Whether you are a new parent or an experienced grandparent, it's never too late to brush up on summer safety skills when caring for babies and toddlers. From sunburns to dehydration, little ones require an extra dose of care during these hot and sunny summer days.
Don't let kids feel the burn
Dr. Resham Batra, a pediatrician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, says that while we've all heard the messages about the importance of protecting our skin from the sun, sunburn is still a common reason parents call the pediatrician's office.
"Parents may not realize how quickly infant and toddler skin can get burned," she says. "Parents should avoid the peak sun hours of 10 am to 2 pm; keep their little one's skin covered as much as possible with light, loose-fitting cotton clothing and hats; and use appropriate sunscreen for babies and children over 6 months old."
If the heat is on, get in the shade
Overheating in hot weather and under the shining sun is also a concern. Babies and small children are unable to regulate their body temperature as adults do, and can quickly become very hot and dehydrated.
"Essentially, avoiding spending too much time in direct sunlight or outdoors during intense heat is a good idea for kids young and old," Dr. Batra says.
The danger of overheating is especially great when it comes to small children in cars. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), nearly 40 children die each year on average from heat stroke after being left in a hot car, with the majority of those deaths occurring in children under the age of 3.
It's important to never leave children alone in a car; always lock a car's doors when it is parked so that small children cannot climb in and become stuck; and always check the backseat of your car when you reach your destination to ensure children are not left behind.
Splish, splash: water safety's a blast
Dr. Batra also suggests parents follow the AAP's water safety tips. These include never leaving a child alone in or near a pool or body of water — even for a moment; always keeping children in your arms or constantly supervised and within your reach; and making sure pools are surrounded by proper, functioning enclosures. When enjoying time in the water with a baby or toddler, avoid using inflatable swimming aids such as "floaties," which can give parents a false sense of security.
The AAP recommends swim lessons as a layer of protection against drowning that can begin for many children starting at age 1. By their 4th birthday, most children are ready for swim lessons. But studies suggest that water survival skills training and swim lessons can help reduce drowning risk for children between ages 1-4.
H2O keeps them on the go
Keep extra water on hand for active toddlers — who need at least 1.3 liters (or 44 ounces) of fluid on an average day — and reduce strenuous games and activities on hot days while increasing hydration breaks. Maintain or slightly increase your baby's regular nursing or bottle-feeding schedule.
It is important to watch infants for signs of dehydration, which include going without a wet diaper for more than six hours, parched lips, no tears when crying, and lethargy. Older children may become dizzy, lightheaded or feel nauseated. Call your doctor immediately if your child is exhibiting these signs of dehydration.
"In general, common sense safety rules apply, both during the summer and year-round," says Dr. Batra.
For more information on sun and water safety, visit the AAP's website, www.healthychildren.org.