Spring brings about new life to our landscape, along with warm, sunny days. As we begin to spend more time outside and near the water, it is important that we know how to keep our kids healthy and safe this time of year.
Did you know that just a few severe sunburns during childhood can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life? Any time children are going to be outdoors, their skin needs to be protected from harmful UV rays. Choose a sunscreen for your kids that is SPF 30 or higher, and apply it 15-30 minutes before going outside. The sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, especially after swimming or excessive sweating. It is important to remember that every child needs sun protection, regardless of their skin tone. Darker skin has more protective melanin and will not burn as quickly, but it is still susceptible to sun damage.
The sun’s rays are the strongest from the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is best to prioritize outdoor activities for early morning or late afternoon and evening. In addition to sunscreen, dress in UV protective clothing, and wear UV blocking sunglasses to protect eyes. It is best to keep babies younger than six months of age in the shade, and only apply sunscreen on small areas of the face that cannot be protected with clothing.
If your child does get a sunburn, keep them out of the sun until the sunburn is completely healed and make sure they are well hydrated. For painful sunburns, you may need to give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen (ibuprofen is only for children six months and older), and apply cool compresses to soothe the skin. Call your pediatrician if your baby is younger than two or if an older child has a severe sunburn with blisters, pain or fever.
Keeping your kids hydrated during the spring and summer months can be challenging as they are outside and sweating more. The appropriate amount of water that each child should drink is different according to their age, size and activity level. There are a number of water calculators available online that can help you determine the proper amount of fluids for your child. Water should be the primary source of hydration, as sports drinks and juices contain large amounts of sugar. The signs of dehydration in a child include muscle cramps, headache, nausea, vomiting and decreased urine output or dark urine. If you suspect that your child may be dehydrated it is important to seek medical attention promptly.
For children who suffer with seasonal allergies, the blossoming of spring can be an especially difficult time of the year. Seasonal allergies are very common in children and can cause symptoms similar to a cold. If your child has itchy eyes, clear runny nose, dry cough and sneezing, but no fever, it is likely allergies.
There are several things that you can do to help your seasonal allergy sufferer feel better this time of year. First, be mindful of sending your kids outside on days that are very dry and windy or when pollen counts are high. Be mindful of pollen counts by checking your local weather and avoiding extended outside time on days when the numbers are high. Instead of opening the windows to feel the spring breeze, keep your home cool by running the air conditioner. It will keep the pollen outside. It is also helpful to have your child change their clothes and wash their hands and face after coming inside.
There are a number of over the counter and prescription medications that can help alleviate allergy symptoms such as nasal steroids, antihistamines and eye drops. It is important to read labels carefully and consult your child’s pediatrician before giving these medications, especially for children under 6 years of age. Antihistamines can be helpful, but can also make children feel drowsy. It is important to follow dosage recommendations carefully.
Warmer weather means swimming pools, beach trips and lake days. During the spring and summer months, children are more likely to get into a situation where drowning is possible. At the beginning of spring, it has likely been several months since your child last went swimming. They may need a lot of practice to regain their skills. Even children who are good swimmers need to be watched closely anytime they are near water. The most important step is to teach your child to swim. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children begin swimming lessons at the age of four. Also, teach your kids that they must have your permission before jumping into the water.
During parties or gatherings near water, select an adult to be the designated “water watcher.” This adult should not be drinking alcohol, reading or listening to music. They should be focused and alert on the swimmers at all times. Children can drown without splashing or making any noise, so it is important to always keep them in your direct line of sight. Children who are not strong swimmers should be kept within an arm’s reach at all times, and never use water wings or floats as a substitution for adult supervision.
Spring is the perfect time to get your family outside to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Children need time outdoors to explore, play, use their imaginations and to be away from technology. Taking these simple precautionary steps will help to keep your family healthy and safe during this season of outdoor fun. If your child does happen to become ill or get injured, please contact your pediatrician to schedule an appointment.