The Valley summer supplies an abundance of vitamin D, so when it comes to our little ones, preparing for the summer sun, heat and warm air is a MUST!
Since Central Valley sun rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., try to keep children out of the harsh sunlight within these hours. When planning to go outside, apply a minimum of SPF 15 sunscreen on your children 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and then reapply frequently, especially if they are playing in the water. Choosing the right sunscreen for your family can be a challenge with a variety of options, so narrow it down by avoiding the ingredient, oxybenzone. Most doctors do not recommend sunscreen or direct sunlight for babies younger than 6 months -- consider dressing them in lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs and a brimmed hat to cover their face.
While enjoying the summer sun, be proactive about keeping your little ones hydrated by giving them plenty of fluids, especially when playing sports. Children should drink 10 gulps of water for every 20 minutes of play and teens should drink 20 gulps. Just because your kids are not thirsty does not mean that they are hydrated. Keep a watchful eye for signs of dehydration which include muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, fussiness and high body temperature. For children in diapers, you may also notice a decrease in the number of wet diapers they produce in a day.
The heat, combined with Valley pollutants and humidity or moisture, can also be an asthma trigger for many children. The symptoms may vary and can include trouble breathing, wheezing, chest tightness and coughing. If your child has a history of asthma, be sure to review your child’s asthma action plan with your pediatrician and update as needed. Guidelines for care are different for children depending on their age. An asthma action plan has information about your child’s medicines and clearly outlines what to do when symptoms occur and in case of an emergency. It is strongly recommended that you share the plan with family, babysitters and school officials.
Enjoy the Valley summer and do not hesitate to ask your pediatrician if you have any questions regarding sun exposure and how to protect your children in the Valley heat. You may also consult HealthyChildren.org for recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you encounter an emergency, call 9-1-1 or head to your closest emergency department.
Dr. Geetanjali Srivastava, MD, MPH, is Medical Director, Emergency Department, Valley Children’s Healthcare.
This article originally appeared in the June edition of Central California Parent.