Essential Sun and Water Safety Tips for Kids from an Expert

Essential Sun and Water Safety Tips for Kids from an Expert

Guest Post written by Emily Silver, Nurse Practitioner, IBCLC and co-founder of NAPS. Join us on June 6 for a LIVE Q&A in our Clubhouse to get personalized answers to all your pregnancy, feeding, sleep, potty-training, challenging behaviors (or anything in between) questions! 

As Memorial Day Weekend approaches, we're all excited to spend some much-needed time outdoors and soak up the warmer weather! To make the most of the sun and upcoming water activities, brushing up on sun and water safety is essential. The basics remain the same whether you're enjoying the nice weather in your yard or taking a vacation to a warm location.

Child Sun Safety Tips

As a Nurse Practitioner, co-founder of NAPS, and mom of three, I know that having all the necessary knowledge makes everyone feel more at ease. Instead of feeling anxious or worrying about the risks associated with water, sun, and our kids, we can boost our confidence and enjoy our time outdoors while staying safe.

Sun Safety Basics

Being in the sun has its benefits, but to fully enjoy it, be sure your child is protected. Sun protection should be simple, but it can be confusing with all the acronyms and terms out there. Let's clarify so you’re using the right product for your baby!

Sunscreen for Babies

You may have heard you shouldn't use sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months. This recommendation exists because their skin is very sensitive, and direct sunlight should be avoided. If you can't avoid direct sunlight, you can use sunscreen, but test it on a small patch of skin first to check for a reaction.

Applying sunscreen should be a daily habit for babies and kids older than 6 months! My personal favorite sunscreen for all ages and skin types is Blue Lizard. No matter what, you want a broad-spectrum sunscreen with zinc oxide, which are two things you should always look for.

Understanding Ultraviolet Rays

There are two types of UV (Ultraviolet) Rays: UVA and UVB. We often focus on UVB rays because we see their effects, like sunburn. But UVA rays are equally important as they can cause skin aging and wrinkles. Remember: UVA (Aging), UVB (Burning).

Broad Spectrum

"Broad Spectrum" means the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. When choosing sunscreen, look for one that is at least SPF 30, includes zinc oxide, and is broad-spectrum. The number associated with sunscreen indicates how long a burn is prolonged when wearing that level of sunscreen. For example, SPF 30 means staying in the sun 30 times longer than without sunscreen. If out longer- reapply!! 

UPF Clothing

Look for UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) in clothing, especially for bathing suits, hats, and rash guards. UPF 50+ means the fabric blocks 98% of UV rays. This protection is crucial since children who experience sunburn five times or more in childhood are 50% more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma. Make sunscreen application part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth!

Water Safety Tips

Now, let's dive into water safety. I'll break it down by age group to highlight the highest risks and the steps to take to reduce them. Here are three key concepts about drowning that are important across all age groups:

  1. Drowning is a silent event.
  2. Supervision is the gold standard for prevention.
  3. Swim lessons are not a replacement for supervision.

Infants (12 Months and Younger)

For infants, the most common location for drowning is the bathtub. Here are critical steps to prevent drowning in the tub:

  • Supervision: Never leave a child unattended in the bathtub. If you need to leave, take your child with you or have someone else supervise.
  • Drain the Tub: Drowning can happen in as little as 2 inches of water. Always drain the tub after use and keep toilet seats closed.
  • Don’t Overfill the Tub: Fill the tub only up to a child’s belly button if they can sit unassisted, and about 2 inches for younger infants.
  • Swim Lessons: Swimming lessons can start before age 1, but they do not replace supervision.

Babies and Toddlers (Ages 1-4 Years)

For this age group, pools and open water pose the highest risk. Here’s how to minimize the danger:

  • Supervision: Always supervise your child. Use a visual signal, like a lanyard or hat, to identify the adult in charge and avoid distractions like phones.
  • Use Coast Guard Approved Life Jackets: Ensure your child wears a life jacket with a Coast Guard approval seal.
  • Educate on Water Safety: Teach your child basic water safety rules, like always swimming with an adult and knowing where the nearest wall is if they fall in.
  • Secure Pools: Ensure pools have fences with locks to prevent unsupervised access.
  • Swim Lessons: Swim lessons can reduce risk but are not a substitute for supervision.

Children Age 5 and Above

The risk of drowning decreases for this age group, likely due to a better understanding of water safety and improved swimming skills. However, supervision is still crucial to prevent accidents.

Understanding these sun and water safety basics allows you to keep your kids safe and enjoy a worry-free Memorial Day Weekend!

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