When the last school bell signals the start of summer, school-year stress and structure start to melt away. But, as we relax into summer, there is one thing we need to emphasize: safety. Here are some tips to keep kids healthy while enjoying the outdoors all summer long.
We need to be especially careful in the blazing Florida sun. The danger comes from two types of light: UVA and UVB radiation. Everyone, no matter what skin type, needs sun protection. To enjoy the sun safely:
▪ Avoid the sun during its peak, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. When outside, stay in the shade and cover up with hats and long, loose clothing. Some clothes — fabric with tighter weaves and those with ultraviolet protection factor — provide more protection.
▪ Always apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or more at least 20 minutes prior to being in the sun. Choose a sunscreen with “broad spectrum” coverage for both UVA and UVB rays. The recommended amount for an adult application is a whole ounce each time. If you use less than recommended, you won’t get the full SPF protection. Reapply at least every two hours and after swimming/sweating.
▪ Babies less than 6 months old should avoid sun exposure altogether, but you can use small amounts of sunscreen on exposed areas, like the cheeks, if necessary.
There is nothing better on a hot summer day than to cool off in the water. However, drowning is the leading cause of injury death for kids 1 to 4 years old, and an estimated 10 people of all ages die from drowning every day in the United States. To enjoy the water safely:
▪ Make sure that children are always supervised when in or near the water. For younger children, use “touch supervision,” being within arm’s distance from your child at all times while in the water.
▪ Kids need to learn to swim, but you cannot rely on swim lessons to prevent drowning.
▪ Sometimes, there are lapses in supervision when adults are socializing. Prevent this by making one person the “water watcher.” Take turns, and give the water watcher a sign so others don’t interrupt them. Everyone can take turns making sure the kids are safe while still having fun.
▪ Make sure that pools, spas and other types of water are not accessible to kids by using locked fences at least four feet high on all sides.
▪ In case the unthinkable happens, make sure everyone is certified in CPR and knows what to do in case of an emergency, including calling 911.
Biking is a great way to get around and exercise in the summer days. However, bicyclists, especially kids,are at higher risk of injury and death than motor vehicle passengers. To enjoy biking safely:
▪ Always wear a helmet. Develop the “helmet habit,” where your kids wear a helmet every bike ride, no matter how close they are to home.
▪ Only buy a helmet that has the CPSC safety standard label. The helmet should fit so that it does not tip forward or backward; straps should be snug but comfortable.
▪ Teach your children to ride on the right side of the road and to adhere to traffic laws.
The Miami weather is perfect for mosquitoes, biting flies and ticks to come out and play with the kids. To escape the bites:
▪ Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats. Avoid areas with standing water. Tuck in shirts and pants into socks, and wear closed-toe shoes. Avoid scented soaps, hair sprays, etc.
▪ When using insect repellent, follow the instructions on the product label. Apply only on exposed skin and outside of clothing. Do not use products that combine sunscreen and insect repellent into one.
▪ If using repellent containing DEET, make sure it contains less than 30 percent DEET.
▪ When back indoors, bathe children and wash sprayed clothing items before wearing them again.
▪ Insect repellent should not be used in kids less than two months of age.
One of the most iconic summer celebrations is the Fourth of July. However, this day is especially dangerous because of injuries related to home fireworks, especially among children. Hands, eyes and faces are among the most common sites of fireworks injuries. Even fireworks that seem kid-friendly, like sparklers, can reach temperatures over 1,000 degrees and put kids at risk for severe burns. Here is the only tip you need to enjoy fireworks:
▪ Leave the fireworks in the shops. Keep the celebration away from your home and enjoy only professional firework shows.
While having a fun and adventurous summer with our kids, remember to always emphasize safety first. It’s worth the extra effort to keep our kids healthy and make the most of the wonderful sunny days ahead. To learn more about keeping your kids safe all year long, visit Healthychildren.org.
Priyanka Mehrotra is a fourth-year medical student in the MD-MPH program and Julia Belkowitz, M.D., is assistant professor of clinical pediatrics and Assistant Regional Dean for Student Affairs at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. For more information, visit UHealthSystem.com/patients/pediatrics.