Help children stay safe this summer

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photoDr. Nicole Chao

The warm weather is finally here and we will all be spending more time outdoors and possibly traveling. To keep your children safe and healthy, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Sun protection: For children younger than 6 months, the best protection is to keep them out of the sun. Dress them in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and wide-brimmed hats. If you cannot avoid the sun, apply a small amount of sunscreen with at least SPF 15 to sun-exposed areas only.

For everyone else, the same idea of covering up is best. Limit sun exposure by staying in the shade and avoid peak sun intensity hours -- between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. -- whenever possible. It is smart to always apply sunscreen. Use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or greater on BOTH sunny and cloudy days. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Sand and water can reflect UV rays causing you to sunburn faster, so reapply sooner.

Heat safety: For the handful of days in the summer when the temperature really soars, keep extra water on hand. For every 20 minutes of physical activity, have children drink 5-9 ounces of cold water. Popsicles are a great way to keep cool this summer.

Car safety: Packing up the car for a road trip? Make sure the kids are properly protected in the car. All children under 2 years of age need to be in a rear-facing car seat. They are five times less likely to be seriously injured or killed if kept rear-facing. Children 2 years old to at least 4 years old should be forward facing in a five-point restraint car seat. Depending on the child, they should be in a booster seat from 4 to 8-12 years old. Once they reach 4 feet 9 inches, they can graduate to a regular seat belt. All children younger than 13 need to stay in the back seat.

Bicycle safety: Dust off the cobwebs from those bikes, but make sure that the bike is the right size for your child. A proper helmet should ALWAYS be worn, even when riding in the driveway. Teach children the rules of road: ride with traffic, stop at all intersections, use hand signals before turning, always stop and look both ways before entering the street.

Water safety: Remember: never leave children alone in or near the pool or open water, even for a moment. Do not use inflatable swim aids like "floaties." Life jackets are best and should be worn at all times when on boats or near bodies of water.

For more information, go to http://www.healthychildren.org or http://www.aap.org.