June marks the end of the school year and the beginning of summer trips and activities for many families. Whether your children are heading for beaches and swimming pools or playing soccer on hot summer days, don’t forget to follow some of these tips to ensure their safety.
Protect Your Skin Against UV Exposure:
Understanding UV Light
The ultraviolet (UV) light emitted by the sun is classified by its wavelengths: UVA has a longer wavelength while the UVB wavelength is shorter. UVB exposure is thought to cause most sunburns and skin damage, while UVA may be more involved in skin aging as well as certain skin cancers. Perhaps a good mnemonic is to remember: UVB-for burning and UVA-for aging. UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes.
Shade Your Skin
You can protect your skin by using sunscreen or wearing protective clothing when you’re outside. Wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. Your eyes also need UV protection to prevent cataracts, macular degeneration, and retinal damage. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection for your eyes and reduce the risk of cataracts.
When sunscreen is applied to the skin, the chemical molecules form an invisible, protective layer that prevents UV rays from penetration. For maximum effect, allow at least 30 minutes for your sunscreen to be absorbed before you head into the sun.
Most sunscreens block UVB quite effectively, but only “Broad-Spectrum” sunscreens have the active ingredients that block UVA. If you have the option, try to buy a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen.
Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. A sunscreen with SPF 15 protects against 92 percent of UV rays. SPF 30 protects against 97 percent and SPF 40 protects 97.5 percent of UV rays.
Note: Sunscreen wears off. Reapply if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours. Also remember to reapply sunscreen after you swim or work up a sweat.
Words of Wisdom for Playing near Water:
Pools, lakes, ponds, and beaches bring cool relief from hot weather. But water also can be dangerous for kids if you don’t take the proper precautions. Nearly 1,000 kids die each year through drowning. In a lot of these cases, the accident happened even though the child knew how to swim. Here are some basic safety rules for water activities.
Supervise Your Children at All Times
- All kids need to be supervised in the water, no matter how good their swimming skills are.
- Infants, toddlers should have an adult swimmer within arm’s reach.
- Make sure that there is always a life-saving floatation device handy, and learn to perform CPR in case it’s needed.
Teach Kids to Be Water-Wise near Pools
- Ask your kids to swim with a buddy so that they can look out for each other.
- Kids shouldn’t run or push around the pool and should never dive in areas that are not marked for diving.
- Teach your child to get out of the water during bad weather and seek shelter indoors, especially if there is lightning.
- Teach kids to contact the lifeguard or an adult if there is an emergency.
Safety around Lakes or Ponds
- Don’t let kids swim without adult supervision — lakes and ponds are shallow near the bank but sharply increase in depth farther from the shore.
- Ponds and lakes may hide jagged rocks, broken glass, or trash. Make sure kids wear aqua shoes when swimming.
- Watch out for weeds and grass that could entangle a leg or arm.
Safety at the Beach
- Teach kids to always swim when and where a lifeguard is on duty.
- Do not 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, such as currents and tides. 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.
- Jellyfish stings can be painful. Tell kids to avoid jellyfish in the water and to tell an adult right away if they’re stung.
Avoiding Insect Bites:
Mosquitoes can cause a range of health problems, from itchiness and irritation, to potentially serious diseases. Mosquitoes can bite at any time during the day but are more active at dawn and dusk. Your best protection from illness is to take preventive measures.
Insect repellents can be an effective aid in preventing mosquito bites. Most repellents contain some amount of DEET (N, N-diethyl metatuluoamide). DEET doesn’t kill bugs, but its vapors discourage them from landing on you. It’s generally considered the most effective insect repellent.
Use DEET Repellents in an Age-Appropriate Manner
- Adults and children over 12 years old can use products that contain up to 30% DEET. One application of 30% DEET should be effective for six hours against mosquitoes.
- Children age 2 to 12 should use products containing 10% DEET or less, applied up to three times daily. One application of 10% DEET should be effective for three hours against mosquitoes.
- Prolonged use should be avoided in children younger than 12.
- Do not use DEET products on children younger than 2. Use a mosquito net or protective clothing instead.
Using Insect Repellents Safely
- Read and follow all directions and precautions on the product label.
- Do not apply over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
- When using on children, apply to your own hands and then put it on the child. Do not apply to hands or near eyes and mouth of young children.
- Wash hands after application.
- Avoid breathing a repellent spray, and do not use near food.
- Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing and do not use under clothing.
- After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water. Wash treated clothing before wearing it again.
Non-DEET Insect Repellents
Some non-DEET repellents that are intended to be applied directly to skin also provide some protection from mosquito bites. However, studies have suggested that other products do not offer the same level of protection, or that protection does not last as long as products containing DEET. Soybean oil 2% blocker repellent is an insect repellent that provides protection for 3.5 hours against mosquitoes. There are no age restrictions or limitations on frequency of use with non-DEET products.
Minimizing Your Risk of Getting Bitten by Insects
Besides using an insect repellent, you can reduce your risk by wearing long-sleeved shirts, full-length pants, and close-toed shoes when you are outdoors. Also recognize that dusk and dawn are times when mosquitoes are most active. Take the appropriate precautionary measures.
Avoid Dehydration or Overheating by Drinking Plenty of Fluids:
During a hot summer day, increased sweating may lead to dehydration. Prolonged exposure to heat coupled with dehydration can increase the risk of heatstroke. Ensure that your children stay well hydrated by asking them to drink plenty of fluids when going outdoors, especially fluids that contain electrolytes, such as Gatorade.
Keep Your Children’s Vaccinations Updated:
The vaccination for Japanese Encephalitis is on children’s vaccination schedules in China and is highly recommended for adults. If you plan to travel to tropical areas that see a high prevalence of serious mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, see your doctor or visit a travel clinic several weeks before you go. You can get Hepatitis A from contaminated food. I strongly recommend getting vaccinated against the disease.
In conclusion, stay protected from UV rays and bugs. And have a safe and fun summer vacation!
This article was reposted with permission from Beijing United Hospital. It was written by Dr. Wendy Hua, a Chinese-born, US-trained pediatrician who is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. She speaks English and Mandarin.
Photos via Wikimedia Commons and Sui