Ways to make sure your children stay safe this summer
Warm weather is here and before we know it kids will be out of school and ready for a fun-filled summer. This usually entails fun in the sun and in the water. But all that fun can lead to dangerous situations.
Do yourself a favor this summer and take steps to protect your kids as much as possible. We all know bumps and bruises are inevitable, but being proactive can help keep your child from being seriously injured.
“First, remember sun safety is never out of season,” said Jill Lucas Drakeford, a Carilion Clinic community health educator. “Your children can get sunburned at any time of the year, but especially during the summer when families tend to go on more picnics, take trips to the pool or beach, or play in the park.”
The importance of sun safety has become clear over the past 20 years, with studies showing that excessive exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer later in life. Harmful rays can also cause eye problems, weaken your immune system, and lead to wrinkles.
One way you can help promote sun safety in your home is to lead by example. Be serious about sunscreen. If you wear it, chances are your kids will too. They’ll get into the habit of thinking about applying it before they head outside. Any time your child spends extended time outdoors, they should be wearing sunscreen.
“Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes,” Drakeford said.
When you buy sunscreen, make sure it has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more. SPF represents the degree to which a sunscreen can protect the skin from sunburn. “Broad spectrum” and “SPF 15” (or higher) not only protect against sunburn, but if used as directed with other sun protection measures, can reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.
“Also look for sunscreen that is water resistant, which means it will last on skin longer, even if it gets wet,” Drakeford said. “Regardless of SPF, sunscreen needs to be reapplied at least every two hours or more frequently if sweating or jumping in and out of water.”
Sunscreen is easy, but it doesn’t protect your child’s skin completely. Try combining sunscreen with other options to prevent sun damage.
For instance, reduce your child’s time in the sun—especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. Even on overcast days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful rays can get through the clouds. During these mid-day hours try keeping your kids busy with indoor activities. Save trips to the pool or park for early morning or late afternoon.
If you do have to be outside during the heat of the day, stay in shaded areas, wear a hat and sunglasses, bring extra clothes to cover exposed skin, or carry an umbrella for shade.
“Sunburn can take six to 48 hours to develop, so you may not realize your skin or your child’s skin is burned until its too late,” Drakeford said.
As we all know, trips to the pool or beach are popular during the hot summer months. But water fun can become scary if you’re not prepared. Beyond protecting your kids from the sun’s harmful rays, make sure you are informed about water safety.
In any water situation, make sure children are always supervised. Did you know drowning is one of the leading causes of death for kids? Approximately 400 children age 14 and younger drown each year in pools and spas, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. And home swimming pools are the most common place for children younger than 5 to drown.
While the statistics are scary to think about, there are ways you can hopefully help prevent a tragedy. When it comes to supervising, don’t be distracted. This means taking a break from your summer reading, talking or texting on your phone, or socializing with other parents by the pool. Your kids need your full attention.
It’s also a good idea to enroll your child in swimming lessons after age 4.
“Typically, age 4 is when kids are likely to practice and retain information, like treading water, floating, and staying close to the shore or pool’s edge,” Drakeford said.
When it comes to open water (i.e., lakes, oceans, rivers) there are different safety concerns than at pools. Children need to be aware in open water there can be uneven surfaces, currents, undertow, and changing weather.
As a parent, be proactive. Learn infant and child CPR, actively supervise your kids when playing or around water, and make sure they are always wearing sunscreen. Your children only get one chance to be kids—help them stay safe and live healthy.
Laura Markowski is a writer for Carilion Clinic’s marketing communications department.