Children under 6 months should wear lightweight clothing, long sleeves and pants, wide brimmed hats. If necessary, a small amount of sunscreen can be used on the face and hands, but should be washed off at the end of the day.
Older children should use at least SPF 15 sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Remember that you can get burned, even on a cloudy day. Repeat sunscreen application every 2 hours, or after swimming. Stay in the shade during the sunniest, hottest parts of the day, typically 11 am-4 pm. They should wear lightweight clothing with sun protection if possible, or with a tight weave. Hats are a good idea as well as sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays.
Help your child avoid overheating by limiting the duration of intense exercise to 15 minutes or so, especially during the hottest part of the day. Kids need to be well hydrated BEFORE they go outside to play, and then have fresh water available about every 20 minutes. For older children who are sweating a lot, a sports drink may be acceptable to replace electrolytes and carbohydrates.
Watch for signs of heat exhaustion such as cramps, headaches, irritability or nausea. If you see signs of these, get your child out of the heat and call your doctor.
By Kenneth Branstetter, MD, pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians-Neenah.