Summer safety for kids
Tips for keeping kids safe when the weather turns warm.
How do we love summer? There are too many ways to count.
We love the sunny days. We love being outdoors from sunup to sundown. We love swimming, picnics, family vacations and food barbecued on the grill.
For kids, summer can be synonymous with relaxation. School's out, and they're free to play all day.
And that can make this season slightly less relaxing for parents, who may find themselves wondering: How can I keep my children safe this summer?
Here's a look at five safety zones parents should focus on.
1. Safety under the sun
Depending on where you live, one of the best things about summer may be the sun. It's shining, and its rays are making the days warm and long.
Unfortunately, those pleasant rays can cause unpleasant problems—like sunburn today or skin cancer later in life.
That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) top tip for sun safety is to keep your child away from the glare of the sun during peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other guidelines from the AAP include:
- Dress your child in lightweight cotton clothing with long sleeves and long pants.
- Top your child's head with a hat with a wide brim to protect his or her face.
- Keep your child in the shade as much as possible by sitting under a tree or using an umbrella.
- Choose a sunscreen made for children. Slather it on—15 to 30 minutes before going out and again every two hours. (Or more often, if you're swimming or sweating a lot.) The AAP recommends using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, while the American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of at least 30.
- Keep babies younger than 6 months old out of direct sunlight.
2. Safety in the heat
Being active outdoors when it's hot can lead to heat illness. There are three common types: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The latter is a medical emergency that needs quick treatment.
To avoid any of the above:
Drink plenty of fluids. This is the best way to prevent heat illness, according to the AAP. Water is a good choice, as is a flavored sports drink. Be sure your kids drink before and during exercise—regularly. Don't wait for them to say they're thirsty.
Keep an eye on humidity. It's harder for the body to control its temperature when both heat and humidity are high.
Watch for symptoms. If a child or anyone becomes confused, dizzy, nauseated or otherwise ill in hot conditions, it could be heat illness. Get the person out of the sun and drinking fluids. If the person doesn't improve fast, get medical help.
Safe Kids Worldwide also urges parents to remember that cars can get oven-hot in the summer. So:
- Never leave a child in a vehicle, even with the windows cracked.
- Discourage kids from playing in vehicles.
- Lock your car's doors and trunk, especially at home. And keep keys out of kids' reach.
3. Safety around water
Every summer brings reports of people drowning in pools, lakes and rivers.
Follow these top tips from the AAP and Safe Kids to keep kids safe around water:
- Encircle your pool with a fence that's at least 4 feet high—whether the pool is built-in or inflatable. Make sure gates open out from the pool area and automatically latch closed.
- Be sure drains are covered and your suction system has an automatic shutdown. Kids and adults can drown as a result of entrapment suction. For more information, visit poolsafely.gov.
- Keep rescue equipment near the pool. This includes a long pole and hook, as well as a life preserver.
- Teach kids to swim—most kids 4 years and older should learn to swim, and so should kids ages 1 to 3 years who are ready.
- Never leave children alone around water, even for a minute.
- Teach kids never to swim alone in open water.
- Be sure children understand why they should never dive into lakes or rivers (because you never know if rocks or other objects might be hiding below the surface).
- Make sure kids wear life jackets when on boats.
4. Safety on wheels
Kids have been zipping down streets and sidewalks on wheels of some sort for generations. That's nothing new.
Also not new: concussions, fractured wrists and sprained ankles.
To help your child avoid these and other injuries:
Be sure the bike fits. Oversized bikes in particular can be hazardous. One sign of a good fit: Your child's feet can touch the ground when he or she is sitting on the seat.
Be sure the helmet fits. Ask the bike shop's staff for help in finding the right helmet. To make sure it's safe, look for a label saying the helmet meets the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's standards. To help make sure your child wears the helmet, let him or her pick it out.
Be sure the helmet fits the sport. Bicycle helmets are not designed to protect the head during skateboarding—and vice versa.
5. Safety in the yard and garden
Backyards may get more use in the summer than during any other time of the year. And there's no better place to practice safety than around your own home.
Here's advice from the AAP and Safe Kids on keeping your yard safe:
- Ban blood-sucking bugs. Mosquitoes cause diseases like West Nile virus and ticks can cause Lyme disease. The AAP suggests using repellents containing no more than 30% DEET on children older than 2 months.
- Give bee stings the brush-off. If your child is stung by a bee, use a credit card to gently scrape out the stinger.
- Avoid perilous play equipment. Don't buy or let your kids use a home trampoline, urges the AAP. Supervise children on swings, slides and other playground equipment. And look for playgrounds with surfaces made of sand, woodchips or rubber.
- Stay safe when mowing. Keep kids out of the yard when you're cutting grass. And set age limits for when kids can use the lawnmower (age 12 for models you walk behind and age 16 for riding mowers).