Health and Wellness from Humana - Summer Safety

July 21, 2011

Swimming is good for children

Summer safety for kids

Most parents know sunscreen can keep children from getting sunburn. But did you know there are lots of dangers when the heat is on? The American Academy of Pediatrics offers some important tips for child safety this summer.

Babies need special attention

Babies can get sunburned very easily, so it's best to keep them out of the sun. They should be dressed in lightweight long pants and shirts with long sleeves. A hat that covers the face and neck is also needed. If this type of clothing is not around, you can use a little bit of sunscreen. The sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 15. SPF stands for sun protection factor. The best place for sunscreen on babies is around the face and back of the hands. If a baby gets sunburned, hold a cool damp washcloth on the area.

Sun protection for kids

The most harmful of the sun's rays are called UVR, which stand for ultraviolet radiation. UVR rays can cause skin to look older later in life. Kids should wear a hat with a brim that is at least three inches long. They should also wear sunglasses with at least 97% protection against UVR and UVA. UVA stands for ultraviolet-A, and it burns the skin most easily. Cotton clothing is the best for kids when they are in the sun. It reflects heat and sun, and absorbs sweat.

Kids should stay in the shade if possible. In the sun they should use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more. It is best to stay out of the sun during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That is when the sun's rays are the strongest. Even on cloudy days kids need to wear sunscreen. The sun's rays can still get through the clouds. You should put about one ounce of sunscreen on children when they first go in the sun. Put on another ounce after they go swimming or are sweating.

Heat causes problems, too

It is easy for kids to get overheated in the summer. Be sure your children take it easy when it's hot out. They should not be active for more than 15 minutes when it is very hot or humid outside. Humidity is the amount of water in the air. Humidity can make it feel even hotter than it is.

Children need to drink water when they are out in the sun. For the first hour, kids should have plenty of water to drink. After that, water or a sports drink should be available. Clothes should be light colored and lightweight. Kids should change into another set of clothes if they become sweaty.

Practices and games played in the heat should be short and have plenty of water breaks. If children are feeling very hot they should find some shade or go indoors for a while.

Pool safety

Children love to cool off in the pool during the summer. It is very important to know some pool safety rules, says The American Academy of Pediatrics.

Never leave children alone in or near water. This includes pools and spas. If you have a pool, you will need a fence that is at least 4 feet high. It will need to go around all sides of the pool. Be sure that there is no opening that a child could get under, or through. The fence latch should be at a height that children can't reach. Be sure to have an alarm on any door going out of the house to the pool.

You should keep rescue tools like a life preserver and a shepherd's hook nearby. A shepherd's hook is a long pole with a hook on the end. These should be made of material that does not attract electricity.

It is not a good idea to use swimming aids that are inflated such as "floaties." They are not to be used as life vests. They can give children and adults a false sense of safety.

Many children between the ages of 1 and 4 take swimming lessons. This may put them at a lower risk of drowning. Some children under 1 year of age take swimming lessons. However, there is no proof that this will help keep them from drowning. Swimming lessons should not be seen as "drown-proofing" at any age. Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be there. The adult needs to be within "touch-length," or an arms-length away. It is best that the adult knows CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. CPR is a way to help people who are not breathing.

Another danger around pools is "entrapment." This is when a child becomes trapped underwater from suction in a pool. This could be caused by a missing or broken drain cover. Ask your pool director if your pool or spa's drain is safe. It should meet the standard of the Pool and Spa Safety Act. If you have a pool, be sure the drains are safe. You can ask your pool service company to fit your drains with special covers to make your pool safer.

Large, above-ground pools are very popular today. Children may fall in if they lean against the soft sides of the pool. These pools should be surrounded by a safety fence just as a regular pool would be. This way a child cannot get in without an adult being present.

Boating safety

Boating is great summer fun for kids and adults alike. Here are a few safety tips from The American Academy of Pediatrics.

Wear a life jacket

Children should wear life jackets at all times when on boats or around water. Make sure the life jacket is the right size for your child. They should be worn as instructed, with safety belts attached.

Blow up water wings, toys, and rafts are not safety equipment. They should not be used as life jackets or personal flotation devices. Adults should wear life jackets, too. This is for their safety and to set a good example for children.

Open water swimming

Children should never swim alone. Even good swimmers need buddies! A lifeguard should be watching children whenever they are in or around open water. Younger children need even closer attention. Use "touch-supervision," meaning children should be no further than an arm's length away. Make sure your child knows never to dive into shallow water. An adult who knows how deep the water is should check for underwater objects. Never let your child swim in canals or any fast-moving water. Ocean swimming should only be allowed when a lifeguard is present.

Have fun and play it safe!

Now that you know some tips for keeping kids safe this summer, go out and have fun! Just remember that all kids need an adult around to help them stay safe.

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