Nothing ruins a good day of summer fun like a bad sunburn, bug bites or feeling dehydrated. If you are planning to spend any time outside with your kids this summer it is important to plan ahead to preempt any evenings filled with pain and itching, or worse yet, trips to the emergency room!
Follow these 3 tips for safe and healthy fun:
1. Put on Sunscreen.
It is a good practice to have your kids put on sunscreen as part of your child’s dressing routine -that is a good way to not forget about it. If you have to stop and slather on sunscreen when they ask to go outside, it slows down their momentum! Not only does sunscreen prevent terrible burns in the short term, it prevents a future of skin cancer. I can attest firsthand to that - my husband grew up in South Florida, as a freckle-skinned, redhead, before the days of sunscreen hype. He now has to go to the dermatologist on a regular basis to get areas of skin cut off because of sun damage!
Ideally you should try to find shady areas to play in during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). If this can’t be done, make sure you have applied sunscreen and try to wear hats and clothes that cover arms and shoulders. My kids often swim in a t-shirt to avoid getting burns on their back. Also, places like Land’s End and L.L. Bean sell some great long sleeve swim tops.
There is lots of new controversy about sunscreens. From my research, I am backing off spray sunscreens for kids - they are not regulated like lotions. No sunscreen is waterproof so, make sure you re-apply if you or your kids are swimming or out playing longer than 2 hours. There is no such thing as an SPF > 50. Click here for the American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations
2. Stay Hydrated!
Drink Water - Lots of water!
If you are going to the park, on a hike or to the beach, make sure you pack lots of water for everyone. My rule of thumb is: pack how much you think you will need, and then add some more! Better to be safe than sorry. We have taken several hikes where we thought we had enough water with us, only to realize halfway in that we didn’t bring enough. Luckily we made it out safely but we definitely were dragging by the end. If you plan to hike often, I recommend getting a water bladder that fits into a backpack. There are lots of options out there. My husband and I have the Platypus Big Zip bladders and have been very happy with them. They are easy to clean and fill.
BTW WATER is the BEST option for hydration. You may be tempted to grab a Gatorade for your kids but have you checked the labels? One serving of Gatorade has 32 grams of sugar - that is 8.5 packets of sugar! Kids, in general, are getting way too many empty calories these days. If you start them on water early, they will learn to love and appreciate it as the grow. Also, if you are a nature-lover, or learning to be one - plastic bottles from store-bought water are terrible for the environment! There are so many fun, refillable ones out there. Use one of those instead! Let your child choose one that they like and they will be happy to carry it! My son has a Star Wars one that he takes everywhere!
Children are more susceptible to dehydration and you need to take it seriously. Early signs of dehydration include fatigue, headache, dizziness, irritability, and extreme thirst. Refer to this link for more information.
3. Use Insect Repellent
Itchy, annoying bug bites…Not to mention my absolute least favorite bug - ticks! - a real summer deal-breaker! As much as I love nature, I am very squeamish when it comes to ticks and snakes!! But that is for another time :-).
I am not here to promote a particular product or give my opinion on whether DEET is safe or not - that is up to you to decide. To me, the proof is in the pudding - are we getting bug bites? I found these articles to be helpful and informative. I personally am going to try products with picaridin and see how they work.
There has been a lot of news and information out there on Lyme’s disease caused by deer ticks. It is serious concern, but certainly not a reason to stay inside. Please be informed but do not live in fear. The benefits of being outside far outweigh the chances of getting Lyme’s disease! Click here for brochure about Lyme’s Disease put out by the Center For Disease Control.