Sunday 11 December 2016

Staying safe in the sun

Karina Corbett looks at ways parents can protect their kids from the sun’s harmful rays, prevent and treat allergies and limit accidents happening while playing in the great outdoors

Published 22/05/2011 | 08:00

With the summer months almost upon us, children of all ages will most likely be spending more time outdoors. Not only are they off school, the warmer and longer days mean there is ample opportunity for them to soak up as much fresh air as possible.

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But while summer is a season of great enjoyment for the younger population, it is also one where accidents and general maladies can peak. From mild allergies to serious injuries and everything in between, it is a time of year when parents have to be on even higher alert than usual.

Sun safety

With any luck, this summer will bring sunshine. But just as we’ve all become more vigilant about protecting our own adult skin from the dangers of the sun, we should be equally as vigilant about minding our little ones’ delicate skin.

Children’s exposure to the sun should be limited when it is at its strongest – from approximately 10am to 4pm – and protective clothing, including a hat and a long sleeve top, should be worn.

Sunscreens also need to be regularly applied as this can help to protect from sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer. Pick a high factor that offers UVA and UVB protection, and rub on a thick coat of it at least 30–45 minutes before going outside. It should be topped up every two hours – or more often if they are swimming or perspiring heavily.

Children’s skin is not the only part of the body that should be protected in the sun. Their eyes need just as much shielding from those harmful rays.

Kids should be introduced to sunglasses from an early age, however not to the powerless novelty or fashionable versions. They should instead wear sunglasses with proper UV protection in order to decrease the risk of sun damage to their young eyes.

Arm against allergies

If your child suffers from seasonal allergies, summer can be a tough time, with symptoms such as runny, stuffy or itchy noses, frequent sneezing and red and itchy eyes increasing. Pollen tends to be responsible for these kinds of allergies and it is all around us from around April to October each and every year.

To limit your child’s discomfort you can try things like machine drying all bedding and clothing because hanging them out on the line means that the pollen in the air will settle on them and end up in the house. In addition, if it’s hot when you are all in the car, use the air conditioner instead of opening the windows to cool down.

You can also talk to your GP or pharmacist about over-the-counter medicines for these types of allergies. These are seasonal ailments and, while temporary, they can be uncomfortable and disruptive so it’s best to do what you can to stop them from ruining the whole family’s summer.

Outdoor activities

The minute the sun appears, the chances are your child will want to go outdoors to the garden if you have one. And while great care should be taken to supervise swimming in the sea during trips to the beach, water can also pose a danger right here in your own back yard.

Attention should be paid to any ponds or water features you might have as a child can drown in as little as two inches of water, so even shallow water is hazardous.

Ideally, garden ponds should be drained if kids are playing nearby – they could be filled with sand to make a pit or covered with heavy-duty trellis and wire mesh to fill the gaps. Similarly, never leave a child alone in a paddling pool and turn it upside down when it’s not in use.

Keep garden tools away from kids as well and make sure they are indoors if you’re cutting the grass and that any chemicals or poisonous substances are kept locked away in the shed.

Trampolines are a hot favourite during the summer months but parents need to take special precautions when letting their children use them.

If you are buying a new one, make sure it comes with a safety net and a protective pad around the springs. Check that the trampoline has a recognised quality mark, that it’s set up away from walls, playground equipment, trees, clothes lines, steps, etc, and that it’s placed on a soft, even, energy-absorbing surface such as grass.

Only allow one child at a time onto a trampoline. Most accidents are the result of collisions with other users, falling on the trampoline springs or frame, falling or jumping off the trampoline, or attempting somersaults and stunts. So careful supervision must be carried out by parents, while kids themselves should also be urged to be wary.

Before your child starts bouncing they should be told to take off all clothing that may catch in the trampoline, remove shoes and tie back long hair. Also remind them to take turns, to never try somersaults or flips or go underneath the trampoline, to always stay in the middle of the trampoline and to never bounce on their knees or jump or run off the trampoline.

So, remember, while the summer season spells fun times for families, exercising caution and using some common sense will ensure it’s both a safe and happy time for all concerned as well.

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