Keeping kids safe in the scorching Florida sun
The lazy, crazy days of summer are here! Wait a minute. Every day is summer in Florida, right? Still, parents need to take extra precautions now that school is out and kids have more unstructured time to spend outside and soak up the rays. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death in the United States for persons ages 1 to 19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This month, Dr. Ben answers some common questions that parents often ask about how to keep summer fun without compromising safety:
Q: How do I protect my infant and/or child from sunburn?
A: When in the sun for prolonged periods, infants should be dressed in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts and brimmed hats. Sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher can be applied to exposed areas.
For children of all ages, it is best to limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the hottest. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays and a hat with a three-inch brim also offer good protection. Clothing should be lightweight but cover as much skin as possible, although this is not always practical depending upon the activity. Always use a sunscreen with at least a 15 SPF and make sure they reapply every two hours — more often if they are sweating or swimming.
Q: What is the best way to keep my child safe in the pool?
A: A child can drown in mere seconds. One of the best ways to prevent drowning is to actively supervise children around water at all times. Make sure your pool is enclosed by a four-sided fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate. Further, teach your children from a very early age to stay away from the water unless an adult is present.
Enroll your child in swimming lessons after about age four. However, even if children can swim, they require vigilant supervision at all times.
Q: How can I prevent my child from heat illness in the scorching Florida sun?
A: Summer in Florida can be brutally hot. Children are at higher risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. When temperatures and humidity soars and/or when exercising in hot weather, the body sometimes can’t cool itself fast enough and the body temperature can rise too high.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include dehydration, clammy skin, headache, weakness and/or nausea and vomiting. If this occurs, bring your child indoors, encourage him to eat or drink and give him or her a cool bath.
Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke, which can be fatal. Heat stroke can cause loss of consciousness, a temperature of more than 105 degrees F, seizure, weakness and fatigue, a throbbing headache and/or flushed, hot skin without sweating. Call 911 immediately if your child exhibits one or more of these symptoms after being outside playing or exercising for a prolonged period. While waiting for medical help, bring him or her inside, undress him or her and douse him with cool water, but do not give fluids by mouth.
Of course, prevention is always best. Children should stay inside as much as possible during the hottest part of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Make sure they wear lightweight clothing and drink plenty of fluids before, during and after outdoor activity.
By taking these simple – but vital – precautions, parents can help ensure their children spend their summer safely in the sun and not in the doctor’s office.