Summer Safety Tips for Kids

Summertime means fun in the sun! Here in Chicago, we look forward to summer as we brave the Midwest cold and snow. So, make sure you get the most out of this season! One way to make sure you have as much fun as possible in the nice weather is by practicing good safety measures.  

Some common summer safety considerations that come to mind every year are skin protection and water safety.  

Skin Protection 

When spending time outside, you always need to protect your skin. Sun damage can cause different types of skin cancer, like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Follow these tips to keep your family’s skin healthy this summer:   

  • Use sunscreen. Whenever you’re going to be outside, be sure everyone wears sunscreen. The best sunscreen is one that is a cream (as opposed to a spray or a stick) and is SPF 30.  
  • Reapplying sunscreen if you stay outside. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours, perhaps more often if you are swimming or sweating. Remember: clouds don’t block UV rays, so be sure to use sunscreen even on a cloudy day! 
  • Wear clothing that blocks the sun. Hats and clothing can also help block the sun. These are great options for kids because clothing doesn’t wear off like sunscreen.  
  • Stay in the shade. If you’re going to be outside for a long period of time, consider finding a shady spot to stay out of the sun. Or you can bring an umbrella or tent-type structure to sit under. 

For more information on protecting your skin when in the sun, check out Lurie Children’s Dermatologist's Guide to "Fun in the Sun" article.  

Water Safety 

A fun and popular summer activity is swimming. Whether you’re at the pool or the beach, it’s important to make sure everyone is safe. Drowning is the top concern when playing near water. Did you know infants and young children can drown in even just a few inches of water? This means water safety for very young kids extends past the beach and pool – to the bath, kiddie pools, or even buckets of water.   

To help reduce the risk of a child drowning, consider the following:  

  • Monitor your child. Make sure you or another adult (like a lifeguard) are always watching your child whenever they are in or near water.  
  • Swim lessons. Enroll your child in swim lessons as soon as they are old enough so that they feel comfortable in the water. Remember, taking swim lessons does not mean a child is not able to drown.  
  • Fences and gates. Make sure any at-home pools have a fence or gate around them to prevent kids from getting near them on their own.  
  • Remove access. Take away any steps or ladders to above-ground pools, and drain the pool, when not in use.  
  • Use the buddy system. Always swim with another person within arm’s reach. Never swim alone. 
  • Swim during the day. Avoid swimming at night when it’s dark.  
  • Wear a brightly colored swimsuit. Wearing bright colors can help you keep an eye on your child when they are in the water. Avoid blue bathing suits as these can blend in with the color of a pool.  
  • Know how to get out of a rip current. A rip current occurs in open water – not a pool. It is when the water is moving very powerfully and quickly away from shore and can be dangerous if you get stuck in one. Both kids and adults should know that if they are stuck in a rip current to calmly swim parallel to the shore (meaning the shore is on your side, not in front or behind you). Once out of the current, swim towards shore.  

More information on water safety can be found on Lurie Children’s Water Safety Tips page.  

Eye Protection 

While skin protection and water safety are important, do you know how to also keep your eyes safe in the sun? Just as the sun can harm your skin, the sun can also damage parts of your eye. Ultraviolet (UV) light can damage the surface tissue of your eye as well as the cornea and the lens. Exposing your eyes to too much UV light may cause discomfort that goes away but can lead to bigger problems later. Some eye conditions that can develop later in life if they’re exposed to too much UV light are:  

  • Cataracts – where the eye lens gets hazy or cloudy and it’s harder to see through. 
  • Eye cancers – like ocular melanoma 
  • Eye growths – like pterygium (“t-air-ih-jee-um”)  
  • Photokeratitis (“photo-care-ah-tie-tuss”) – like snow blindness  

Eye protection in the sun is important for everyone – young and old. However, it is especially important for children to wear eye protection because their lens (the part of the eye that focuses the rays of light that enter the pupil) do not filter out as much UV light as an adult’s eyes. Read more about the different parts of the eye here.

What can I do to protect my child’s eyes in the sun?  

When your child is outside, e sure they are taking steps to protect their eyes. Consider the following:  

  • Wear sunglasses – Ideally, you want to find sunglasses that have 100% UV protection. This should be labeled on the glasses when you buy them. Toy sunglasses – often available for children – typically do not protect against UV rays.  
  • Wear a hat – Choose a hat with a wide dark brim that shades your child’s eyes. Wearing a hat may be the best option for younger children to protect their eyes (as opposed to wearing sunglasses).  
  • Stay inside when the sun is strongest – Usually around midday the sun’s UV rays are the strongest. Consider having your kids play inside, or somewhere that is in the shade, during this time of day. You can always check the weather forecast to learn what the UV index is that day.  
  • Remember, clouds do not block out UV rays. Even on cloudy days, you will need skin and eye protection.  
  • Never look directly at the sun – Remind your child to never look directly at the sun. Even if they are wearing sunglasses, it is still dangerous.  

Remember, light that can harm your eyes doesn’t only come from the sun above. Sunshine can harm your eyes even when it bounces off water or sand (even snow in the winter!). So even if you are in the shade at the beach, it’s best to keep those sunglasses on.  

If you have concerns or want to talk to a doctor about your child’s eye health, schedule an appointment with a Lurie Children’s doctor. An ophthalmologist (“off-thuh-mall-uh-jist”) is a doctor that specializes in caring for your eyes and vision. Lurie Children’s has a pediatric ophthalmology program to support your child’s eye health.  

Lurie Children’s prides itself on being a reliable source of information on your child’s health and wellbeing — and the Sarah and Peer Pedersen Family Learning Center (PFLC) is here to help with that mission. Visit us online or on the 12 floor of the main hospital for more information on health topics like this one!  

Sources: 
“Keep Kids Safe This Summer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 4 Mar 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/features/kidsafety/. 
Orge, F. “Your Child’s Eyes Need Protection From the Sun, Too.” University Hospitals. 14 July 2021. https://www.uhhospitals.org/blog/articles/2021/07/your-childs-eyes-need-protection-from-the-sun-too. 
“Protecting your eyes from the sun’s UV light.” National Eye Institute. 5 July 2022.  https://www.nei.nih.gov/about/news-and-events/news/protecting-your-eyes-suns-uv-light. 
“Tips to Stay Safe in the Sun: From Sunscreen to Sunglasses.” U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 8 Aug 2022. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/tips-stay-safe-sun-sunscreen-sunglasses 
Turbert, D. “The Sun, UV Light and Your Eyes.” American Academy of Ophthalmology. 11 Jun 2020 https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/sun 

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