Summer safety: Kids, pay heed – adults, you too

Hello-o-o summer! With school out and Memorial Day behind us, the summer season has begun. If you are like me, that means fun in the sun and lots of water activities.

With the kiddos in tow, donít forget to add some sun and water safety tips to your summer activities preparation list.

Letís start with skin protection. Remember Melanoma Monday? Most of our sun exposure occurs during childhood. For babies younger than 6 months of age, consider lightweight long pants and long sleeves along with a wide-brimmed hat to shade the head. Small amounts of SPF 15 sunscreen to the face and hands is OK.

Older babies and children should use sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection and SPF rating more than 15, with frequent reapplications at least every two hours. Consider limiting outdoor activities during mid-day and staying in the shade whenever possible.

As the days get hotter, avoiding heat stress is wise. This means limiting strenuous activities during the hot part of the day and gradually increasing activity levels to acclimate to the heat.

Light-colored clothing can help reflect the heat. Most importantly kids should drink plenty of water to stay well-hydrated Ė at least every 20 minutes during strenuous exercise.

Water safety is equally important. Among young children, drowning is the second-leading cause of injury-related death. No. 1 is motor-vehicle accidents. Too often, drownings occur in the backyard pool. If you have one, it should be surrounded by a 4-foot fence on all four sides with a self-latching gate that opens outward.

Parents should always accompany children for water activities. Remember that flotation devices such as floaties are not intended for water safety.

Consider enrolling your child in swimming lessons. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children ages 1 to 4 may be at lower risk of drowning if they have had some formal instruction.

Even if your little squirt can swim like a fish, donít leave him alone in the water. Stay within reach and donít get distracted during swimming activities. Fatal drownings can occur in a matter of minutes.

If you happen to be out on the water boating, tubing or rafting, make sure your child is wearing a properly fitting, fully latched approved life vest. These days you can get them in all kinds of colors and cool designs.

Remind adolescents of the danger of combining drugs or alcohol with water activities. If your teens will be swimming, especially in open water without a lifeguard, be sure to promote the buddy system.

Never let a child dive into water without first knowing the depth. This will help prevent head and neck injuries that can lead to fatal drowning.

When swimming in open water, stay away from canals or fast currents. If caught in an ocean riptide, teach kids to swim parallel to the shore until they escape the current.

Donít forget that when it comes to sun and water safety, whatís good for kids is also good for adults.

Dr. Matthew A. Clark is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics practicing at the Ute Mountain Health Center in Towaoc.

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