Spending time outdoors is a common activity on spring breaks or summer vacations, but remember to protect against the sun’s rays. Everyone is at risk for sunburn. Children especially need to be protected from the sun’s burning rays, since most sun damage occurs in childhood. Like other burns, sunburn will leave the skin red, warm, and painful. In severe cases, it may cause blistering, fever, chills, headache, and a general feeling of illness. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers tips to keep children safe in the sun.
Sun Safety and Protection under 6 Months
- Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. Move your baby to the shade under a tree, umbrella or stroller canopy. Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs, and use brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn.
- When adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF It is okay to apply a small amount of sunscreen on infants under 6 months if there is no way to avoid the sun SPF (sun protection factor) to small areas, such as the infant’s face and the back of the hands. Remember it takes 30 minutes to be effective.
- If an infant gets sunburn, apply cool compresses to the affected area.
Sun Safety for Kids
- The first, and best, line of defense against harmful ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure is covering up. Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Select clothes made of tightly woven fabrics. Cotton clothing is both cool and protective. Try to find a wide-brimmed hat that can shade the cheeks, chin, ears and back of the neck. Sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection are also a good idea for protecting your child’s eyes.
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF 15 or greater to areas of your child’s skin that aren’t covered by clothing. Before applying, test the sunscreen on your child’s back for an allergic reaction. Apply carefully around the eyes, avoiding eyelids. If a rash develops, talk with your pediatrician.
- Be sure to apply enough sunscreen — about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
- If your child gets sunburn that results in blistering, pain or fever, contact your pediatrician.
Sun Safety for the Family
- The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to keep out of the sun during those hours.
- The sun’s damaging UV rays can bounce back from sand, water, snow or concrete; so be particularly careful of these areas.
- Wear commercially available sun-protective clothing, like swim shirts.
- Most of the sun’s rays can come through the clouds on an overcast day; so use sun protection even on cloudy days.
- When choosing a sunscreen, look for the words “broad-spectrum” on the label – it means that the sunscreen will protect against both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen and reapply every two hours or after swimming, sweating or towel drying. You may want to select a sunscreen that does not contain the ingredient oxybenzone, a sunscreen chemical that may have hormonal properties.
- Zinc oxide, a very effective sunscreen, can be used as extra protection on the nose, cheeks, top of the ears and on the shoulders.
- Use a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. The additional benefits of using sunscreen with SPF 50+ are limited.
- Rub sunscreen in well, making sure to cover all exposed areas, especially the face, nose, ears, feet and hands, and even the backs of the knees.
- Put on sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors – it needs time to work on the skin.
- Sunscreens should be used for sun protection and not as a reason to stay in the sun longer.
All living things need water to survive. Along with milk, plain water is the best drink choice for kids. Why? It’s super healthy with zero calories & no added sugar. It good for the body – keeps joints, bones and teeth healthy, helps the blood circulate, and can help kids maintain a healthy weight into adulthood. Being well hydrated improves mood, memory and attention in children . And it’s economical – tap water is much less expensive than sports drinks, sodas and juice.
Here are some tips on how to help your family choose water.
How much water do children need?
At around 6 months, babies can be introduced to water. They only need about 4-8 ounces per day until they are a year old because the rest of their liquids are coming from breastmilk or formula.
To stay well hydrated, children ages 1-3 years need approximately 4 cups of beverages per day, including water or milk. This increases for older kids to around 5 cups for 4-8 year olds, and 7-8 cups for older children.
It should be noted that these amounts vary by individual and may need to be adjusted depending on levels of activity and environmental conditions like heat and humidity.
How to help your family choose water
Water doesn’t have to be boring! There are plenty of ways to entice everyone in the family to drink healthy and stay hydrated throughout the day. Being a good role model yourself is a great way to help make water part of your children’s routine and gets them in the habit of drinking water before they’re thirsty. Here are a few twists to add some fun:
- Infuse water with lemons, berries, cucumber or mint for some added flavor. This is an easy way to keep the whole family coming back for refills.
- Keep fruits and vegetables that are high in water content handy – and there are plenty of them. Some of the best vegetables to choose from are cucumber, zucchini, iceberg lettuce, celery, and tomato. Top fruits include watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries, and grapefruit.
- Freeze fruit inside ice cubes. It dresses up the drinks at any table, and young children can help fill the trays.
- Delight kids with special water bottles or cups. Whether it is a personalized sports bottle or a fancy cup with an umbrella or swirly straw, adding a festive touch can go a long way.
- Make your own popsicles with pureed fruit for an afternoon cool-down. Make it a fun family activity by using small paper cups. Let your kids decorate them before filling or look for popsicle molds in fun shapes and colors.
