Three summer safety tips - sunscreen, heat exhaustion, water

July 7, 2021 Kimberlee I. Hauff, MD

Summer is in full force! With sunny weather, long days, and loads of activities it can be easy to forget the basics to keep you and your children safe this summer. Here are an additional three summer safety tips:

1. Sunscreen

All children of any age need sunscreen if they’re going outside in the summer, even if it’s for a short period of time on an overcast day. Sunscreen is the best way to prevent sunburns and future skin cancer. Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight as their skin is thinner and more sensitive. Sunscreen should be greater than 30 SPF and applied 30 minutes prior to exposure. Be sure to read the label to ensure it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Most products need to be reapplied at least every 3 hours or sooner if your child has been wet or in the water. A “waterproof” sunscreen should be reapplied every 30 minutes while your child is in the water.

2. Heat exhaustion

Heat reactions in children are caused by high temperatures and excess water loss. Here are a few things you should remember:

  • You can combat water loss by encouraging your child to drink plenty of fluids even when they aren’t thirsty. Water is best for kids, but any liquids count when it comes to dehydration (even popsicles)!
  • Babies only need the breast milk or formula you typically feed them. Water given to babies can be extremely dangerous as their kidneys are not mature enough to process it correctly.
  • Keep your child indoors or in the shade on hot days and avoid midday heat. Never leave your child (or pets) unattended in the car.
  • Heat rash (miliaria) can occur and usually goes away in 2-3 days. It looks like tiny, pink bumps and can be itchy. It is caused by blocked off sweat glands. Cooling measures (ice packs, cool baths) and 1% hydrocortisone cream can help.
  • If your child has a fever, dizziness, weakness, headache, vomiting, or isn’t acting themselves, call their provider immediately-- as these may be more serious signs of heat exhaustion.

3. Water safety

Watch children closely in any water environment, regardless of their swimming ability. Make sure you (and all your child’s caregivers) know child CPR in the event of drowning. Children are often ready by age 4 to start swim lessons. Baby swim classes are meant for fun and to introduce your baby to the water, not to teach them how to swim.  Children who are learning to swim should be at an arms’ length from their caregivers at all times. If your family is on a boat, all members should be wearing an appropriate sized life preserver. It’s important to model water safety to your children and wear your own preserver.

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