The current heatwave is predicted to last until August and, while we finally have the barbecue summer we’ve been promised here in the UK, it’s worth reminding ourselves of what we should be doing to help our kids to stay safe in the sun.
Below you’ll find quick tips to help the family make the most of the glorious weather and stay safe in the sun without succumbing to the dangers of sunburn and dehydration. Yes, they are all basic but it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when the sunshine hits.
If you’re like me, you haven’t been sleeping too well in the heat which I find tends to make me less than fastidious sometimes. Incidentally, you’ll find my tips for helping your little ones to sleep in the heat here.
There’s an old song which goes “mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun”. I’m not sure that’s too politically correct any more but the NHS advises that in the UK you should avoid the sun between 11 am and 3 pm if possible.
If you can’t avoid the sun then at least head for the shade. Don’t leave tots in pushchairs out in the full glare of the sun, especially without sunscreen and a hat.
On the other hand, do not cover a pram or buggy with a blanket because it will restrict the flow of air and heat the pram up really fast.
Photo by Brad Halcrow on Unsplash
Make sure your kids are properly covered and wearing a hat which is wide-brimmed enough to protect not only their face but their ears and neck too.
Invest in decent quality sunglasses for your children and make sure that they offer full UV protection. Don’t forget that, over time, sun exposure can lead to cancer and cataracts.
If you’re heading for the beach, consider UV swimsuits and beachwear. These keep your little ones cool and protected from the sun both in the water and out. Note that these are UV resistant so you’ll still need to apply the other precautions listed.
When you buy your sunscreen, check the label carefully because it should not only have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to protect against UVB but also at least 4-star UVA protection.
Most of us don’t apply anywhere near enough sunscreen either. Adults should be using two teaspoons of sunscreen for your head, arms and neck but two tablespoons for your whole body, particularly if you’re wearing swimwear.
There doesn’t seem to be a particular recommendation for children but make sure that all exposed areas are covered – for example, ears, tops of feet, backs of knees and hands.
Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before your child heads outside so that their skin has time to absorb it. Reapply at least every two hours, more frequently if your kids are swimming, playing in the water, or sweating.
You shouldn’t put sunscreen on children under 6 months due to the sensitivity of their skin. This means you’ll have to use clothing to protect your baby. Keep them out of the sun as much as possible, use a stroller canopy; dress them in lightweight clothing to cover arms and legs and remember a hat!
If your kids are going swimming, the NHS advises that you reapply sunscreen straight after they come out of the water, even if the sunscreen is water-resistant – and also after towel drying which might rub it off.
And on the subject of swimming, if you are planning a beach holiday or are planning to spend lots of time around the pool, it’s worth investing in swimming lessons for your kids before you set off. Every single year there are tragic cases of tots who lose their lives in pool-related or beach accidents.
You’ve probably read that if you’re thirsty you are already dehydrated and, of course, it’s very easy to succumb to dehydration in hot weather.
You should encourage your children to drink water before, during and after exercise.
You find advice on how much a child needs to drink in hot weather here.
If your child starts feeling dizzy, sick or weak, then bring them inside or find some shade. Give them a drink of water (a sports drink would also be OK) and cool them down with a warm shower or sponge bath. If their symptoms worsen or last for more than an hour, seek immediate medical advice. Here’s what the NHS advises.
This is a personal choice but since there have been at least 2 recent cases of children losing their life through bouncy-castle related accidents, I’d avoid them. There needs to be far greater regulation in place and formal safety procedures to ensure that cases like this never happen again.
If you’re travelling by car, it’s a good idea to apply sunscreen to exposed skin as the sun’s heat can be very concentrated through glass windows.
Make sure you have the sun shades on the children’s windows and that your car’s air conditioning is in working order before you set off.
Take regular breaks for drinks and light snacks. Pure water is always best to keep hydrated rather than sugary sodas and energy drinks.
If carsickness is a problem – even worse to deal with in hot weather – try my tips here.
And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this one – children should never be left in parked cars as the temperature can get dangerously high very quickly.
It is possible to stay safe in the sun and still enjoy yourself but, as with most things parenting-related, some advance planning and investing in the best sun products you can afford will make things a lot easier.