Long summer days unfortunately bring with them an increased risk of injuries as children spend more time outdoors in active play and often receive less supervision. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you take the following precautions to make sure the children in your care are safe.
Protect them from the sun
Don’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect children from skin cancer. The best line of defense is a combination of protective clothing, hats with a broad brim, and sunglasses (look for sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of ultraviolet rays). Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15; apply 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply frequently. Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Infants under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight; and never leave infants to play or sleep in the sun.
The 2002 Caring for our Children: Guidelines for Out-of-Home Child Care Programs (2nd Ed.) recommends that all medications, including sunscreen, should only be used with a health care provider’s recommendation. A physician or nurse practitioner may write a standing order for sunscreen, such as “With parental consent, children may have sunscreen applied to exposed skin, except eyelids, 30 minutes before exposure to the sun and every two hours while in the sun. Sunscreen preparations shall be applied according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer.”
Child care providers may wish to request permission to use one particular brand of sunscreen on all children, rather than each child using a separate sun- screen brought from home. Parents need to test the sunscreen on their children’s skin at least once before it is used in child care to make sure the child does not have an adverse reaction to it while in child care. Sunscreen should be stored out of reach of children.
Prevent heat stress
Make sure children drink plenty of water before any strenuous activities, and periodically while they are exercising, even if they don’t feel thirsty. When the weather is warm, pick activities that are not too strenuous for the temperature and humidity, and make sure children are dressed in light-colored and long-sleeved lightweight clothing. Do not let young children stay in the sun for long periods, even when wearing sunscreen. Consider placing a canopy or shade tent in one section of your outside play area, so that activities can take place in the fresh air but in the shade.
Be safe around water
Never leave children alone in or near the pool, even for a moment. Even shallow wading pools pose a drowning danger to very young children. Make sure staff members can swim and are trained in life- saving techniques and CPR. An adult should be within arm’s length whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water.
Protect children from insects
- Wear light-colored clothing with long sleeves and legs. Tuck shirts into pants and pants into shoes/ socks and boots.
- Prevent insects from entering indoors by fixing or installing window or door screens.
- Avoid areas where ticks are known to occur, and stay on trails if you go to these areas. Examine children frequently for ticks and remove any ticks promptly.
- Avoid places where mosquitoes breed and live, such as areas with standing water or thick, wet grass. Drain and discard any receptacles on your premises where water can collect.
- Don’t use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on children or dress them in bright flowery prints, as these may attract bees and wasps.
- The most effective insect repellents that have been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contain DEET, Picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. When using them, follow the directions on the label exactly. Use the appropriate concentration for the amount of time you will be exposed. Never use insect repellents on infants under age 2 months, and use them with caution on children ages 2 months to 12 years of age.
Reprinted with the permission of the California Childcare Health Program.