Swimming, picnics and holidays all come to mind when summer is mentioned to children and adults alike, so keeping your focus on all the aspects of kids health can understandably be overlooked. We are keen to enjoy the outdoors, and although the risks are quite obvious to us, educating children before they leap out the door may cause less medical headaches down the track.
Having fun in the sun should be encouraged as enjoying the great outdoors is part of a healthy lifestyle. Venturing out into the summer weather will bring with it though certain risks, and the most vulnerable to these are children. Knowing the risks and educating kids about them will place them in good stead to make better decisions so that they can enjoy themselves without any adverse side effects.
Sun Smart Kids
The most obvious one, that has the greatest level of public awareness is skin protection. A good thing as skin cancer affects two out of every three Australians by the time they reach 70 years of age. Following the Slip (on some sun-protective clothing), Slop (on SPF 30+sunscreen), Slap (on a wide brimmed hat), Seek (shade) and Slide (on some sunglasses) sun protection measures outlined by the Cancer Council of Australia is the best way to be sun smart and paramount for kids health over summer.
Covering up against the sun will keep children comfortable so that they can enjoy the outdoors. As the ‘Slide’ component of sun protection measures, sunglasses will also protect against eye complaints in the future and reduce glare that would otherwise cause headaches. Although children are too young to warrant a skin check from your Doctor, if your child is burnt in the sun and you are concerned please seek a consultation as soon as possible. In most cases sunburn should be treated immediately like any other burn, and run under cool water or have a cool compress applied. Later moisturiser can be applied and it is important that the skin is covered from the sun until fully recovered.
Heat, Hydration and Healthy Food
Being sun smart with your skin and eyes can be extended further with precautionary measures to avoid effects of heat and dehydration. The surface area of a child makes up a much greater proportion of their overall weight compared to an adult, so the younger the child the more susceptible they will be to heat. High temperatures and humidity, direct sun, and insufficient rest and fluids can all take their toll, so drinking water often and monitoring the activity they are doing will help. Dehydration is cumulative so children may develop a problem over several days in the form of cramps, weakness or as the more serious condition of heat stroke.
Heat can also take its toll on food, with food borne illnesses more common in the summer months. Higher temperatures see more people consume greater amounts of cold and raw food such as ice creams and salads. This heat may also favour the growth of bacteria if food is not handled properly. Thus food hygiene is even more applicable in the summer months for kids health. Keeping good personal hygiene, choosing fresh produce, handling raw and cooked food separately, cooking food above 75 degrees celsius and storing below 4 degrees celsius, will all contribute to better food safety. So if you have a picnic planned and it is forecast for a hot day, making some last minute changes to to food you take will be worth the effort. Once again children are more susceptible to food poisoning so loss of fluids from sickness on an already hot day is best to be avoided at all costs.
Fortunately the summer weather brings with it an array of fresh fruit and vegetables, that are healthy and cheaper than other times of the year. Watermelon, strawberries, celery and cucumber are not only great snacks for kids, they contain more than 90 percent water, so encouraging kids to eat these fresh foods on a hot day will keep them hydrated and healthy.
Kids Health and Safety in the Water
The best summer sport to compliment all this fun in the sun must surely be swimming, and for kids the best place to be is with the sand and waves, down the beach. In the past the greatest danger when venturing into salt water was thought to be sharks, yet they are in reality the least of our worries, as a lack of swimming ability is the greatest risk. Knowing how to swim and the level of competency of ourselves and those we are caring for is essential to water safety. Being smart around water is just as important as being a good swimmer, and knowing the basics of life saving techniques is great preparation for these summer months.
For those of you venturing down the beach this resource on beach safety will get you up to speed and if you have other plans for this summer then this video has a variety of tips about playing it safe by the water. It covers everything related to water, from baths and pools, to costal and inland waterways, along with advice specific to various water based activities.
Pools are the next best thing for kids on a hot summers day, and the water safe advice still applies. In addition to this there are some things you can do to prevent what is known as Recreational Water Illnesses, caused via germs spread by swallowing or having contact with contaminated water in swimming pools and water play areas. Trying to discourage children from swallowing water is difficult, so best to take a more proactive approach by taking them for regular bathroom breaks, and saying this openly may encourage parents around you to do the same.
Out of the water the warm weather will have brought with it mosquitoes and other biting insects, but these summertime stings can be avoided with a mozzie shelter for the kids to retreat to. A lesser point of kids health in the summer time, it is still worth considering, should they or any other biting or stinging variety of insect be in prolific proportions.
Before you start thinking that summer is a threat to kids health and that it might be better to just put on a movie, think back and you may find that some of the best memories of your childhood have been outdoors in the summertime. Although the sun, excessive heat and other factors are serious risks, being informed and preparing for the worst, means that whatever activities they choose to do, kids can be at their very best.