With summer just around the corner, it’s time to think about fun in the sun with safety in mind.
If your athlete or day camper gets grumpy and weary, check out whether he is getting too much sun, is irritated by dirty air, is not drinking enough fluids or is going to bed too late.
Look back at your grumpy kid’s bedtime and check into the day’s schedule to be sure there are breaks for drinks, rest and shade.
Does your child’s day camp offer alternate activities during the hottest part of the day? And when the level of ozone, the main pollutant in smog, is high in your area, are campers running around at full throttle and running out of breath? Camps should limit activities during the heat of the day and high-traffic times, when the ozone level is higher, the American Lung Association says.
Kids breathe faster and more deeply when they are active, so they take in even more polluted air as they exercise. For both adults and kids, the body has no natural defense against the irritant ozone.
Pay attention to your area’s daily color-coded ozone forecast, and limit outdoor activities as needed to prevent such problems as shortness of breath, coughing and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Even more moderate yellow-zone days irritate some children.
Sunburn and sleepless nights can ruin a vacation or a trip to summer camp. Tips for more carefree travel once your plans are set:
• After a day of traveling, an evening round of swimming at a hotel pool will help get the wiggles out. But stick as closely as possible to your child’s regular eating and bedtime routine. A later bedtime typically doesn’t translate into a later morning wake-up.
• Discuss before the trip how your family will divide child care duties so that both Mom and Dad get a break, and nobody feels like a martyr. At a beach or pool, take turns being the designated “water watcher,” suggests the National Safe Kids Campaign.
• To avoid surprises upon hotel arrival, ask questions ahead of time about the services available for children. Is there in-room baby-sitting? Does your child have to be potty-trained for activities sponsored by the hotel?
• Upon arrival, pay attention to potential hazards such as rental cribs, balconies and dangling curtain cords, which can present strangling hazards.
• If your child is susceptible to seasonal allergies, check with your health care provider before your trip. Some parents say their kids benefit from taking an antihistamine for about a week before sleeping in a new place, where unfamiliar molds can trigger coldlike symptoms.
Whatever your summer plans are, don’t be fooled by cloudy skies. Ultraviolet rays are most intense from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., whether the sky is cloudy or clear. If your shadow is shorter than you are, exposure to ultraviolet rays is high. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests:
• Apply a thick, even coat of sunscreen to all exposed areas 30 minutes before going outside.
• Reapply every two hours and right after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
• Remind children to cover easy-to-miss spots such as the back of their ears and neck, as well as the tops of feet and backs of hands.
• Wear sun-protective clothing and a hat. A baseball cap is better than nothing.
• Wear UV-blocking sunglasses to protect eyes and the sensitive skin that surrounds them.
• Lips get sunburned, too, so apply lip balm that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
The cancer foundation also suggests that parents ask about sun safety at camp, or any other times when you won’t be around to slather the necessary sunscreen onto your kids. Questions to ask:
• Do camp counselors remind children to apply sunscreen regularly?
• Are outdoor activities scheduled in the early morning and late afternoon?
• Are there adequate places for campers to seek shade and drink water during outdoor activities?
Betsy Flagler is a mother and preschool teacher. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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