HAVE FUN AND STAY SAFE THIS SUMMER
During a family dinner with our Grammy and some nieces and nephews, I asked everyone about their day’s highs and lows- a tradition we loosely follow and is known by many different monikers (i.e. roses and thorns, peaks and valleys). We’ve only recently started gathering for meals with extended family, and it was a great way to reconnect.
Everyone unanimously agreed the high for the day was swimming. Our community pool, closed for more than a year because of COVID precautions, is finally open! We celebrated by spending all day playing in the water. Unfortunately for a few of the kids, their low of the day came from the sunburns they got while swimming. We spent a lot of time that evening applying aloe vera (straight from the plant- an excellent way to always have it on hand) and cool wash cloths to soothe burning skin.
I asked the children what they could do better to prevent getting burned and my nephew answered that he is going to remember to reapply sunscreen more often. What a great opening to discuss summer safety best practices. I reminded my nieces and nephews that while sunscreen is one way to prevent sunburn, there are actually some other, and arguably better, ways to stay safe from the sun. Their ears pricked up and I knew this was a teaching moment. Take advantage of these moments! There is so much safety knowledge we as adults take for granted, but our children are just learning and they need lots of reinforcement to internalize it. After they guessed some ideas, my 10 year old niece told me she had never thought about some of them. Even more validating, when I went swimming with them again a few days later, my niece moved a shade umbrella to cover her chair while she was drying off and she put her towel over her arms to keep the sun off her exposed skin while she was out of the water.
Here are the top ways to prevent sunburn during this gloriously hot sunny summer:
1. Avoid the sun completely from 10 am to 2 pm, especially when the UV rating is high. Check your local forecast for UV warnings. If it is 3 or above, make sure you are covering up, seeking shade and wearing sunscreen. If it’s 8 or above, the safest thing to do is stay inside. Save swimming time until after afternoon naps when UV rays are way less dangerous.
2. Find or make shade! Long-sleeves, hats, umbrellas, sunglasses, etc. A 2020 study published by the National Program for Playground Safety found that less than 3% of public playgrounds were shaded during peak sun hours! The burden is on caregivers to keep themselves and their children safe from the sun. Hats and floaties with covers are great ways to keep young children protected from the sun while playing in the water.
3. Wear Sunscreen- look for Broad Spectrum and water resistant brands (no sunscreen is water proof, but some stay on longer while in the water). With children, I highly recommend using sunscreens that are labeled “tear free” especially on faces. Once a child experiences the sting of sunscreen in their eyes, it’s a lot harder to get them to wear it again. Another pro tip- before you leave the house (most sunscreen needs to absorb for 15 to 30 minutes to achieve full efficacy), use cheap makeup brushes from the dollar store to apply sunscreen and let your child try to put it on with a brush. It will keep them busy while you are getting them thoroughly covered.
Reminders: Babies under 6 months shouldn’t wear sunscreen. Dress them in light-weight, comfortable clothing, including a hat, and don’t forget the sunglasses. Remember to take that quintessential photo of a baby wearing sunglasses!
While I’m at it, here are a few other summer safety reminders and tips:
Heat Exhaustion: Stay hydrated! Take water with you everywhere, even in the pool. Pro tip: Keep a sharpie in your car or handbag. All our kids know to write their initials or name on the bottle cap. If you are one of those families with reusable water bottles, successfully keeping on top of the constant cleaning and refilling, and not losing them, I salute you. I’ve tried, but have lost more water bottles that I can count. A child is always leaving it somewhere – probably learned from me as I’ve lost at least 3 expensive hydro flasks in the past 5 years. To be kinder to the environment, we never throw them away after a single use. We keep refilling our disposable water bottles until it’s no longer sanitary or they get accidentally left or lost.
Fireworks – with the extreme drought conditions in Utah, this is a good year to simply say “no” to all requests for fireworks (and this is coming from a family who annually and happily saves up and burns a lot of $$$ on fireworks and hosts an annual neighborhood fireworks party for years!). In the past, we used fireworks as a way to teach children about safety goggles and fire safety, and hearing protection. This July, we are focusing on other ways to celebrate our nation’s independence and our state’s heritage.