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Sunburn and heat stress: Help your kids play it safe

By Martha Jablow, Contributing Writer, myOptumHealth

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Summertime means more time to play outdoors. It also means parents should be extra careful keeping kids healthy in the sun and heat. Children will have a much happier summer if they avoid heat stress and too much sun.

Sunburn

To prevent sunburn, consider your child’s age:

  • Keep babies under 6 months of age out of the sun. Dress infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts and brimmed hats that shade the face and neck. If you cannot keep your child covered and in the shade, sunscreen can be used, according to new recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Test a small area of skin before applying sunscreen and watch for any reaction.
  • Call your doctor at once if your baby gets sunburned and is younger than 1 year of age. Severe sunburn is an emergency.

All parents should:

  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before your kids go outside, even on cloudy days. Use an SPF of at least 15. Make sure it is water resistant or waterproof. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • Cover them up. Make sure your children wear hats with three-inch brims or bills facing forward. Dress them in clothes made of cotton with a tight weave. Have them wear sunglasses that block 99 percent to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays.
  • Keep kids in the shade whenever possible, and limit their sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use extra sun protection near water and sand. They reflect ultraviolet rays and may cause your child to burn more quickly.

Heat Stress

When kids are busy playing on a hot summer day, they lose a lot of fluids. Children’s bodies are more sensitive to heat stress than adults’. This can put them at risk for heat-related illnesses. To prevent dehydration and overheating, do the following:

  • Make sure children are well hydrated before they begin a prolonged activity. Also make sure they drink during play. Have younger kids drink 5 ounces of cool tap water or flavored sports drink every 20 minutes. Children or teens weighing 130 pounds or more should drink 9 ounces, even if they don’t feel thirsty.
  • Have them wear light-colored, lightweight clothing with no more than one layer of absorbent material. This allows sweat to evaporate and cool the body. Have kids change out of sweaty garments and into dry clothes.
  • Shorten practices and games when temperatures are higher than 75 degrees. Make sure children take frequent water breaks.
  • Shorten activities lasting 15 minutes or longer whenever heat and humidity reach high levels.
  • Let your child get used to the heat. When starting a strenuous exercise program or visiting a warmer climate, limit the intensity and length of activity. Gradually increase it over the next 10 to 14 days.

Help your kids have a cool, happy, healthy summer.

View the original Sunburn and heat stress: Help your kids play it safe article on myOptumHealth.com 

SOURCES:

  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Parenting corner Q&A: Sun safety.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Climatic heat stress and the exercising child and adolescent. Pediatrics. 2000;106: 158-159.
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