Longer days, lighter nights, and more um, worrying. Yup, it's summer. And before your kids race out the door, you're doing all you can to protect them from sun, bugs...head injuries. There's something about this season that makes kids run faster and play harder. And like everything else parents carefully do to protect their kids - cooking healthy kid food, hiring the right babysitters, buckling them into car seats (or shouting out seat belt reminders), summer takes preparation, too. Here's how you and your summer babysitter or nanny can help keep kids safe this season - without feeling like Summer Cop, monitoring the fun right out of their vacation.
Be Sun Savvy. Here's a summer-bummer: a person's sunlight exposure during childhood and adolescence is generally considered to increase the risk of melanoma. We've heard it all before, but make sure your family and caregivers all have the same sun-strategy. Vilma Cokkinides, PhD, Strategic Director, Risk Factor Surveillance for the American Cancer Society, helped come up with these.
Apply early and repeat. For kids six months and older (as well as adults), sunscreens with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or greater reduce the intensity of UVRs that cause sunburns. Apply liberally 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure so it can absorb into the skin and decrease the likelihood that it will be washed off. Then reapply every two hours and after kids swim, sweat, or dry off with a towel. For most users, proper application and reapplication are more important factors than using a product with a higher SPF.
Cover. Dress kids in protective clothing and hats. Clothing can be an excellent barrier of ultraviolet rays. Many light-weight sun-protective styles cover the neck, elbows, and knees.
Keep infants out of the sun. Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight, dressed in cool, comfortable clothing and wearing hats with brims. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says sunscreen may be used on infants younger than 6 months on small areas of skin if adequate clothing and shade are not available.
Plan early morning play. For kids beyond that baby stage, Cokkinides advises parents to plan children's outdoor activities to avoid peak-sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) as much as possible. Sound impossible for your active kids? Make sure you can get a break from the sun, when needed.
Beware of shade. Many think sitting in the shade is a simple way out. Shade provides relief from heat but offers parents a false sense of security about UVR protection. People can still sunburn in shade, because light is scattered and reflected. A fair-skinned person sitting under a tree can burn in less than an hour.
Check the weather. Check the ultra-violet (UV) index (on a site like AccuWeather.com) when planning outdoor activities; it predicts the intensity of UV light for the following day based on the sun's position, cloud movements, altitude, ozone data, and other factors. Higher UV index numbers predict more intense UV light during midday of the following day.
Splash Safely (and Other Water Rules)
Drowning happens quickly and quietly - not with a lot of splashing, reminds Emily Samuel, Water Safety Program Manager for Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit organization solely dedicated to eliminating preventable childhood injuries. In fact, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in kids one to four years old.
Stay off cell phones. Don't even allow yourself to get distracted when your kids are in the water. And yes, chatting with other parents is a common distraction as well.
Know your skills. Adults and caregivers should refresh their Infant Child CPR certification each year, especially before summer, if there is a pool involved. Kids should never swim alone, and having adults or caregivers know water safety skills is smart.
Put a guard up. Even kiddie pools in backyards should be drained after use, urges Samuel. For houses that have swimming pools, fencing should be at least four feet high and surround the pool on all sides, with doors that close and lock by themselves. Pool supply companies may offer options for alarms and other safety systems. Remember to never fully rely on an alarm or a fence. You must also train your kids to never go near the pool without an adult.
Educate yourself. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a pool safety website where families can find out how to keep kids safer at any pool - whether it's the community park or your child's camp.
Summer Safety Tips
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