Kids love playing outside during the summer. As parents, we worry about our kids . . . it’s what we do. Sunburns, heat stroke, skin cancer, and other dangers are on our minds as our kids are outside playing for hours. Here is what you can do to address your worries.
Ensure that your kids apply SPF 30 (or greater) sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB radiation and that won’t quickly sweat off or wash off with a dash under the sprinkler. Reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours. (Note: “water resistant sunscreen” is defined by the US Food and Drug Administration as sunscreen that maintains its SPF level after 40 minutes of water contact and “waterproof sunscreen” is defined as sunscreen that maintains its SPF level after 80 minutes of water contact.)
Ensure that your kids are dressed appropriately for sun safety. Natural fibers (i.e., cotton) allow your kids’ skin to breathe more than synthetic fibers (i.e., polyester) do. Lighter, thinner fabrics; long sleeves; and clothing that has sun protection built in are good choices as well.
Ensure that your kids wear kid-friendly sunglasses with UV protection. Kids will initially fuss about having to wear sunglasses, but help your kids think sunglasses are cool-looking and also just plain smart because sunglasses with UV protection protect their eyes from sun damage.
Have plenty of fresh drinking water available for your kids. In outdoor summer fun, your kids must drink plenty of fluids to replace the water they lose in sweat. Fresh, cool drinking water is an excellent choice. Real fruit juices are also good choices. Avoid soda pops (caffeine) and tea (which encourages dehydration).
Build in rest periods throughout summer outdoor playtimes. For example, you may have a “beverage break” every 45 minutes. During these “beverage breaks”, your kids can sit on outdoor lounge chairs and drink a nice cool glass of water (or, if your kids don’t care for water, then serve them real fruit juices).
Avoid outdoor play in the peak heat hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). You’re thinking, “Yah, right!” Ok, in the alternative, encourage your kids to play in the shade as much as possible.
Observe your kids for signs of problems. For example, if your kids feel sick to their stomachs, experience fatigue or weakness, get dizzy, and/or have muscle cramps or a headache, heat exhaustion (a precursor to heat stroke) may be at play. (Note: signs of sunburns often do not become apparent until after the sun exposure has concluded. Do not expect signs of sunburn to be visible during your kids’ outdoor play.)
Once your kids show signs of trouble, you must act promptly. Remove your kids from the sun. Cool them with a cool (not cold) water bath. Have them drink cool water. Apply aloe vera to their skin. Discourage them from scratching their sunburned, itchy skin because scratching can prompt infections of the fragile skin beneath the burned skin. Contact a doctor if sunburn blisters appear or if symptoms of heat stroke are present. Heat stroke, which can be fatal, should be immediately responded to by a physician. Symptoms of heat stroke include: high body temperature; reddened, dry skin (no sweating); rapid pulse; labored respiration; disorientation; seizures; and comas.
By taking the preventative measures noted above, you can minimize the sun’s risk of harm to your kids. If harm does occur, you can respond properly using the remediation techniques referenced above and thus minimize the effects of the harm. Handling sun safety as indicated can lessen your worries as your kids enjoy their outdoor summer play.
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