1. Practice Sun Safety
When it comes to protecting your kids from the sun, sunscreen plays an important role. But sunscreen is just one of the ways to guard against the sun's damaging rays. Because the sun's rays can reflect off of the sand and water or other reflective surfaces, hats and sunglasses can also play an important role in preventing UV damage.
- Apply sunscreen. It can certainly be challenging to remember to apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. But that's exactly what you and your kids should do before heading outside, even on cloudy days (that's because UVA rays can go right through the clouds and still cause damage). Use generous amounts of UVA- and UVB- blocking sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and reapply every two hours or more often after swimming or sweating. Studies have shown that people often underestimate how much sunscreen they should be using, so be sure to follow the directions on the package (about one ounce for the entire body is usually the recommended amount). If your grade-schooler is old enough and wants to apply his own sunscreen, supervise the application and remind him to wash his hands when he's done so that he doesn't accidently rub sunscreen into his eyes. Finally, avoid using combination sunscreens with insect repellants because when sunscreen is reapplied, it can lead to excessive exposure to the repellant.
- Get some sun-protective clothing. Dress your kids in hats with wide brims and tightly-woven cotton clothing or clothes that have SPF built-in (many kids' clothes, especially swimsuits, have sun protection in them nowadays). Try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is at its most intense peak, and try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
- Shop for some cool shades. Don't forget your child's eyes when you are out and about. Look for kids' sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. You don't need to spend a lot on kid sunglasses -- research has shown that inexpensive sunglasses that are labeled as protective for UVA and UVB are effective in blocking the sun's harmful rays.
2. Protect Against Bugs
Bugs are one of those annoyances of summer. But insects such as potentially disease-carrying mosquitoes and bees can also be harmful to kids. To protect your child against bugs:
Use insect repellents to guard against ticks, which can carry Lyme Disease, and mosquitoes, which can carry the West Nile Virus and other viruses. Many repellents are made with DEET, an effective insecticide that is toxic or even potentially deadly if swallowed. If you do use a product containing DEET, it's crucial not to apply the product to a child's hands or face to avoid possible ingestion; it's also important to wash off the product before bed to prevent overexposure to the chemical.
Another effective ingredient found in repellents is picardin, but DEET is the most effective, and what doctors recommend (at 30 percent DEET concentrations) given the dangers posed by viruses such as West Nile.
An alternative to DEET-containing repellents are natural insect repellents; however, parents should keep in mind that "natural" doesn't always mean "safe." Talk to your pediatrician about which insect repellent is right for your family.
- Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants when going outside, particularly at dusk when mosquitoes are more likely to be present.
- Never leave stagnant pools of water around the house. Pools of water can serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
- Avoid using scented soaps or perfumes on your child. And do not allow your child to walk around carrying sweetened beverages, such as fruit juices. These sweet, strong scents can attract bees and wasps and increase your child's risk of being stung.
3. Prevent Dehydration
Whether your child is playing soccer with teammates or running around in the park with some buddies, it's important to keep in mind that frequent water breaks are very important to prevent dehydration. Your child should drink water before exercise and during breaks, which should be about every 15 to 20 minutes. On particularly hot and humid days, it's also a good idea for parents to spray down kids with some water from a spray bottle.
4. Don't Forget Helmets
Your child should wear a helmet whenever she is on anything with wheels, such as a scooter, bicycle, or roller skates. A helmet is the most important device available that can reduce head injury and death from a bicycle crash, according to Safe Kids USA. And be sure to set a good example by always wearing your helmet when riding your bike.
5. Practice Food Safety
Food borne illnesses increase in the summer because bacteria grow faster in warmer temperatures and humidity. On top of that, more people are eating and preparing food outdoors, at picnics and barbecues, where refrigeration and places to wash hands are not readily available.To prevent food borne illnesses:
- Be sure to wash your hands before preparing or serving any food. Make sure your children wash their hands, or at least use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, before eating.
- Never cross-contaminate. Do not allow any raw meat or poultry to come into contact with any other food or plates or utensils.
- Consider the temperature. Use a thermometer and be sure to cook all meat and poultry to the correct temperatures to kill any harmful bacteria. Keep all perishable foods in the refrigerator and do not keep leftovers unrefrigerated for more than one or two hours.