Whether your kids will spend the summer exploring the beach or the wide-open spaces of your own backyard, you can take a few precautions to help prevent sunburns, ear infections, bug bites, and other summertime complaints. The physicians at Clear Creek ER is happy to share a few tips about how you can keep common summer health hazards from spoiling your plans.

Don’t forget the sunscreen

You’ve heard it before, but it’s always worth repeating: Apply sunscreen liberally whenever your children go outdoors and reapply it regularly throughout the day.

You may find it easy to remember sunscreen when your kids are heading for the beach or the pool, but the sun can burn even when they’re spending the day in a shady backyard or park. And don’t forget to protect your summer athletes during practices or games with a liberal application of sunscreen.

Use sunscreen with SPF of 15 to 30. If you’ve got sunscreen left from last year, you can probably use it since the formulations are designed to maintain their original strength for three years, but check the expiration date.

Babies under 6 months old should spend their outdoor time in the shade or under an umbrella, never in direct sunshine. To further limit potentially harmful sun exposure, add a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with lenses that offer UV protection to your kiddo’s summer wardrobe.

When it’s really hot, take it easy

Unless they’re in the water where it’s cool, children are at risk for developing< serious heat-related illnesses during summertime activities, especially when the heat index climbs above 90.

These conditions include:

  • Dehydration
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heatstroke

Symptoms of these conditions vary in intensity but may include:

  • Feeling faint, confused, or extremely tired
  • Headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Muscle aches or spasms

Limit your child’s outdoor activity when temperatures are extreme, and make sure they drink plenty of water when it’s hot, even when they don’t feel thirsty.

Be sure also that babysitters, sports coaches, and other care providers understand the risks associated with summer heat. Always seek immediate medical care if your child develops concerning symptoms.

Dry ears instead of swimmer’s ear

Swimmer’s ear is a common term for an infection of the outer ear canal (otitis externa) that can occur when water stays in the ear after swimming. This provides a moist environment for bacterial growth, and ear infections are among the most common reasons for emergency pediatric care visits.

To help prevent the moisture that can lead to an infection, dry your child’s ears thoroughly after swimming with a soft towel, and then use a hairdryer to finish the job. With the dryer at its lowest setting, aim it directly at the ear from a distance of at least 12 inches.  

Also, consider encouraging your child to use earplugs when swimming to help prevent water from getting into the outer ear canal. You might also try eardrops, sold over-the-counter for prevention of swimmer’s ear, that are formulated to promote drying. Don’t use these drops, however, if your child has ear tubes or punctured eardrums.

Mosquito-proof your kids

Mosquitoes can transmit dangerous illnesses, such as the West Nile virus, and their bites are often intensely itchy. To help prevent these tiny critters from attacking your kids, use an insect repellent with a deet concentration of no higher than 30%.

Weather permitting, have your kids wear lightweight long-sleeve shirts, pants, socks, and shoes. And don’t forget to clear standing water from garden accessories and other potential mosquito breeding habitats.

The truth about bugs

Spending more time outdoors during the summer often provides close encounters with unfamiliar creatures, Younger children may need to be told that bees don’t like to be held, not all spiders are harmless, and some insects just want to be left alone. You might also want to explain that snakes should be admired only from afar.