Summer by almost anyone’s account is a great time of year. It is also a time of year to take precautions against dangerous illnesses and accidents which often affects children. Here are some quick tips for a safe and happy summer.
Sun and Heat
For proper protection, look for water resistant sunscreens with a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 and contain broad spectrum protection (protects against both *UVA and *UVB rays). To confirm the sunscreen is broad spectrum, check ingredients list for: oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, avobenzone, ecamnsule, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Sunscreen should be used whenever kids go outside (even when it’s cloudy) and on children of color. Use hypoallergenic and fragrance free brands on sensitive skin.
• UVA rays cause skin aging, contribute to skin cancer
• UVB rays damage the eyes, immune system, cause sunburn, cancer.
Use sun shades for the car windows to prevent sunburn in very young children. Keep children less than six months old from direct sunlight.
Use proper ventilation in vehicles. Run the air condition to cool down the car before use, as cars can easily reach temperatures above one hundred degrees during summer months. It is especially important to "pre-cool" the care with infants in rear facing car seats who may be the last to feel relief of cool air in a hot car.
Never leave children unattended in cars even if the windows are down. Also, take extra precautions against kids playing in a parked car by keeping the car locked and making sure the trunk or rear hatch is secure.
Prevent Heat Related Illnesses
Dehydration - Dehydration occurs when water is expelled from the body without adequate replenishment. It is not unusual for kids to involve themselves so completely in their outside fun activities that they forget to take necessary breaks to cool down or keep hydrated. Parents should keep a watchful eye to regulate their children’s environment and provide ample liquids. Water is best, but 100% fruit juice or fruit pops, and fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupes and grapes helps.
Heat exhaustion – Extended exposure to high temperatures coupled with dehydration can bring on heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, tiredness, muscle cramps, headache, nausea/vomiting and dizziness. Parents suspecting that their child has heat exhaustion should immediately take them into an air conditioned environment for rest, provide cool liquids and perhaps a cool shower or bath.
Heat Stroke – When the body’s temperature is abnormally elevated, heat stroke can occur. (Dehydration also plays a role). Heat stroke victims may have trouble breathing in addition to many of the same (although more severe), symptoms as heat exhaustion. Aggressive steps should be taken to cool down the child. However, heat stroke is extremely serious and emergency medical care is required.
In the Water
When the water temperature nears or exceeds eighty degrees, microscopic amoebas such as Naegleris fowleri can flourish. Other amoebas and flesh eating bacteria can be ingested up the nose or invade the body through small cuts or wounds. They are almost always fast acting and many can prove to be fatal. If your child exhibits symptoms such as: headache, fever, nausea/vomiting, stiff neck, weakness, confusion or extreme fatigue after activity in fresh water, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Wearing a nose clip for fresh water swimming is recommended as well as avoiding water related activities in warm freshwater especially during periods of high water temperature and low water levels. Some amoebas/bacteria are present in poorly maintained pools with minimum or no chlorination and in the dirt/sand on the bottom of lakes, rivers or streams.
The first rule for pool safety is that the supervising adults never leave children unattended. In cases of pool parties where there are a lot of kids and activities, more than one adult should be supervising at all times. Also, all adults who are supervising pool activities whether at camp, daycare, home or a public pool, should know CPR. (It’s also recommended that pool owners in general know CPR.)
Other tips: Make sure to take adequate measures (most required by law) to block access to your backyard pool. Use life vest as opposed to “floaties” with all toddlers and keep them within arm’s reach of a supervising adult.
Make sure children who venture into the ocean stay close to shore. Stay alert for warning of riptides, lightning storms and active marine life near shore. Always leave the beach immediately during lightning storms.
Combine previous protection tips for your child’s sun and water safety but also include:
Seeking out shade for the kids, especially during midday when the UV rays are strongest. Peek times are between 10am-4pm.
Kids should wear hats to shade face, scalp and ears and don’t forget to apply their sunscreen to nose, lips and tops of feet.
Kids should wear wrap around sunglasses to block (as much as possible) both UVA and UVB rays.
Teaching children to inform adults when they have headaches or feel nauseous after playing in the sun.