Get Ready for Safe Sunshine!
Summer presents its own pleasures and challenges when our family includes babies and toddlers. There really is nothing cuter than a little one in a ruffle bathing suit splashing in the water, or a new walker trying to figure out how sand works under his feet. But these beginning splashers and steppers need us more than ever to keep a close eye on them while they play in this wonderful summer weather.
The National Health Service informs us that babies and young children can become ill during very hot weather, their health can be seriously affected by:
- heat exhaustion and heatstroke
So how do we protect out little ones and keep them safe while we play outside, on picnics, at the beach or visiting a park or playground? The NHS also lets us know that a baby’s body will heat up 3x faster than an adult’s body and we know that their skin is sensitive, easily affected by weather, lotions and fabric. But we live in an area that welcomes warmth and light after long, cold winters. We want to be outside!
Looking through multiple sources of information and summer tips, these emerge as most important:
- Dress for the weather.
Babies and toddlers should always wear a broad brimmed light cloth hat that will cover their face and neck. Even in cloudy summer weather, there is a real chance of sun exposure. Along with their hat, light “breathable” clothing should cover shoulders, tummy and back with swim wear, shorts or play clothes that are comfortable and loose. Women’s Health recommends that children younger than 6 months avoid sun exposure all together. Remember that while wet clothes help us cool off, young children chill easily (even in the heat) and should be in dry clothing whenever possible. Protect little feet with light sandals and shoes that are a great fit and easy to put on and off. Concrete, sand and black top driveways are hot.
Young children – all children – should have access to fresh, cool water at all times. Remember to keep an infant’s bottle in a cooler if you are traveling and introduce water in sippy cups as soon as possible. Toddles love water bottle with their favorite cartoon or super hero on it! Rinse and fill throughout the day, help them hold the water bottle and manage the mouth piece; it’s fun to practice so that they are comfortable and confident. As children get older, juicy fruits like watermelon and berries make great snacks that help keep them hydrated. BabyCenter reminds us that carbonated, fizzy, fruit mix or iced tea mix and Energy Drinks are filled with sugars and often caffeine – these are never recommended for young children.
- Shade & Sunscreen.
When possible, keep babies and toddlers in the shade or in air conditioning during very hot, dry heat waves. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. So, if your child’s skin looks “a little pink” today, it may be burned tomorrow morning. For best protection get your children out of the sun and into air conditioning or under shade.
Sunscreen SPF 15 or higher should always be applied to exposed skin. For best results apply 15-30 minutes ahead of going out in the sun and reapply periodically throughout the day, especially after water play. Very young children often need a trial of this sunscreen lotion to be sure that it does not cause a skin reaction – there are products made exclusively for infants; always check the ingredients.
Most importantly during this great summer ahead of us, it is critical that babies, toddlers – all children – are under the careful and attentive eye of adults. Water is inviting, play is active and other children are exciting. There is a lot of summer fun to be part of and children have little, if any, sense of risk or danger. We have to know where children are at all times and what they are doing.
Look in the backseat of your car each and every time you open your door. It seems impossible, but each summer children die from heat stroke strapped into their car seats in the back seat of their family car. Routines are changed, adults are hurried and distracted and children fall asleep easily on car rides.
I am writing this while looking out at a perfect blue sky and sunshine.
Summer – the best time of the year! Enjoy each day.