Summer Safety: Sun, Water, Bugs and Everything In Between
Summer means kids are enjoying basking in the sun, swimming and splashing around in lakes and pools and spending hot afternoons playing outdoors with friends. All of those activities come with their own precautions, though.
Parents can make sure their kids stay safe while enjoying the summer break with some advice from Dr. Ashley Halpain at All for Kids Pediatric Clinic in Little Rock.
According to Halpain, water safety is especially important this time of year. Drowning is the leading cause of injury and death for kids ages 1-4 years old with three children dying each day, according to the CDC.
Halpain said that no matter how prepared you are, kids are still at risk and vigilance is the best way to prevent drowning. She and her family know that all too well.
“My own niece, just a year ago, had a drowning episode,” Halpain said. “We were all there, sitting around the pool and watching. She got caught under a float and we didn’t see her until she was at the bottom of the pool. It’s incredibly scary; thankfully she ended up being OK, but my father and I did CPR on her poolside and she spent several days in the hospital.
“It can happen to anyone and it happens really quickly. It was scarier than any situation I’ve ever been in before.”
CPR training is imperative for ensuring water safety. Kids are often curious and can fall in quickly and quietly, unnoticed by parents. Even good swimmers can injure themselves or get caught under floats making them unable to get above water.
When outside, kids should be using sunscreen, even when it seems cloudy or cool. However, Halpain said parents should not put sunscreen on babies 6 months old or younger. Instead, they should be shielded from the sun completely. This can be done with hats or canopies; rash guards and sun shirts with SPF protection are a great solution for babies to wear over their swimsuits.
Sunscreen reapplication is especially important for kids getting in and out of the water, about every hour or so; wait about 30 minutes after applying sunscreen before allowing kids in the water so that the lotion has time to soak in.
“Try to avoid being outside between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., right at the heat of the day,” Halpain said. “That’s a big time for sun exposure.”
Bug repellant is also important, but unlike sunscreen, bug repellants should not be applied over and over, especially those containing DEET.
In addition to protecting kids from the elements, it is important for them to stay hydrated. If kids are playing in the sun, make sure they have two glasses an hour as a rule of thumb, Halpain said.
Each child is different, so monitor kids and give them water and bring them to a cooler area if they show signs of dehydration, including labored breathing, red skin, dizziness or headaches.
“Those are good signs to know that they’ve had a little too much (time outside),” Halpain said. “And you should get them inside and cooled off and give them lots and lots of water to drink. Sports drinks are OK if they’re going to be outside exerting themselves, but they’ve got a lot of sugar in them and so you don’t want your kids drinking them all the time.”
Rather than offering sports drinks, another way to hydrate is through fruits with high water content. Citrus fruits, watermelon and even grapes provide great flavor and hydration.
If kids are out riding bikes, skateboards or the like, make sure they wear protective gear, most importantly a helmet, which Halpain said are vital to preventing injury.
The best thing parents can do is keep a close eye on kids and communicate with them. Make sure that kids are monitored visually and by how they feel.