SUMMER SUN AND WATER SAFETY
Keep your family safe this summer by following this checklist of safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for sun and water safety.
FUN IN THE SUN
Babies under 6 months:
Avoid sun exposure, and dress infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn. However, when adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a natural zinc oxide suncreen with at least 30 SPF (sun protection factor) to small areas, such as the infant’s face and the back of the hands. In case of sunburn, apply cold compresses.
For All Other Children:
The first, and best, line of defense against harmful ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that provide 97%–100% protection against both UVA and UVB rays), and cotton clothing with a tight weave. Also try these tips:
- Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during peak hours (10 a.m.–4 p.m.).
- On both sunny and cloudy days, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
- Be sure to apply enough sunscreen.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
- Use extra caution near water and sand (and even snow!) as they reflect UV rays and may result in sunburn more quickly.
HEAT STRESS WHILE EXERCISING
- The intensity of activities that last 15 minutes or more should be reduced whenever high heat and humidity reach critical levels.
- At the beginning of a strenuous exercise program or after traveling to a warmer climate, the intensity and duration of exercise should be limited initially and then gradually increased during a period of seven to 14 days to acclimatize to the heat, particularly if it is very humid.
- Before prolonged physical activity, children should be well-hydrated and should not feel thirsty. For the first hour of exercise, water alone can be used. Kids should have water or a sports drink always available and should drink every 20 minutes while exercising in the heat. Excessively hot and humid environments, more prolonged and strenuous exercise, and copious sweating should be reasons for children to substantially increase their fluid intake. After an hour of exercise, kids need to drink a electrolyte beverage to replace those lost in sweat and to maintain energy.
- Clothing should be light-colored, lightweight, and limited to one layer of absorbent material to facilitate evaporation of sweat. Sweat-saturated shirts should be replaced with dry clothing.
- Practices and games played in the heat should be shortened and more frequent water/hydration breaks should be instituted. Children should seek cooler environments if they feel excessively hot or fatigued.
POOL SAFETY TIPS
- Never leave children alone in or near the pool or spa, even for a moment.
Install a fence at least four feet high around all four sides of the pool. The fence should not have openings that a young child could use to get over, under, or through.
- Make sure pool gates open out from the pool and self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach.
- If the house serves as the fourth side of a fence surrounding a pool, install an alarm on the exit door to the yard and the pool.
- Keep rescue equipment such as a shepherd’s hook (a long pole with a hook on the end), a life preserver, and a phone near the pool. Rescue equipment should be made of materials that do not conduct electricity.
- Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as “floaties.” They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children and parents a false sense of security.
The decision to enroll a child in swimming lessons should be based on the child’s developmental readiness, but swim programs should never be seen as “drown-proofing” a child of any age.
- Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, an adult—preferably one who knows how to swim and perform CPR—should be within arm’s length providing “touch supervision.”
- Avoid entrapment: Suction from pool and spa drains can trap a swimmer underwater.
- Do not use a pool or spa if there are broken or missing drain covers. Ask your pool operator if your pool or spa’s drains are compliant with the Pool and Spa Safety Act. Make certain you have anti-entrapment drain covers and other devices or systems (PoolSafely.gov).
- Large inflatable, above-ground pools have become increasingly popular for backyard use. Children may fall in if they lean against the soft side of an inflatable pool. Although such pools are often exempt from local pool fencing requirements, it is essential that they be surrounded by an appropriate fence just as a permanent pool would be so that children cannot gain unsupervised access.
- Wear life jackets at all times.
- Make sure the life jacket is the right size, is not loose, and that all straps are belted.
- Blow-up items should not be used instead of life jackets. Adults should wear life jackets for their own protection and to set a good example.
- Understand the dangers of boating when under the influence of alcohol or prescription medications.
OPEN WATER SAFETY
- Never swim alone.
- A lifeguard (or another adult who knows about water rescue) needs to be watching children whenever they are in or near the water. Younger children in the water should be closely watched—use “touch supervision,” keeping no more than an arm’s length away.
- Make sure your child knows never to dive into water except when permitted by an adult who knows the depth of the water and has checked for underwater objects.
- Never let your child swim in fast-moving water (rivers, canals, etc.). Always pay attention to riptide warnings when in oceans.
- Ocean swimming should only be allowed when a lifeguard is on duty, and children should always be accompanied with an adult buddy who is a strong swimmer.
- Children need to be shown what to do when there is a strong current pulling them: how to swim parallel to shore and then diagonally toward the shore once the current has been escaped.
Courtesy of American Academy of Pediatrics.