Drinks to limit
Water and milk are all the drinks kids need. So don’t believe all the hype surrounding many of the other drinks marketed to kids. These usually contain way more sugar than children need in a day and can contribute to poor health. Here’s what to avoid:
- Sugary drinks: Make a rule: no sugar-sweetened beverages for your children who are less than 2 years of age. And try to limit them for your older children as much as possible. This includes sports drinks, juice cocktails, sodas, lemonade, and sweetened water. These drinks discourage a habit of drinking plain water, and can add extra “empty calories” to the diet. They can also leave your kids less hungry for the nutritious foods they really need. Added sugars can lead to excess weight gain, dental cavities, diabetes, and more.
- Juice: Even 100% juice should be strictly limited. While it can contain some vitamins, these drinks are high in sugar and calories and low in the healthy fiber found in whole fruit. Because of its sweet taste, once children are offered juice, it can be difficult to get them to drink plain water. Keep these amounts in mind:
- Children less than a year should not drink any juice at all.
- Children 1-3 years of age should have no more than 4 oz per day.
- For older children, juice is only recommended if whole fruits are not available. Children ages 4–6 years, no more than 4–6 oz per day, and for children ages 7–18, no more than 8 oz per day.
- Flavored milk: Even though you get the benefits of the calcium and vitamins found in milk, flavored milk can be much higher in sugar. These added sugars should be avoided to discourage a preference for sweet flavors, which can make it difficult to have success when offering regular milk.
- Stevia- or artificially-sweetened drinks: Because health risks for children from stevia and artificial sweeteners are not well understood, it is best to avoid these drinks. Instead, make water readily available to encourage healthy hydration.
Signs of dehydration
Even with the best habits and intentions, trouble can arise. It is important to know the signs of dehydration so you can address them quickly.
Infants 0-6 months should only be drinking breast milk or formula. Additional water is not recommended at this age. Around 6 months, complementary foods and small amounts of water can be added. If you are worried that your infant is not getting enough to drink, call your pediatrician immediately. The most noticeable symptoms of dehydration in this age are:
- Fewer wet diapers, with the typical range being from 6 to 8
- Overly sleepy
- Sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on the baby’s head
- No tears when crying
As children get older, they are better able to tell you how they are feeling. However, it is still necessary to keep an eye on them since children at play often have a hard time stopping. Symptoms in older children include:
- Dry lips or sticky mouth
- Less urination or dark-colored urine – remember urine should be very light yellow, almost clear
- Sleepy and irritable
- Flushed skin
In teens, dehydration is a big risk especially if they do high-intensity workouts or heavy team practices. Most common signs for this age group are:
- Dry lips or mouth
- Dark or less urine
- Rapid pulse
- Flushed skin
- Feeling excessively hot or cold
Staying hydrated during sports, exercise or heat
Being active is an important lifestyle choice for every member of the family. But during sports or other physical activities, your child may need additional water to prevent dehydration. For example, when taking part in sports, make sure your child drinks water before, during and after practices or games.
When exercising vigorously or sweating, children from 9-12 years of age generally need to drink about 3–8 ounces of water every 20 minutes to stay hydrated. Teens need to drink about 34–50 ounces per hour. It is helpful to stay well hydrated in the days and hours before activity begins. While playing at the park may not bring the same level of intensity, if your child is sweating, make sure they are adequately replacing fluids.
If vigorous exercise extends beyond 1 hour in a day or your child is sweating a lot, electrolyte-supplemented beverages may be necessary.
If your children do become dehydrated or overwhelmed in the heat, they are at risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Here’s how you can tell the difference.
- Heat exhaustion occurs from excessive sweating, causing dehydration and for the core body temperature to rise. If this happens, move your child out of sunlight to a cool place, rehydrate with cool water, wear light, cool clothes and use cold towels or ice packs to lower your child’s body temperature. To be safe, if your child’s symptoms are concerning or last more than an hour, talk with your pediatrician.
- Heat stroke. Sometimes called sun stroke, heat stroke is the most serious. It is when the body overheats to a point where it begins to shut down. If your child is confused or unresponsive, has a rapid pulse, or a temperature over 103 degrees, immediate medical treatment is needed.
|When to seek medical assistanceIf you have any concerns about dehydration or a heat-related illness, don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician. If your child becomes extremely lethargic or unresponsive, vomits, stops sweating, or complains of severe abdominal pain, head to your local emergency room or call 911. While these cases are less common, getting help quickly can make all the difference.
Staying properly hydrated keeps the body and mind running efficiently and feeling strong. Serve water with meals and snacks, and take those extra few minutes to pack the water bottles before your family heads out the door. Helping your children choose water first, and modeling this choice yourself, builds healthy habits that will pay dividends for a lifetime!