Spring has finally sprung in the Utah. The weather is warmer, the days longer, the foothills are an emerald shade of green, and the trees and flowers are blooming. Everyone is getting outside as there are an unlimited number of things to do and much to explore. Because of this, it is the perfect time for a friendly reminder of how to keep your kids safe while having fun in the sun this Spring and Summer. Since I don't want to bombard you with too much information all at once, I'm going to make this a two-part series. This month's post: sun and water safety.
Spring is the time of the year that we see many sunburns as people are heading outdoors again. Because it's not super hot outside, many forget to protect themselves. The best way to protect against harmful ultraviolet radiation exposure is to cover up. For infants less than 6 months of age, avoid being in the sun and dress them in lightweight long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide brimmed hats that shade the neck and face. If shade and clothing are not available, apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 (up to SPF 50) to the face and back of hands.
Generally, sunscreen is not recommended for infants less than 6 months of age, but if no other options are available, a small amount is okay. For children of all ages, avoid being outside during the sun's peak intensity hours of 10:00 am and 04:00 pm. If that's unavoidable, stay in the shade and wear clothing with a tight weave, wear a light-colored hat with a wide brim and wear sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. It is also important to apply at least an SPF 15 sunscreen on all exposed skin areas and reapply every 2 hours if swimming or sweating.
Be mindful of your surroundings, water and sand (and snow for those of us in Utah!) can intensify UV rays and precipitate sunburn. Finally, be a good example and teach your children how to apply sunscreen by doing so yourself. Your children will be more eager to do what they see you doing.
I'm often asked by parents which sunscreen is best because there are many brands to choose from. When choosing a sunscreen, look for one that says “broad-spectrum” on the front. This means that it designed to deter UVA and UVB rays. You also want to choose a sunscreen that is at least SPF 15.
One common mistake people make when applying sunscreen is not using enough. You need to apply enough to generously cover all exposed areas of the body, including the face, ears, nose, feet, backs of the knees and hands. Another mistake many people make is not applying it soon enough before going outdoors. It is important to apply sunscreen to dry skin 30 minutes before going outside because it needs time to absorb into the skin in order to be effective.
Here at ABC Pediatrics, we typically recommend Blue Lizard® sunscreen. We have found it works well on all skin types when used properly (see here: Sun Protection). Plus, an added bonus is the bottle changes colors when exposed to harmful UV rays giving you another reminder to cover-up. You're kids will surely dig that!
If, despite all of your best efforts, one of your children does get a sunburn you want to make sure to keep them comfortable. Make sure he or she remains hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. A cool bath can help soothe any inflamed skin. Be sure to keep their skin well-moisturized, but be cautious because some lotions may sting your child's already irritated skin. Aloe Vera gel or lotion can be helpful in these situations. Giving your child pain medication such as acetaminophen helps with painful sunburns. Finally, keep your child out of the sun until the sunburn has completely healed. Some reasons to seek medical attention would be any sunburn in an infant less than 1 year of age or a sunburn in an older child that is accompanied by blistering, extreme pain or fever.
Now we're going to talk about getting wet. Whether it's splashing around in a pool or enjoying a boat ride on a lake, water provides endless hours of entertainment. However, if not respected properly, water fun can end in tragedy. Be sure to protect your child by following these water safety tips.
First, and foremost, never ever leave a child unattended around any type of open water. This means pools, lakes, streams, rivers, ponds, spas, etc. You even need to think of things like buckets of water or coolers left out with melting ice. If the child is less than 5 years old, make sure you or another adult, are within arm's length of the child, this is called “touch-supervision”. This allows the adult in the water to be able to quickly help a child should they lose their balance and go under water.
If you own a pool, make sure there is at least a 4 foot fence surrounding all four sides of the pool and that it's locked at all times with a self-closing and self-latching device that a child cannot reach. If your house exterior wall is the one of the four sides of the pool's enclosure, make sure that any doors or exits from the house (even animal doors) remain locked at all times – even better would be if they were equipped with an alarm that will sound if opened. It also wouldn't hurt considering installation of gate alarms or water surface sensors that will notify someone if somebody enters the pool area or pool itself.
Make sure rescue equipment such as a shepherd's hook, a life-preserver and a portable telephone are nearby in the event of an emergency. Inflatable swimming aids, also called “floaties”, should not be used as a substitute for a life jacket as they can give parents and children a false sense of security. Formal swimming lessons can lessen the risk of drowning in children over 1 year of age, but it is important to never consider them a way of “drown-proofing” your child.
Life-jackets should be worn at all times while on a boat, on docks, or near bodies of water. Make sure the life-jacket is the appropriate size for the child and verify that it's not loose and all belts are securely fastened. Finally, make sure you teach your children to never dive into water unless given the okay by an adult who has checked the depth and made sure there are no underwater objects.
So, there you have it for sun and water safety. As always, don't hesitate to contact us here at ABC Pediatrics if you have further questions or concerns. Stay tuned for next month's post where I will talk about playground safety and proper helmet use. Wishing you a happy and safe spring and summer!
*Information presented adapted from Health Children.org “Sun Safety”
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Sun-Safety.aspx and The American Academy of Pediatrics news feature “Sun and Water Safety Tips” https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/Pages/Sun-and-Water-Safety-Tips.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR:+No+local+token
Mary-Faith Fuller, CPNP
I am a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who has worked at ABC Pediatrics since January 2014.