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8 Tips for Heat and Sun Safety

Sun Safety

North Carolina is a special place to raise a family. With close proximity to the mountains and a short drive to the beach, it’s seemingly one expansive outdoor playground waiting to be explored.

But all this fun can come with its share of dangers—especially from the summer heat. It’s important for parents to be aware of potential safety and health risks associated with weather conditions including sun exposure and extreme heat.

Spring is underway and as summer approaches it’s a great time to review tips for heat and sun safety.

1. Check the Temperature

According to the National Weather Service, a heat index at or above 90 degrees poses a significant health risk. The heat index, or “feels-like temperature,” accounts for the combined effects of both temperature and humidity.

Extreme heat can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke. Children and infants are especially vulnerable. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult does.

Use caution to avoid the peak hours of the day by limiting your time outdoors to the morning and early evening when possible.

While you should use sun protection any time you are outdoors, UV rays are usually strongest during the summer months when the sun is directly overhead—typically between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

It is equally important to be aware of the temperature indoors, especially locations without air conditioning. The recommended indoor temperature is 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit with 20 to 60 percent humidity.

2. Car Safety

Under no circumstances should you leave a child in a locked car — there is no safe time or safe temperature. A car can heat up about 19 degrees in as little as 10 minutes and continue rising, allowing the temperature inside the car to quickly exceed the outside temperature. On the hottest days, the inside of a car can reach temperatures from 120 to 145 degrees.

While you may say to yourself, “I would never do that,” leaving your child in the back of a car and overheating can happen even to well-meaning parents.

Get in the habit of putting something in the backseat beside the car seat like your purse or cell phone to be your cue. You can easily reach back and grab it and then remember, oh my child is there, reminding you to get your child out of the backseat.

This simple action could save your child’s life, especially when you’re doing something out of your daily routine, such as taking your child to daycare on the way to work when your spouse typically does.

3. Talk to Coaches and Summer Camp Providers

For youth athletes or kids participating in outdoor camps, be sure to ask your child’s coach or childcare provider about their policies for protecting your child throughout the day.

If exercise, outdoor activity or sports practice is more than an hour in the peak of the day, it’s important to not only stop for regular water breaks, but an electrolyte solution is also likely needed.

4. Dress in Lightweight, Light-Colored Clothing

Another step you can take to beat the heat and protect your child from heat- or sun-related illness is to dress your child appropriately for the weather. Kids have a lower capacity for sweating than adults. Parents should dress children in light-colored, lightweight clothing and limit to one layer of absorbent material that will maximize evaporation of sweat.

5. Use Daily Sun Protection

If you’re planning to be outdoors, consider sun protective clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 40 to 50. UPF refers to the degree of protection offered and indicates how effective the fabric is at blocking out harmful UV rays.

Most parents put sunscreen on their children before going outside, but forget to reapply. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or directly after swimming or sweating.

If wearing sun protective clothing, you don’t have to worry about the reapplication of sunscreen in areas covered by the clothing.

Hats, particularly those with a wide brim or neck cover, and sunglasses also offer excellent sun protection. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding the use of sunscreen in children under 6 months of age, sun protective clothing and shade are the best forms of sun protection for infants.

If your child has sensitive skin, sunscreens that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are less likely to cause irritation or allergic skin reactions.

While sunscreen sprays may be easier to apply and quick to dry, keep in mind that these products tend to go on unevenly and may not be as effective in protecting against harmful UV rays.

6. Car Seat and Stroller Safety

While you may think draping a thin muslin blanket over a car seat or stroller can help protect from the sun, it can actually restrict airflow and trap heat not unlike being locked in a hot car. Instead, utilize the built-in sun canopy and considering a small battery-operated clip-on fan to help improve air circulation.

7. Know the Warning Signs of Excessive Heat Exposure

Exposure to extreme heat can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke and in some cases, may lead to death. Seek immediate attention from a healthcare professional if your child develops any of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling faint
  • Extreme tiredness (e.g., unusually sleepy, drowsy or hard to wake)
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Intense thirst
  • Not urinating for many hours
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Breathing faster or deeper than normal
  • Skin numbness or tingling
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle spasms

8. Learn How to Properly Treat a Sunburn

You can take every precaution in the world, but when any time you are exposed to sunlight you are at risk of developing sunburn. If your child is sunburnt, don’t go back into the sun until their skin has completely healed. You can administer the recommended dosage of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve any pain, headache and/or fever that may occur.

It’s important that your child continues to drink plenty of water. Soothe burns with cool baths or by gently applying cool, wet cloths. To provide additional relief, you can use a topical moisturizing cream or aloe.

If the skin blisters schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible. Until they can be seen, lightly bandage or cover the area with gauze to prevent infection. Don’t break the blisters as this will slow the healing process and increase the risk of infection. If the blisters break on their own, apply antiseptic ointment and cover the area.

When to Seek Help

If you have additional questions about sun safety and heat exposure, or if your child displays any of the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness or severe sunburn, contact Kernodle Pediatrics. With two convenient locations in Mebane and Elon, North Carolina, we provide 24-hour medical coverage with an on-call physician for our patients and weekend hours for acute illness. Call (336) 538-2416 to schedule an appointment today.

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