Health & Fitness

Sun and water: The do’s and don’ts for a safe and enjoyable summer

Key West is considering a ban on certain sunscreens as a scientist tells them they’re a threat to the coral reef.
Key West is considering a ban on certain sunscreens as a scientist tells them they’re a threat to the coral reef. Dreamstime/TNS

Living in South Florida means it is not hard to find sun or water. After all, we live in the Sunshine State! Although we are well into the middle of the summer, protecting our children from harmful UV light is important year-round in Florida.

While skin cancer is rare in children (7 percent of all cancers), it is still one of the leading cause of cancer in adolescents and young adults age 15 to 29 years. As always, prevention and early detection are key.

Dr. Audrey Ofir.jpg
Audrey Ofir, M.D., MBA, FAAP is the director of the Pediatric Comprehensive Care Clinic at UHealth and an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. UHealthSystem.com

Here are some tips to keep your children safe from the sun’s harmful rays:

  • Avoid being outdoors for long periods during peak sunlight hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least No. 30.

  • Be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially after contact with water.

  • Keep children under shade when sun is strongest.

  • Use hats and protective clothing whenever possible.

  • Stay hydrated with water, not juices or sodas.

The use of sunscreen is not limited to when your child is outdoors. Try to make sunscreen part of your child’s daily routine since children are exposed to sun throughout the day even when they are driven to school or while they sit near a window in class. Sun damage is cumulative: 23 percent of lifetime sun exposure already occurs by age 18 and daily use of an adequate sunscreen will reduce the risk of developing melanoma, the most common type of skin cancer in children, by 50 percent.

If you do notice a mole on your child that does not look or act right, whether fair or dark skin, African American, Hispanic or Caucasian, do get it evaluated by a physician.

Sun and water go hand in hand so, naturally, we must also address how to keep our children safe around water as unintentional drowning is the leading cause of injury deaths to children age 1 to 4 years. In this age group, drowning incidents usually occur in swimming pools while drowning incidents in the teen years happen more in oceans and lakes.

Here are some tips to keep your children safe in the water:

  • Teach your child how to swim as early as you can. You can call 211 or your local youth center for swimming programs.

  • If you have a swimming pool where you live, it should be fenced or gated at all times.

  • Teach your teens that alcohol and water activities do not mix.

  • Most importantly, children should be supervised 100 percent of the time during all water activities.

Overall, we live in a beautiful environment that should bring us joy. By following these safety tips, we can ensure that our children are safe while enjoying the gorgeous weather and surroundings that as South Floridians, we are lucky to have access to!

Audrey Ofir, M.D., MBA, FAAP is the director of the Pediatric Comprehensive Care Clinic at UHealth and an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. For more information, visit umiamihealth.org/treatment-services/pediatrics.
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