Summer days just ooze bliss for kids. Long days playing outside in the sun, exploring the woods, day camping and overnight adventures, swimming and splashing, rolling in the grass and glorious time away from grownups.
But parents know summer is a time for safety precautions, too. To help sort through it all, we asked Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for some no-fuss guidance to protect kids from some of the most common summer-fun spoilers.
Dr. Mary Carol Burkhardt agreed to help. She’s associate division director of Cincinnati Children’s primary care and medical director of the Hopple Street Health Center. Here’s her advice:
How to protect your kids from the sun
- Apply sunscreen that’s at least 30 SPF no sooner than 30 minutes before your kids go outside.
- Try to keep kids inside or away from a lot of sunlight during peak sun hours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Put babies, toddlers and young children in hats. Have kids wear light-colored, loose-fitting, long-sleeve tops and long pants when possible.
- Reapply sunscreen about every two hours or when kids are in and out of the water a lot.
How to keep kids safe from the dangers of water play
- Be sure your children are supervised when they’re in or near water. This is important for swimmers, too.
- Get your children basic swimming lessons –and think of it as a life skill. If cost is a problem, try the American Red Cross “I CAN SWIM” program offered through the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.
- If you haven’t had a chance to learn, get basic swimming lessons, too. (“I CAN SWIM” offers lessons for adults, too.)
- Remember, even the best quality flotation devices (think water wings and inflated donuts) aren’t designed to prevent drowning.
How to protect your kids from itchy, scratchy bug bites
- Protect kids with light-colored, loose-fitting, long-sleeve shirts and long pants when possible.
- You may use insect repellent (with no more than 30% active ingredient DEET for children as young as 2 months old).
- Don’t allow a child 10 or younger to apply their own repellent.
- An extra tip, use mosquito netting with fitted elastic edges over baby carriers, comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Check babies and children for ticks when they come indoors after playtime outside or come home from camping trips.
- Keep young children away from tall grass if possible. (Ticks bite what’s close to the ground. Think crawlers, toddlers and kids who love to roll on the ground.)
- If you find a tick in your child’s skin, use clean tweezers to grab the tick from the bottom and pull it straight up and out.
- Wash any bitten area closely. If swelling is great, contact your pediatrician.
How to keep kids safe from poison ivy, other annoying plants
- Yep, Burkhardt suggests this again: Keep kids in long sleeves and long pants when possible.
- If your child develops a skin rash or other irritation, clean the area thoroughly. You may use anti-itch hydrocortisone cream.
- If the rash or reaction is severe, see a doctor.
How to keep kids who are new to time home alone safe
- Talk to kids first. Figure out their comfort level with staying home without you.
- Leave your child with a phone, be sure they know who they can call or text if they need someone and you’re not immediately available.
- Make an agreed-upon schedule for them to follow.
- Practice. First, try a walk around a block. If that goes well, leave the child alone while you do an errand. Gradually increase their time home alone. Leave them alone only during daylight hours.
- Be sure your child knows where the first-aid kit is and is uninhibited about calling for help. Be sure they’re mature enough to handle agreed-upon tasks. If your child is impulsive or unusually fearful, do not leave them alone.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children be at least 11 or 12 before they’re left home alone.