Children are our most precious resource. Keeping them safe is of the utmost importance, especially in the summertime when heat, sun exposure, water sports, and simple accidents can lead to potentially serious medical problems. While you can never 100% prevent anything from happening to your child, there are a few things you can do to reduce their risk of getting sick or injured this summer.
Tip #1 Be Sun Smart
Because of its closer proximity to the Earth, the sun is very powerful in the summertime. Children exposed can be vulnerable to both heat exhaustion and sunburn. Being “Sun Smart” comes in multiple forms.
Use An SPF Sunblock
Ideally, you want your children to be wearing a sunblock that is rated at least SPF 30 anytime they are outside for more than a few minutes. It’s best to avoid activities during peak times of the day (10 AM to 4 PM) when the rays of the sun are the strongest. If your child has a scheduled game or activity during these times, you should reapply sunblock every two to three hours, especially after swimming or sweating.
Be Mindful Of The Shade
Heat exhaustion is a very serious concern for kids. If you are going to be out at a park or another outdoor activity, be sure to build in some time in the shade. Not only will this help keep them cool, but can also help reduce the risk of sunburn.
Tip #2 Have A Daily Hydration Strategy
Left to their own devices a lot of kids forget to drink a sufficient amount of water. Excessive sweating and evaporation from the heat of the sun combine to rapidly increase the risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Bringing water with you at all times is certainly a great start. Remind your child to drink water regularly to avoid becoming dehydrated. By the time you feel thirsty, your body is already in the earliest phase of dehydration.
Keep Cold Water On Hand
Cold water can help keep a child from overheating. A small soft-sided cooler can keep water bottles chilled. Another alternative is to pour a little water out of a bottle the night before and freeze it. This way the water can expand into ice without damaging the bottle, and also provide kids with cold water long into the next day as it melts.
Tip #3 Be Mindful Of Water Safety
Whether you are in a backyard pool, a splash pad, or a wading pool, water safety is of paramount importance. This includes keeping a watchful eye as they play, splash and swim as well as making sure they have the proper clothing or equipment.
Setting Up Water Safety Rules
Children often forget to mind their surroundings, which can be dangerous when they are in or around the water. Set up safety rules in advance about where they can go and how deep they can go without you being close at hand. For small children, this might mean only going to the water’s edge to make a sandcastle on their own. For an older child, it might mean limiting them to the shallow water safety rope.
Provide Thoughtful Safety Gear
Life jackets appropriate for your child’s weight play an important role in keeping your child safe. Making sure that they are wearing one before entering the water needs to be part of the “Rules” that you practice every single time.
Children should never swim alone, but always under the supervision of a competent adult.
If your child can’t confidently swim on their own, and doesn’t have any physical limitations, then it’s a good idea to get swimming lessons for them early in the summer. Even if you have a child who passed a swimming course a year or two before, it’s still a good idea to get them a refresher course early in the summer so they can brush up after a long winter. While young children can enjoy pooltime with a parent or guardian present, children under the age of three years lack the coordination and motor memory to reliably learn to swim, and must be protected from the dangers of drowning by wearing a life jacket and being closely supervised.
Tip #4 Be Diligent About Car Safety
When kids are little and you are the one strapping them into their car seats, things are straightforward. When they start getting older and can click their own seatbelts and safety harnesses, it can be tempting to trust that they are clicking themselves in. Sometimes, kids forget the rules, or they just don’t want to wear a restrictive seatbelt. If you aren’t personally clicking them in, you still need to take time to make sure they are properly secured in their car seat or booster before you even turn the car’s ignition key.
Children should remain in a car seat, rear facing, until they are two years old. After that , the car seat may be turned around so they are forward facing, but they should remain in the car seat until they outgrow it. When they graduate from a car seat, children should move to a booster seat. In a booster seat, the shoulder strap fits better across the chest. They should remain in a booster seat until they outgrow it (height of 4 feet 9 inches or age 8-12 years). All children should remain in the back seat until after age 12 years. The front seat air bag can seriously injure a young child if it deploys.
Tip #5 Use Quality Insect Repellant
Beyond the annoyance of itchy bug bites, a growing number of insects carry an increasing number of serious diseases. Make sure to apply an insect repellent containing up to 30% DEET before sending your children outside, especially if they are going to be in a forested or wet area.
Tip #6 Encourage Helmet & Pad Use
Every year children fall off of bikes, skateboards, scooters, and all manner of toys. Make sure your child has an up-to-date helmet to wear along with any other necessary padding when riding or skating. This will help prevent serious injuries or a trip to the Emergency Room.
Tip #7 Be Smart About Food Safety
Chances are you may have heard about the “Danger Zone.” This is a temperature range of food between 40 to 140-degrees Fahrenheit. This is the temperature at which bacteria multiply the fastest. It can be easy to simply pack away lunch for the day with a cold pack and mistakenly think it’s enough to withstand a hot day. If possible, invest in a quality cooler with high-quality gel freezer packs to keep food cold. If your child needs to pack a lunch, provide them with an insulated lunch sack with a cold pack capable of withstanding a hot day.
Tip #8 Keep A First-Aid Kit With You
Keeping a first-aid kit in your daily bag or in your vehicle will ensure that you have the basic supplies you need in case of an emergency. This includes things like bandages, the material to improvise a sling, child-safe pain medication, disinfectant, and even simple things such as tweezers to pull out a splinter or remove a tick. See our blog on “Treating Common Injuries” for more details.
Tip #9 Enforce The Use Of Masks In Public Places
Adults may have easy access to COVID-19 vaccines, but currently children under the age of 12 do not. Ensure that your children have a mask when playing in public places, including at the playground. Then, keep at least one spare mask with you per child in case one gets lost or dirty. It’s also a good idea to pack a backup bottle of hand sanitizer just in case you run out.