Keeping Kids Safe This Summer

Child in swimming poolAs I sit here on a cold rainy day in early May, my mind wonders to more pleasant things; warm weather topics, sun protection, insect repellents and a little about water safety.  This is meant to bring up a few important points, based on American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations, I agree with.

When it comes to sun exposure, the best defense is to avoid sun exposure.  Especially when it comes infants. Lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts and brimmed hats that keep the sun off the neck and out of the eyes should be worn.  Also, stay in the shade whenever possible and limit sun exposure during peak intensity hours between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.  In children who will wear them, sunglasses that provide 97-100% protection against UVA and UVB rays should also be worn.  Sunscreen should be applied on cloudy days and should be re-applied every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating.  Another notable point especially with the infants is to remember the reflective rays from water, sound or any light colored surface.  With infants less than 6 months and adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF.  Children older than 6 months should also use sunscreen with at least 15 SPF.  This can be applied more liberally in older children–about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.

Insect repellents can be a great way to prevent bites from biting insects, such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers and biting flies.  While most children who receive these bites have only mild reactions, some can become very sick from skin infections or dangerous diseases such as West Nile Virus or Lyme Disease.  Studies have shown DEET to be the most effective repellent.  Most products contain 10-30% concentrations of DEET, with the higher concentrations giving lasting longer protection (up to 5 hours).  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no concentrations of DEET greater than 30% in children.  The AAP also recommends no DEET at all for children less than 2 years old. Children younger than 2 years old can be protected by full length clothing, mosquito netting and avoiding the peak times for these biting insects – dawn and dusk.

Never leave a child alone in or near a pool or spa, even for a moment.  Fences around a pool should be 4 feet high with an alarm on the inside door if leading to the pool area.  Gates should open out from the pool area and latches should be at height small children couldn’t reach.  Remember, floaties are no substitute for life vests and can give children and parents a false sense of security.  There is no evidence that swimming lessons in babies less than 1 year old can prevent drowning children.  Children 1-4 years old may have less risk of drowning, but this should never be seen as drown proofing at any age.  Here are a few tips for swimming in open water:

  • Children of all ages should wear a life jacket at all times when on boats or near bodies of water.
  • Adolescents and adults should be warned of the dangers of boating when under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or prescription drugs.
  • Never swim alone!  Even good swimmers need buddies.
  • No diving into unknown water.
  • Never let your child swim in canals or fast moving water.

For further tips on fun in the sun and many other topics, you can visit the AAP web sight. Stay safe and have a great summer!