Playing It Safe this Summer

Warm weather is finally arriving and it’s been great to see so many people outside enjoying the weather and getting physical activity. Since it seems like it’s been forever since we’ve enjoyed nice weather, it’s a good time to review some basic summer safety tips for our kids.

Wear sunscreen. I can’t stress enough how important it is for everyone – including children – to wear sunscreen when they are outside. Even if it’s a cloudy day, the sun’s rays are still filtering through and can cause damage to our skin. It is Important to apply the sunscreen 15-20 minutes before heading outside.  An estimated 80 percent of the damage caused by sun to our skin happens before the age 18.  Some people remember to apply sunscreen, but it may not be enough – a shot glass full of lotion is a good amount – or they don’t reapply it if they’ve been in the water or outside for a long time. Thicker lotions tend to work better than the spray on types.  Choose a sunscreen labeled broad spectrum and pick one with a minimum of 15 SPF, but the higher the better.  Reapply every two hours – even if it’s marked waterproof.

Play it safe. If your child is riding a bike or scooter or roller skating, make sure they always wear a helmet to protect their head. Thousands of children wind up in the emergency room every year because of bike accidents.  Accidents can happen suddenly and when least expected,  even for experienced riders, so using a helmet every time is very important.  Check every year to make sure your child’s helmet fits properly. A poorly fit helmet won’t fully protect your child.  If a helmet is cracked or damaged it is important to replace it. 

Water rules. When your child is in or near the water, always keep your eye on her. With young children you should be in the water with them at all times and be no further than arm lengths away.   Never leave a child in water unsupervised or under the care of another young child.  One in five drowning deaths occurs to children under the age of 14.  Toddlers and teen age boys tend to be at the highest risk.  All children should be exposed to swimming lessons at a young age. But remember, just because your child has had lessons, it doesn’t make them “drown proof.”  Drowning can happen suddenly and in any amount of water so paying attention to what your child is doing at all times essential.

Be a good role model. I don’t know how many times I see parents put helmets on their kids, but then forget their own. Trust me, your children notice and if they see it’s not important to you, they’ll eventually stop wearing theirs. The same goes for sunscreen. If you put it on them and neglect yours, they begin to wonder why they need to wear it. It’s important for us as parents to be models of good health to our kids.

By following proper safety rules, you and your family can have a fun and safe summer.

By Luke Tremble, MD, ThedaCare Physicians-Pediatrics Appleton