With summer and all its outdoor activities fast approaching, it’s a good idea to be prepared so that you and you child can enjoy the season safely. From this month’s Bay Area Parent magazine, pediatrician KaiKai Lam (Kaiser San Ramon) offers up these helpful tips:
“Play it Safe This Summer – Protect Against Sun, Bug Bites, and More
Is there anything more magical than spending a beautiful summer day outside, enjoying the weather and taking in all the Bay Area has to offer? We are lucky that our area is such a fantastic place to live and reaise a family. There are an abundance of activities here that keep us outdoors and enjoying life during the summer months. But it is important to take note of some helpful reminders and take some simple precautions to ensure that you and your family stay safe all summer long.
Sun safety is important for everyone in the family. One of the best ways to be sun safe is to keep an eye on the clock. Try and avoid the sun altogether when the rays are strongest, from 10 am to 4 pm. This includes foggy and overcast days, as UV light is often stronger as it reflects off clouds.
When you are outside, find trees or other cool shady spots – anywhere that doesn’t directly expose your skin to the sun. This is a good method to use for picnics, or any activities where you might be outside for several hours.
If you’re going to be in direct sunlight, wear hats and other protective clothing. Wear a tight woven hat with a full brim, preferably four inches wide, to protect your head, face, ears, and neck as much as possible. And consider sunglasses with UV protection for the eyes and surrounding skin.
Don’t rely on a T-shirt for sun protection when in the pool. When wet, T-shirts have an SPF (sun protection factor) of only 3. Rash guards with SPF built into the material are a great alternative and a smart choice for kids as well.
Sunscreen is key to keeping safe in the sun. Use an amount the size of a penny to cover your face and ears about 20 minutes before sun exposure. And apply at least two tablespoons (about the size of the palm of your hand) worth to cover the rest of your body. That means a typical 4-oz sunscreen bottle should provide roughly four all-over, thorough applications of sunscreen. As you can imagine, not many people are that diligent in their sunscreen application! One bottle of sunscreen should not last the entire summer.
Look for sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30 that provide “broad spectrum” coverage. This means that they will protect against UVA and UVB rays. While UVA rays contribute to premature aging and UVB rays cause sunburn, both types cause skin cancer.
Bid Bugs Bye-Bye
Outdoor barbeques and warm summer evenings often bring out the bugs. Insect and spider bites can cause minor swelling, redness, pain and itching. These mild reactions are common and may last from a few hours to a few days. Some people may have more severe reactions to bites or stings, so it is important to keep an eye on anyone affected, especially babies and children.
You can help fight summer insect bites and stings by following a few simple steps. Wear clothing that covers the skin, and when needed, apply insect repellant containing DEET to clothing, shoes and exposed skin. For children, use products with no more than 10 percent DEET and do not apply to the hands.
Avoid DEET products that have sunscreen built in, as you need to reapply sunscreen more often than DEET.
And of course, check with your doctor if you are pregnant and have any concerns about DEET or insect repellants in general.
Citronella candles are often an effective way to keep mosquitoes at bay. Also consider planting chrysanthemums in your garden; they are a natural mosquito repellant.
Should you or your family member be bitten or stung by a bee, remove the stinger, if there is one, and use ice to reduce pain, itching and swelling. For ticks, use tweezers and pull straight away from the skin to remove. Wash the area and apply an antiseptic. If a rash, fever, headache or fatigue develops, call your doctor.
Swimming is a great summer activity and a great way to beat the heat. According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning is the leading cause of death and injury for children under 5 years old. That is why you should never leave a child unattended near a pool or other body of water for even a minute, even if the child knows how to swim.
Also take note of pool fences and make sure any self-latching gates are working properly.
Avoid Poison Oak
Leaves of three? Let them be. Nothing ruins a day of hiking and exploring like poison oak. The leaves grow in clusters of three and are green/red in the spring and summer and orange or brown in the fall. Poison oak is often right off the trail, another reason to always keep your little ones on marked paths.
If you come into contact with the leaves, flush exposed areas with cold water for 20 minutes. Wash everything exposed – clothing, shoes, even your dog. If a rash develops, using a topical steroid cream for 10 to 14 days can reduce itching. An over-the-couinter antihistamine can also help with itching. Cut children’s fingernails, and encourage them to not scratch the rash.
And if you are exploring a new trail or wilderness area, consider bringing along a GPS device in case your group becomes disoriented and lost.
If your summer adventures include bicycles and scooters, make sure everyone has properly fitting helmets, without cracks, and that tires are inflated properly. If biking is new to your family or it has been a while since you have ridden, it is also a good idea to review the rules of the road with your kids and make sure everyone knows proper bike etiquette. It is a good idea to carry a simple first-aid kit when out on a bike ride to tend any bumped knees and elbows of novice riders.
When the weather is hot, it’s important to stay hydrated while you are physically active. Reach for water and avoid soda, which can actually leave you dehydrated. Make sure children are well hydrated as well. Healthy summer snacks such as oranges and watermelon are a good way to keep kids energized and hydrated.
Enjoy your summer adventures in the sun. Just remember to be prepared to help ensure that everyone has a fun and safe summer!”