It is the time of year when a lot of time is spent by the pool, on the beach, in the sun and out in the yard. While fun and relaxing, these activities can also be risky to potentially hazardous. By following these simple guidelines for summer safety, you can help to minimize the risks to you and your loved ones for greater enjoyment of the season.
For babies under six months, it is recommended to avoid sun exposure. Dress infants in lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts and have them wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect the face and neck. A minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF to small areas (i.e. face and back of hands) is okay.
For young children, an SPF of at least 15 that protects against UVA and UVB rays is recommended. Apply at least 30 minutes before going outside and remember to use even on cloudy days.
For older children and adults, the best protection against the sun is to cover up: wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and cotton clothing with a tight weave. Try to stay in the shade as much as possible and limit sun exposure during the most intense times of the day (10 am - 4 pm). Sunscreen with at least SPF 15 is recommended. Remember to re-apply every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Be careful around water and sand as they reflect UV rays and may result in quicker sunburns.
Intense activities of at least 15 minutes should be reduced in high heat and high humidity conditions. Allow for acclimatization to the heat. Ensure adequate hydration with either water or sports drinks both BEFORE and DURING (5 oz. for a child under 90 pounds and 9 oz. for an adolescent weighing 130 pounds every 20 minutes); even if the child does not feel thirsty. Clothing should be light-colored and lightweight; one layer only to facilitate evaporation of sweat.
Fences should be installed around all sides of a pool and to prevent a young child from going through, over or under. Pool gates should open OUT from a pool and need to be able to self-close and self-latch. Latches should be positioned outside the reach of a young child. Keep rescue equipment (fiberglass so it does not conduct electricity), a life preserver and portable telephone/cell phone accessible in the need of an emergency. Inflatable swimming aids are not recommended as they are not a substitute for approved life vests and may give a child a false sense of security. Children should ALWAYS be closely supervised in and around a pool. Swimming at a facility with certified lifeguards is recommended because they can provide emergency care if needed. Lifeguards, however, cannot substitute for the individualized supervison a parent can provide.
Avoid scented soaps, perfumes and hair spray. Avoid areas where insects flourish, such as areas of stagnant water, uncovered foods and blooming flowers. Avoid bright clothing and flowery clothes. In the event of a bee sting, remove the visible stinger by gently scraping horizontally with a card or fingernail. Avoid combination sunscreen and insect repellant, as sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours but insect repellant should not be reapplied. Insect repellants with DEET are most effective against ticks and mosquitoes. For children over two months of age, insect repellant with 30% DEET is recommended (products with only 10% DEET protects for only about 30 minutes). DEET should not be used on infants under two months of age. Be sure to wash off the insect repellant when back indoors.
Protective surfaces should be used on all playgrounds: either safety-tested mats or loose-filled materials (i.e. shredded rubber, sand, wood chips) maintained to a depth of at least 9 inches. These surfaces should be extended at least 6 feet in all directions from the equipment. Be sure to inspect all equipment for defects or wear and tear. Swing seats should be made of a soft material such as rubber or plastic. Children can strangle themselves on ropes, leashes, etc. attached to equipment so this should be avoided. Metal surfaces can get very hot in the sun; be sure to check before allowing your children on to avoid burns. Home trampolines are not recommended. And, of course, children should always be supervised on playground equipment.
For kids just learning to ride a bike, do not push them to ride a two-wheeled bike until they are ready. Make sure bikes are fitted properly to your child. Helmets are paramount; make sure they meet the CPSC safety standard. They need to fit properly: straps should be securely fastened and you should not be able to move the helmet in any direction when it is on. Remember, children learn best from parents, so you should wear one too. Since helmets are designed to absorb significant impact, it is recommended that the helmet be replaced after an impact event, even if it does not appear to be damaged and no head injury was sustained.
Scooter and Skateboard Safety
Avoid traffic when riding these. Safety gear is important: helmets, knee and elbow pads, and wrist guards. The same helmet fitting and replacing recommendations for riding bicycles applies to riding scooters and skateboards as well. Home-made ramps and jumps are dangerous.
Lawn Mower Safety
You should use a lawn mower that stops automatically if the handle is let go. Children under the age of 16 should not use riding mowers. Do not allow children to ride as a passenger on riding mowers. Children under the age of 12 should not use walk-behind mowers. Wear sturdy shoes (no sandals) when mowing the grass. Clear the area before mowing (i.e. stones, twigs, toys) to prevent flying debris. Eye and ear protection should be used as well. Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher or clearing the discharge chute. And, never attempt to fill the gas tank when the lawn mower is running.
Source: The American Academy of Pediatrics, 2009: AAP Summer Safety Tip Sheet