Sun, Fun, and Safety: How to Protect Your Children During the Summer!

Summer Protection Tips

Five tips by Paediatrician Dr Olga Kapelou.

Protecting your children during summer

As summer approaches, it’s crucial to prioritise the safety and well-being of our children while they enjoy the season’s outdoor activities and sunshine. With increased exposure to the sun, heat, water, and outdoor environments, children are more susceptible to risks such as sunburn, dehydration, water accidents, and insect bites. By following some safety tips, parents can ensure their children stay protected and healthy, allowing them to make the most of their summer adventures.

Here are five safety tips, by Dr Olga Kapelou:

Sun

  • Sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to your child’s skin 15-30 minutes before going outside. Choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Reapply every two hours, and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. For babies under six months, consult a paediatrician before using sunscreen, and keep them shaded.
  • Protective Clothing: Dress your children in lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants made from tightly woven fabric. A wide-brimmed hat can shield their face, neck, and ears, while UV-blocking sunglasses can protect their eyes. Opt for clothing with built-in UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) for added protection.
  • Seek Shade: Encourage children to play in shaded areas, especially during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Create shaded play areas with umbrellas, canopies, or pop-up tents. Plan outdoor activities in locations with natural shade, like parks with plenty of trees.

Hydration

  • Fluids: Ensure your kids drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially during outdoor activities. Encourage them to take water breaks every 20 minutes. Avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks, which can contribute to dehydration.
  • Signs of Dehydration: Teach your children to recognize the signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, dizziness, headache, extreme thirst, and less frequent urination. Make sure they understand the importance of drinking water even if they don’t feel thirsty.
  • Hydrating Foods: Incorporate water-rich foods into your child’s diet to help keep them hydrated. Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, and oranges, and vegetables like cucumbers and celery are excellent choices. These not only provide hydration but also essential vitamins and minerals.

Swimming

  • Supervision: Always supervise children closely when they are near pools, lakes, or any body of water. Never leave them unattended, even for a moment. Designate a responsible adult as a “water watcher” to avoid distractions.
  • Swim Lessons: Enroll your kids in swimming lessons to teach them basic water safety skills, such as floating, treading water, and knowing how to get out of the water safely. Ensure they understand the dangers of swimming in unsupervised areas.
  • Water Safety Rules: Teach children essential water safety rules, such as not running near the pool, always swimming with a buddy, and never diving into shallow water. Equip them with appropriate flotation devices if they are not strong swimmers and ensure they understand the importance of following lifeguard instructions.

Heat

  • Avoid Peak Hours: Encourage outdoor play in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Plan indoor activities during peak heat hours.
  • Cool Down: Provide frequent breaks in the shade and ensure children have access to air-conditioned environments, especially during heatwaves. Encourage them to wear loose, lightweight, and light-coloured clothing.
  • Recognize Heat-Related Illnesses: Be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, such as heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and fainting. If any symptoms occur, move the child to a cooler place, give them water, and seek medical attention if needed.

Insects

  • Repellent: Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to protect against mosquito and tick bites. Apply repellent according to the label instructions and avoid applying it to children’s hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Protective Clothing: Dress kids in long-sleeved shirts and pants to minimize exposed skin. Tuck pants into socks and wear closed-toe shoes when in areas with high tick populations. Perform tick checks after outdoor activities, especially in wooded or grassy areas.
  • Avoiding Peak Insect Hours: Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk. Try to limit outdoor activities during these times or take extra precautions with repellent and protective clothing. 

Who is Dr Olga Kapellou

Dr Olga Kapellou

Dr. Olga Kapellou is a Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatologist with extensive experience in major London hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, Hammersmith, and University College London. She earned her Doctor of Medicine postgraduate degree from Imperial College and has published widely on the effects of prematurity on brain growth and development. An expert in neonatal brain injury and follow-up care for babies from complicated pregnancies, she employs Griffiths Neurodevelopmental Scales in her outpatient clinics. Additionally, she is a Neonatal Life Support instructor and a Unicef-trained breastfeeding specialist. Dr. Kapellou has been an NHS Consultant at Homerton Hospital since 2009.

She does General Paediatric and baby follow up clinics at The Portland Hospital paediatric outpatients, The Harley Street Clinic and the Hospital of St. John & St. Elizabeth.

  • Tel: +44 (0)20 3733 6710  / +44 (0) 79 039 81585
  • e-mail: okapellou@doctors.org.uk
  • Address: 84 Harley Street London W1G 7HW | HCA Healthcare & 234 Great Portland Street London W1W 5QT | Portland hospital Paediatric outpatients

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