Safety and Fun in the Summer Sun
Disponible en Español |
Swimming, biking, and playing at the park are all fun summer activities that kids everywhere look forward to each year! But what do all of these popular summer hobbies have in common? They all expose children to daily sun exposure, making it exceptionally important that parents know how to protect their children’s skin and avoid burns. The summer months of June through August are when the sun is at its strongest, so also when our sunscreen SPF should be too.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that one-quarter of our lifetime sun exposure happens during childhood and adolescence. One or more blistering sunburns during childhood can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.
So, what can you do to protect your child from the sun?
The sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so limit your sun exposure during these hours. Wear protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts, clothing labeled with an Ultraviolet Protectant Factor (UPF), hats with at least a 3-inch brim, and youth-sized sunglasses with UV protection. Spend time in shaded areas to limit direct sunlight exposure.
- For babies under 6 months, protective clothing and keeping your baby in the shade is most encouraged. If shade is not available, only apply sunscreen on small sections of the baby’s body (like the face or other uncovered areas).
- Children over 6 months should use sunscreen on all areas of the body.
So, when looking for sunscreen, what should you consider?
Look at the label
Sunscreens labeled as “Broad-Spectrum” are the most protective, screening against UVA and UVB rays. Look for a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) value between 15 and 50. And in sunscreen use for sensitive areas, such as the face, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide-based sunscreen is preferred.
Know how to apply
It is best to apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors, especially before swimming, to allow time for absorption into the skin. When applying, the sunscreen must cover all exposed skin areas, including the feet, ears, and back of the knees — the most commonly forgotten areas. Be sure to continue reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours, especially after sweating or swimming.
Remember, the sun’s rays are intense even on cloudy days and can reflect off of concrete, sand, and water.
Since water play is a huge part of summer fun, parents must practice safe swim practices with their children. Children can drown in as little as one or two inches of water. And it can happen quickly.
Here are some tips to best protect your child during summer swim.
Layers of protection
Layers of protection refer to physical barriers between children and any body of water, including pools, inflatable toddler pools, bird baths, ponds, etc. A fence at least 4 feet high with a self-latching lock is the most effective “layer”; however, others include pool alarms, and door and gate alarms. The more layers, the better.
According to HealthyChildren.org, the biggest drowning threat facing families with young children is unsupervised access to water. Children should have an adult’s undivided attention when in or just around water. A “water watcher” is recommended to avoid distractions such as a cell phone or drinking alcohol while supervising children. Ideally, this individual is someone who knows how to swim and knows CPR.
Water survival skills and swim lessons can reduce drowning risks for children from 1 to 4 years old. These lessons are recommended for all children four years of age and older and their parents. Starting swim lessons as soon as your child is emotionally, physically, and developmentally ready can be beneficial, especially for those with increased proximity to water (for example, living in a house with a pool or pond in the backyard).
Finally, avoid the tragedy of losing a child to heat stroke in hot cars.
Children can die in just a short period when left in a car, especially here in Florida when we have year-round hot temperatures. Leaving a child behind can happen to anyone, especially when distracted or if there is a change in routine.
Some tips to help prevent vehicular heatstroke include:
- Always check the back seat when you get out of a car. Keeping your purse, phone, or bag in the backseat will help you remember to check the back seat.
- Stay extra alert when your routine changes or if someone else is driving your child.
- When not in use, always keep your car locked so a child can’t climb in without someone noticing. Teach children never to play in cars or car trunks.
So whether you’re traveling, playing outside in the pool, or at the beach, water and sun safety are always relevant summer reminders that can help keep your children safe during summer fun.
To learn more about preventing sunburns or drownings during the summer months, visit injuryfreemiami.org – the Injury Free Coalition for Kids, a program supported by The Children’s Trust, at 305-243-9080.
Written by Sofia Perez, M.D. Candidate, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, with Julia Belkowitz, M.D., M.P.H., Lyse Deus, MEd, Oneith Cadiz, M.D.