Summer time brings opportunities for exciting outside activities from family cookouts to little league baseball games to days at the waterfront. With each of these activities, we need to make sure that we are protecting children from the dangers of prolonged heat and sun exposure.
Excessive sun exposure may cause sun burns or even sun poisoning while prolonged heat exposure may cause heat exhaustion or, in severe cases, heat stroke. Fortunately, there are ways to keep ourselves and our children safe while enjoying ourselves outside in the heat and sun.
Because sunburns at younger ages are associated with increased risk of skin cancer later in life, we should be especially vigilant about protecting our children from UV rays. Infants younger than 6 months old are particularly susceptible to sun burns. Young infants should be covered with light weight clothing and wide-brimmed hats to avoid sun exposure.
Older infants and children should use sunscreen with SPF of 15 or greater when outside. Sunscreen should be reapplied after swimming, sweating, or at least every two hours. Look for sunscreens that offer broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
Also, don't be fooled by cloudy days. The damaging UV rays are not blocked by the clouds and can still cause a sunburn on a cloudy day. Additionally, everyone can limit their exposure to harmful UV rays by staying inside or in the shade during peak hours of 10 AM to 4 PM.
Exercising in the heat poses an additional threat to older children and adolescents. While recent studies have shown that children and adolescents may be equally able to train and acclimatize to exercising in the heat, coaches and parents must take certain precautions to avoid heat-related illness.
Athletes must have adequate hydration before, during, and after exercise in hot conditions. If children wait until they are thirsty to drink, they are already mildly dehydrated. Instead, parents and coaches must schedule frequent breaks for hydration during exercise and encourage children to drink plenty of fluids. Water is sufficient for exercise in the heat for one hour or less. After one hour, sports drinks should be used which replace electrolytes lost in sweat.
For more information on sun and heat safety, please visit these websites:
CDC Skin Cancer Prevention
American Academy of Pediatrics Summer Fun Tips
AAP Policy Statement
Climatic Heat Stress and Exercising Children and Adolescents