- Consider the air quality before letting your children enjoy outdoor activities. The Air Quality Index can help identify risks associated with air pollution, wildfires, and heat.
- Protect young children from direct sun exposure. For babies under six months, keep them shaded under a tree, stroller canopy, or umbrella. For older children, limit sun exposure and encourage staying in the shade, especially during peak hours.
- Choose appropriate clothing for sun protection, including lightweight, long-sleeve clothing and wide-brimmed hats. Use sunglasses with UV protection for additional eye safety.
- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with minimum SPF 15 to areas not protected by clothing, avoiding products containing oxybenzone due to its potential hormonal properties. Be cautious about preventing babies from ingesting sunscreen since they touch their mouths frequently.
- Simple steps can help protect against extreme summer conditions, including dressing children appropriately, ensuring proper hydration, and allowing breaks for acclimatization. Understanding potential heat risks associated with any prescribed medication may also be beneficial.
The joy of summer and outdoor activities is a wonderful experience for children. Nonetheless, keeping some safety measures in mind, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), can ensure a healthier and more enjoyable experience.
Encouraging youngsters to embrace outdoor activities and connect with nature is a beautiful sight, says pediatrician Dr. Rebecca Philipsborn, based in Atlanta. Nevertheless, with increasing extreme weather events, particularly intense heat, she advises adopting a few prevention methods to help kids stay in good health.
Considering Air Quality
Concerns such as air quality and pollution are essential to bear in mind as these can sometimes be exacerbated by sun and heat. The AAP recommends monitoring your local Air Quality Index. This tool can be critical in identifying when factors like air pollution, wildfires, and extreme heat heighten risks for Asthma and other health conditions.
Protection from Sun
For babies younger than six months, direct exposure to sunlight should be avoided. Instead, ensure they are shaded under a tree, a stroller’s canopy, or an umbrella. Dress them in lightweight clothing that cover the arms and legs as much as possible, and use hats with brims to avoid sunburns around the neck area.
For older children, sun exposure should be limited too, especially during peak hours between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, and they should be encouraged to stay in the shade whenever possible.
The damaging UV (Ultraviolet) rays are likely to reflect off surfaces like sand, water, snow, or concrete. Hence, extra caution is advised in these situations.
Choosing Appropriate Clothing
Selecting the suitable type of clothing for your child can also greatly help in sun protection. Opt for cotton or tightly woven materials that are both cool and provide decent coverage. Wide-brimmed hats can be beneficial in shading various parts of the face and neck.
Sunglasses with UV protection can shield your child’s eyes as well, as per AAP’s advice.
Effective Use of Sunscreen
For any skin areas not protected by clothing, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF 15 should be used. These sunscreens provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before your child ventures outdoors and reapply every two hours or after swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel.
Try to avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, a chemical that may have hormonal properties. Instead, opt for products that include zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
While it’s acceptable to apply sunscreen on small skin areas uncovered by clothing or hat in young babies, one should remember that babies are prone to touch their mouths often. Therefore, it’s important to prevent them from ingesting sunscreen.
Heat and Air Pollution Effects on Children
Children, in particular, are vulnerable to extreme heat and polluted air as they breathe faster and consume more air relative to their body weight than adults. Additionally, they breathe closer to the ground level where some pollutants settle, AAP warns.
Particularly at risk are young children who rely on parents and caregivers for protection against intense heat. However, AAP acknowledges that not all families might have the necessary resources to cope with such harsh summer conditions.
Protecting Against Extreme Summer Conditions
Parents can take various precautions to shield their children from summer heat illnesses, pollution, and pollen. Dressing children appropriately on scorching days, ensuring they stay hydrated, and giving them time to acclimate to the temperature are key. Taking breaks are always a good idea.
If your children consume prescription medication, discuss with your pediatrician any potential risks the medication can pose for heat-induced illnesses.
Using public transportation, walking, or biking when feasible can be beneficial. When buying your next vehicle, consider a zero-emissions one, AAP advises.
In your local community, advocate for access to green spaces for all children. Participate in tree planting events or plant trees yourself to contribute to reducing the urban heat effect and improving air quality.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide more details on children’s summer safety.
According to the SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, keeping these safety guidelines in mind, parents can enjoy a safe and fun-filled summer with their children.