Add another “s” to summertime fun: sun, surf, sand, and Safety

With temperatures soaring, pools and beaches become sparkling oases for family fun. Too often, however, when we turn on our play, comfort, or vacation switch, our caution switch toggles off. Avoiding danger and reducing risk can keep summertime memories nothing but sweet.

Sun and Heat Protection

“Sun Safety Tips for Infants, Babies, and Toddlers,” published by the Skin Cancer Foundation, quotes Perry Robinson, MD, president of the Foundation as saying, "Children should not be getting sunburned at any age, especially since there are a range of very effective sun protection methods that can used," adding that "Parents need to be extra vigilant about sun protection all the time." The article goes on to provide sun exposure guidelines by age, for example, suggesting that infants under 6 months be kept out of the sun altogether. It also urges using “removable mesh window shields to keep direct sunlight from coming in through the windows of your car or invest in UV window film, which can screen almost 100 percent of ultraviolet radiation without reducing visibility.”

Wide-brimmed hats and bonnets are helpful, too and adorable! Sunglasses are a must for every age. One fun option is Surf’s Up Polarized Babiators. If lost in the first year, the company replaces them for free!

With sun comes heat, and while we are all aghast at stories of little ones and pets left in hot cars, it can be all too easy to think, “She just fell asleep. I’ll only be gone for 5 minutes.” A WebMD article, “Danger: Kids Left in Hot Cars,” by Denise Mann lists rule #1 as “No exceptions, no matter how brief.” The article cites several physicians, including Christopher McStay, MD, an ER doctor and assistant professor of emergency medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center, who says, "It is never OK to leave kids or pets in a car -- even with the windows down.” As reinforcement, he says, “It is an absolute no-no."

Christopher Haines, DO, director of pediatric emergency medicine at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia notes that “On a day that is just 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature [inside a car] can increase by 30 to 40 degrees in an hour, and 70% of this increase occurs the first 30 minutes,”

Water Safety

According to 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control and drowning is the leading cause of “unintentional injury”-related death among children ages 1 to 4, the second-leading cause among kids 5 to 9, and the fourth among those 10-14. Below are some basic musts:

--When near open water, keep toddlers, preschoolers, and non-swimmers (literally) within arm’s length.

--When near any water, stay in visual contact with kids of any age.

--Do not let babysitters take kids swimming unless you are certain they will not be distracted—including by cell phones or other devices.

--Pay attention to flags, signs, and signals at beaches. Take them seriously. Big waves are exciting, but they are also powerful and can be deadly, as can undertows, which are below the surface.

--Stay off piers, breakwalls, and other structures during high winds. In one 1 ½ period recently, 10 people were swept off Lake Michigan piers, including a mother and her two sons, who were rescued, as were all but two of the others.

--Make sure kids, teens, and adults, on any kind of watercraft, whether inflatable raft, kayak or Jet Ski wear life jackets at all times. A hard fall can stun, plus a distance that appears not terribly far from shore can fast become a long, fatiguing swim, especially with current, wind, or waves.

Let t-shirt and flip-flop season stay casual, but take safety seriously, and keep the caution switch turned on.