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Summer is Here. Keep Your Children Safe

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Summer Safety Tips for Parents

By Dr. Sarah Wypiszynski MD, family medicine physician at Ascension Wisconsin
Originally published on 6/24/2021 at 8:20 a.m.

During summer, most families enjoy fun activities outdoors. Whether you have a new toddler or school-aged kids out on summer break, knowing how to protect your children during the hot, sunny months can be challenging and – if we’re honest – a bit overwhelming.

Below are helpful tips for kids’ safety. Most of these tips are also great for adults as well.

Practice Sun Safety

Sunscreen plays an important role in protecting skin from the sun, though it’s just one way to offer protection. Because the sun's rays can reflect off of the sand and water or other reflective surfaces, wide-brim hats, and sunglasses are also important in preventing UV damage (the damage to the skin from the sun).

Try to schedule playtime around the sun. Experts at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend outdoor playtime early in the morning or late in the afternoon/evening to avoid the hot midday sun. If this is not possible, seek shade under a tree, an umbrella, or a pop-up tent.

Remember to apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside – even on cloudy days. About a shot glass full of sunscreen, at least a sun protection factor (SPF) 30, is recommended for the average adult. Look for a sunscreen that lists protection against “UVA and UVB.” Reapply every two hours – more often after swimming or sweaty activities.

Consider tan lines a warning sign because they mean that the skin is already being damaged. If your child is getting tan lines while outdoors, reapply sunscreen more frequently and add protective clothing. Some clothing designed for kids even has built-in SPF.

Heat Safety and Awareness

Try to stay inside when it is hottest out, usually Noon – 4 p.m. Check the heat index regularly. This is a measurement of what the temperature outside feels like with humidity. Keep an eye on this. When the heat index reaches potentially dangerous levels, avoid going outside.

Pay attention to cues, especially with young children. If your newborn starts fussing heavily or gets red-faced while outside, for instance, he may be trying to tell you that it’s time to go inside. Experts at the American Academy of Dermatology recommend listening to those cues and carrying your baby indoors for a break from the heat.

For older children, pay attention to signs that they may be overheating. Some of these signs may include taking extra breaks or looking for shade from the sunlight.

Remember that cases of heatstroke, which can be life-threatening to children, spike during the summer months. Kids show that they are too hot with milder symptoms such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Make sure children take frequent water breaks and wear lightweight clothing when playing outside.

Never Leave a Child Alone in a Car

The temperature inside a car can rise quickly. Just a few minutes can be the difference between life and death.

Stay Hydrated

Whether your child is playing sports or running around in the park with friends, frequent water breaks are very important. Children should drink water before exercise and during breaks, every 15 to 20 minutes. On extra hot and humid days, spraying down kids with some water from a spray bottle can help them cool off.

Water Safety

Swimming and other water activities are excellent physical exercise choices to help children (and adults) stay healthy while having fun. With all water sports, safety needs to be the primary concern.

To prevent drowning, always watch children at all times in the water. Because drowning typically happens quickly and quietly, adults watching kids in or near water should avoid distracting activities like playing cards, reading books, scrolling on their phones and using alcohol or drugs.

Pick one adult to be the designated watcher so that no one assumes kids are safe. Stay safe while boating by wearing a life jacket at all times. Make sure everyone in the group knows how to swim before boarding.

Protect Against Bugs

As the weather warms up, bugs come out in full force. Biting/stinging insects, such as mosquitoes and bees, can be harmful to kids. To avoid bug bites, apply insect repellent before spending time outdoors.

Avoid using heavily scented soaps or lotions and cover arms and legs as much as possible.

Never leave stagnant (still) pools of water around the house. Pools of water can serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Make sure you apply bug spray after sunscreen and avoid using combination sunscreen and bug spray products, which aren’t as effective.

Following these recommendations can make sure that your family can safely enjoy all summer has to offer. If you have any questions about your child’s specific health or safety needs, contact their personal doctor.

About the Author

Dr. Sarah Wypiszynski cares for patients of all ages from newborns to end of life. With a special interest in pediatrics, lactation, women’s health and palliative care, Dr. Wypiszynski enjoys building long-lasting relationships with patients and their families. At the time of this article’s publication, Dr. Wypiszynski is accepting new patients at Ascension Medical Group – Koeller Street in Oshkosh. Click here to learn more or schedule an appointment.

round headshot of Dr. Sarah Wypiszynski in Oshkosh

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