Written by Shaina Rogers, D.O.
Summer in Montana is beautiful and vibrant. It is a time for adventure and exploration, and a time to enjoy the outdoors. Even with the limitations that have come with COVID-19, there are still endless opportunities to enjoy your summer. Regardless of your child’s age, there are certain guidelines we should all follow to keep our children safe so we can maximize summer fun.
The first thing you can do to protect your child from the summer elements is limit sun exposure during peak intensity hours (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). When you venture outside, stay in shaded areas as much as possible, particularly if you have an infant. Dressing your child in long-sleeve shirts and pants, ideally with a tight weave, and a wide-brimmed hat can help provide a barrier from the sun.1 Sunscreen can be applied to children 6 months and older. You want to use sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater, even on cloudy days. You should apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outside, and reapply it every two hours, and after swimming or sweating. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding sunscreens containing oxybenzone, and instead favors products with either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.2 Protecting your child, and yourself, from the harmful effects of excessive sun exposure will help prevent the discomfort of sunburns as well as help prevent the development of skin cancer later in life.
Insect repellent should not be used on infants less than 2 months of age. When choosing an insect repellent, you can use products with 10- 30% DEET.3 You should only apply insect repellent to the outside of your child’s clothing and exposed skin. Do not spray the repellent onto your child’s face; instead, spray it onto your hands and gently apply it to her face and neck, being careful to avoid exposure around the eyes and mouth. Do not use scented soaps, perfumes or hair spray prior to hiking or performing other outdoor activities. Additionally, do not dress your child in bright or flowery prints as they may attract insects. Please be sure to wash off insect repellent when your child returns indoors.4
Drowning is the leading cause of injury death in children 1 to 4 years old.5 Children can drown in as little as an inch or two of water, and it can happen in the blink of an eye. Never leave your child alone in or near a body of water, whether that is a bathtub, a pool or a pond. If you have a pool, it must be surrounded by a fence on all sides, at least 4-feet high. The gate must be self-closing and self-latching, with the latch at least 54 inches from the ground.6 Even with these preventive measures, the risk of drowning is very real. Close supervision is our best protection as parents. The AAP recommends that you stay within an arm’s length of your child when she is in or around water. Additionally, please avoid inflatable swimming aids such as water wings, which may provide a false sense of security. They are not a substitute for approved life jackets.7
During your summer adventures please be sure to follow the guidance from our local health department, which is working tirelessly to keep our community safe. Continue practicing good hygiene and follow social distancing recommendations. By following these safety guidelines and working together, we can all hopefully enjoy the wonders that Montana summer has to offer.
Sources 1-7: HealthyChildren.org