It’s no secret to Northeast Ohio residents, when the gray clouds finally give way to sunny and clear skies, most of us rejoice at the sight. Summer is the season we generally look forward to, with its warm temperatures and outside play, both in and out of the water. Each season brings its joys — and hazards. Heather Trnka, injury prevention coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital and coordinator at Safe Kids Summit County, provides a few tips on how to safely celebrate the summer (For more information, visit akronchildrens.org).
What kind of sunscreen do you recommend for kids and adults?
Contrary to what some might think, everyone needs sunscreen. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using sunscreens with at least an SPF of 15, which blocks 93 percent of UVB rays. Higher SPFs provide even greater protection, but only to a certain point: SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of UVB and SPF 50+ blocks 98 percent.
The brand of sunscreen is up to the individual, however, we do recommend the use of a PABA-free sunscreen. For those with sensitive skin, consider using a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These are sometimes less irritating as the ingredients don’t absorb into the skin. When choosing your sunscreen, make sure it is broad spectrum (blocks UVB and UVA rays).
Whether it is cream, lotion, stick or spray, the best one is the one your child will wear and one that is broad spectrum. Spray sunscreens are great for pre-teens and teens who want to do it themselves, however, be mindful that sprays could trigger allergies and asthma. Keep lotion handy for their faces. If your plans include swimming or sports, look for water-resistant sunscreens. If your teen or preteen wants to use a self-tanner sunscreen, be sure to get one that also has UV protection. Many offer little or no protection.
Don’t forget about ears, hands, feet, shoulders, and behind the neck. Lift up bathing suit straps and apply sunscreen underneath them. Protect lips with an SPF 30 lip balm. Sunscreen isn’t the only thing you can do to prevent sunburn. Keep children out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UVB rays are most intense.
Set a timer for sunscreen. Be mindful when you are in the water that sunscreen will not last as long. If you purchased water-resistant sunscreen, read the label; depending on the brand, it only provides protection for either 40 minutes or 80 minutes before needing to be reapplied.
Should kids, as well as adults, wear sunglasses?
The eyes are very sensitive to the sun’s rays. Children 6 months and older should wear sunglasses. Look for sunglasses that offer 99 percent UVA and UVB protection. Consider ones that protect as much skin as possible, like wraparound styles. Also, ensure they are shatter-resistant.
Children often won’t enjoy wearing sunglasses the first few times. Allow them to assist in picking out the sunglasses in a fun color or with a favorite character on them. Be a good role model and make sure you are wearing your sunglasses, too.
Many kids are playing sports this summer. How can stretching help prevent sports injuries?
Before any kind of physical activity, including stretching, the body needs to be warmed up with some light exercise. This includes walking, running in place or doing jumping jacks for a few minutes to warm up muscles. Once muscles are warm, young athletes should begin a stretching routine. Stretching should involve the major muscle groups and be done slowly and steadily, being sure to hold each stretch 15-20 seconds and repeating the stretch several times. Flexibility can cut down on injuries, however, increasing flexibility should not be the goal of a stretching session before a game. Make sure your young athlete stretches again after the activity as a part of an injury prevention plan.
How can parents and children be safe at the beach this year?
After making sure you are wearing the proper sunscreen, sunglasses and protective clothing, it’s time to hit the beach. There are a few things you need to keep in mind depending on the age of your child.
- Watch for a Warning Flag. At each beach, the flags can mean different things. In general, a red flag means the water conditions are severe and you should not enter the water at all. Other flags can warn of water quality and marine life. Check the weather before leaving. Storms can pop up very quickly at the beach, so be prepared for a quick move to shelter.
- Stay Hydrated. Remember to drink plenty of water and have snacks on hand. It is very easy to get dehydrated under intense sun. Kids who are playing require at least 10 gulps of water every 20 minutes of play. Teens and adults require 20 gulps! (1 gulp = ½ oz. of fluid) The AAP recommends: 5 oz. for an 88-pound child every 20 minutes, and 9 oz. for a 132-pound adolescent every 20 minutes.
- Take a spot close to the lifeguard. This is added protection for your kids. It also makes your spot in the sand identifiable from the water. Also, be aware that currents will naturally push you down the shore, and it is easy to become disoriented in the water. Setting up by a lifeguard will assist your bigger kids in finding you after searching for seashells.
- Rip Currents. Here is a helpful tip from the American Lifeguard Association: “If you see a current of choppy, off-colored water extending from the shore, steer clear. If you do get pulled out, stay calm, save your energy (let the current carry you for a while), and keep breathing. Don’t try to swim against the current. Gain your composure and start swimming horizontal to the shore until you’re out of the current. Then turn and swim diagonally toward the shore. If you can’t make it to the shore, wave your arms and make noise so someone can see or hear you and get help.”
- Drowning Prevention. Drowning looks very different in real life than it does on television. It often is silent without a lot of splashing. By the time a child is in distress, he or she may have lost the energy to splash and yell. Consider the Water Watcher program, where one adult can always account for every child in the water. This adult is not reading a magazine or socializing and is solely focused on the water.
Tick Season Protection
Be aware of ticks in high-risk areas like shady, moist ground cover or areas with tall grass, brush, shrubs, and low tree branches. Lawns and gardens may harbor ticks, too, especially at the edges of woods and forests and around old stone walls (areas where deer and mice, the primary hosts of the deer tick, thrive).
If you or your kids spend a lot of time outdoors, take precautions:
- Wear enclosed shoes or boots, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants. Tuck pant legs into shoes or boots to prevent ticks from crawling up legs.
- Use an insect repellant containing 10 to 30 percent DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide).
- Wear light-colored clothing to help you see ticks more easily.
- Keep long hair pulled back or tucked in a cap for protection.
- Don’t sit on the ground outside.
- Check for ticks regularly — both indoors and outdoors. Wash clothes and hair after leaving tick-infested areas.
If you use an insect repellent containing DEET, always follow the recommendations on the product’s label and don’t overapply it. Place DEET on shirt collars and sleeves and pant cuffs, and only use it directly on exposed areas of skin. Be sure to wash it off when you go back indoors.