The weather in Chicago has been absolutely gorgeous these past couple of weeks – blue skies, sunshine, and warm breezes! Before you round up your family and head for the beach, park, or even the mountains this summer, read up on some of WP’s ways to make your days in the sun both safe and fun. Part One of WP’s Summertime Safety Tips will cover: Sun Exposure, Sunscreen Tips, Fireworks, and Water Safety!!
- Sun Safety
We all need some sun exposure — it’s the top source of vitamin D, which helps our bodies absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones. But it doesn’t take much time in the sun for most people to get the vitamin D they need. Most kids get much of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18, so it’s important for parents to teach them how to enjoy fun in the sun safely.
Most sun damage occurs as a result of incidental exposure during day-to-day activities, not from being at the beach. Unprotected sun exposure is higher in risk for kids with:
- lots of moles on their skin (or whose parents have a tendency to develop moles)
- very fair skin and hair
- a family history of skin cancer, including melanoma
TIP: The sun is at it’s strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM (12:00 noon is when the sun is brightest/highest in the sky, and 3:00 PM is when it’s hottest outside. If kids are outside on a clear sunny day during this time, be sure to apply and reapply protective sunscreen — even if they’re just playing in the backyard.
Because infants have thinner skin and underdeveloped melanin, their skin burns more easily than that of older kids.
- The best protection for babies under 6 months of age is shade, so they should be kept out of the sun whenever possible. If your baby must be in the sun, dress him or her in clothing that covers the body, including hats with wide brims to shadow the face, or utilize an umbrella. If your baby is younger than 6 months old and still has small areas of skin (like the face) exposed, you can use a tiny amount of sunscreen with a minimum SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 on those areas.
With all the options available (organic or mineral? water-resistant or sweat-resistant? lotion or spray?), choosing a sunscreen for your kids can be tricky. But what matters most is the degree of protection it provides from UV rays.
- Look for SPF numbers on the labels of sunscreens. Select an SPF of 30 or higher to prevent sunburn and tanning, both of which are signs of skin damage. Choose a sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays (usually labeled as a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen).
- Sunscreen sprays are convenient but should be used with caution. For starters, sprays are easy to breathe in, which can irritate the lungs. Some sprays also are flammable, so you need to avoid sparks or flames when applying them and wearing them. And, sprays make it hard to tell if you have applied enough sunscreen, which increases the risk of sunburn.
3. Fireworks Safety
With warm weather and family events, the Fourth of July can be a fun time with great memories. But before your family celebrates, make sure everyone knows about fireworks safety. If not handled properly, fireworks can cause burn and eye injuries in kids and adults. The best way to protect your family is not to use any fireworks at home — period. Attend public fireworks displays, and leave the lighting to the professionals.
Lighting fireworks at home isn’t even legal in many areas, so if you still want to use them, be sure to check with your local police department first. If they’re legal where you live, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Kids should never play with fireworks. Things like firecrackers, rockets, and sparklers are just too dangerous. If you give kids sparklers, make sure they keep them outside and away from the face, clothing, and hair. Sparklers can reach 1,800°F (982°C) — hot enough to melt gold.
- Always use fireworks outside and have a bucket of water and a hose nearby in case of accidents.
- Steer clear of others — fireworks have been known to backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction. Never throw or point fireworks at someone, even in jest.
- Don’t hold fireworks in your hand or have any part of your body over them while lighting. Wear some sort of eye protection, and avoid carrying fireworks in your pocket — the friction could set them off.
- Light one firework at a time (not in glass or metal containers), and never relight a dud.
- Don’t allow kids to pick up pieces of fireworks after an event. Some may still be ignited and can explode at any time.
- Soak all fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them in the trash can.
- Think about your pet. Animals have sensitive ears and can be extremely frightened or stressed on the Fourth of July. Keep pets indoors to reduce the risk that they’ll run loose or get injured.
If a child is injured by fireworks, immediately go to a doctor or hospital. If an eye injury occurs, don’t allow your child to touch or rub it, as this may cause even more damage. Also, don’t flush the eye out with water or attempt to put any ointment on it. Instead, cut out the bottom of a paper cup, place it around the eye, and immediately seek medical attention — your child’s eyesight may depend on it. If it’s a burn, remove clothing from the burned area and run cool, not cold, water over the burn (do not use ice). Call your doctor immediately.
4. Water Safety
Pools, lakes, and beaches mean summer fun and cool relief from hot weather. But water also can be dangerous for kids if parents don’t take the proper precautions. The good news is there are many ways to keep your kids safe in the water, and make sure that they make the right choices when they’re on their own.
Kids, especially younger children, need constant supervision around water — whether the water is in a bathtub, a wading pool, an ornamental fish pond, a swimming pool, a spa, the beach, or a lake. Always watch children closely when they’re in or near any water.
- If you’re not a swimmer yourself, it’s a good idea to take lessons and learn how to swim. And kids over 4 years old should learn, too (check the local recreation center for classes taught by qualified instructors). Kids who are younger (but older than age 1) also might benefit from swimming lessons, but check with your doctor first.
- All kids need to be supervised while IN the water, no matter what their swimming skills. And infants, toddlers, and weak swimmers should have an adult swimmer within arm’s reach to provide “touch supervision.”
Oftentimes when kids and adults alike are enjoying some afternoon fun in the water they forget to hydrate, mainly because they’re surrounded by water!
- Kids should drink plenty of fluids, particularly water, to prevent dehydration. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the sun, especially when kids are active and sweating. Dizziness, feeling lightheaded, or nausea are just some of the signs of dehydration and overheating.
Beaches are some of the best places to take your family on a sunny summer afternoon, but be careful! A number of safety precautions should be taken to keep spirits afloat!
- Teach kids to always swim when and where a lifeguard is on duty. They shouldn’t swim close to piers or pilings because sudden water movements may cause swimmers to collide with them.
- Unlike the calm waters of a swimming pool, the beach has special dangers like currents and tides (yep – even in Lake Michigan). Check with the lifeguard when you arrive to find out about the water conditions.
- While most Lake Michigan beaches provide plenty of soft sand to walk along, other ponds, rivers, and lakes your family may visit this summer oftentimes hide jagged rocks. And ALL public beaches run the risk of having trash and broken glass laying around. So make sure your children wear foot protection; even in the water, they should wear aqua socks or water shoes.
- If you travel to the east or west coast this summer and find yourself on the beach, stronger currents and tides will be a risk to your family as they play in the water. Teach kids that if they’re caught in a rip current or undertow, they should swim parallel to the shore or should tread water and call for a lifeguard’s help.
And no matter where you’re enjoying some refreshing H2O, whether it’s a public/private pool, lake, pond, river, or ocean, ALWAYS remember to get the family out of the water when bad weather hits – especially if you hear thunder or see lightning.
We hope everyone’s summer get’s off to a great start this June! Be sure to check back again soon for Part Two of our Summer Safety Tips, which will cover Bug Bites & Stings, Woods/Camping, Fire Safety, and Outdoor Plants Knowledge!!!