keep pool and water safety in mind,” Dr. Sabella on. “And above all: have fun, love your children and enjoy the summer safely with your children.”
To hear more from Dr. Sabella on this topic, listen to the Health Essentials Podcast episode “Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe This Summer”. New episodes of the Health Essentials Podcast are released every Wednesday.