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Sunshine Makes Us All Smile!

Summer is almost here–and while the presence of warm sunshine and longer daylight hours makes us smile, we also need to be reminded it’s especially important this time of year to protect babies’ and young children’s skin (as well as our own) from the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun.  Using sunscreen can help to ward off not only sunburn in the immediate sense, but wrinkling, age spots, and skin cancer in later years.

Did you know that over 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year? Repeated sun burning of the skin makes a person’s skin more susceptible to skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatologists recommends, therefore, that everyone should be aware of what damage exposure to the sun can do.  We are never too old or too young to begin to use sunscreen!

Exposure to the sun’s rays can occur when children are playing in the sun, even through window glass and sheer fabrics, so putting a brimmed hat or ball cap on your child’s head and sunscreen on areas not covered by hair or clothing, such as tops of ears, nose, back of neck, arms, hands, tops of feet, etc., is a very good way to protect your child from the damage sun can do now and in later years.

Sunscreen (also known as sunblock and sunblocker) may be purchased as an ointment, cream, lotion, gel, spray, or wax stick at your local pharmacy, grocery, or department store.  Ask your pharmacist for the best one for your child’s particular kind of skin.  A baby’s skin definitely requires protection.  An older child with skin that tans easily may require less protection than a baby, but sunscreen is important, nevertheless.  When placed on the skin, sunscreen helps screen out ultraviolet rays of the sun.  Sunscreen comes in a variety of protection levels called “SPF” for Sun Protection Factor. The higher the SPF number, the greater the protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Sunscreen should be placed on a child’s skin at least 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun.  The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which screens out most of the sun’s UVB rays.

If you take your child to the beach, be aware that there is a double threat from the sun’s reflection off the water and the sand–in much the same way that snow reflects the sun’s rays.  So it’s important to be very careful with your child’s skin, use sunscreen, dress them in protective clothing, make sure they have water to drink, take a sun umbrella, and make sure to include time playing or resting in the shade.

The sun’s rays are the most powerful (and damaging to skin) from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.  Even on a cloudy day, a child can get a bad sunburn, so make sure to use sunscreen every day!  If a child gets a bad sunburn–or there is redness, pain, swelling, or blistering of the skin and/or fever, call your doctor or take your child to the emergency room as soon as possible.

Learn and know the symptoms of heat cramps, heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. If, after an extended time in the sun, your child feels weak, is disoriented or is experiencing nausea, cramps, dizziness, vomiting, or fainting, take your child to the emergency room immediately!  In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine safely and in measured quantities.

Camping with Young Children

Spring is here – and Summer is not far behind! For families with young children, camping can provide a fun and economical vacation or getaway weekend. It’s never too early to instill a love of nature in children, and camping also provides an opportunity to teach kids about environmental responsibility. There are so many new things for children to explore outdoors, including plants, trees, flowers and critters. Simply sleeping out in the “wilderness,” in a sleeping bag in a tent or cabin can be a wonderful new experience. But the newness of camping can also be a fearful thing for young children too. One good thing parents, family members, caregivers and babysitters can do is to preview the camping experience with a child before the family camping trip.

Talking to children, even toddlers, about what they can expect while camping–hearing different noises in the night, seeing different animals and birds, sleeping in a sleeping bag instead of on a bed, explaining to them why not to touch poison ivy and especially why not to wander away from the campsite– can make the experience a little more familiar, easier and safer for all concerned.

When planning your family camping trip, it is very helpful to have a checklist to make sure you’re not stuck in the woods without necessary equipment or provisions, such as sunscreen, sunglasses, a cell phone, mosquito repellent, a map and comfortable shoes. Both Koa and Coleman have good checklists that can be printed out.

Just as there are a lot of things to remember to bring on the trip, there are a lot of things to remember as far as safety is concerned. Before your trip, make sure a trusted family member or friend knows where you and your children are going camping, how to reach you and which children are along for the trip. Make sure that you have a charged cell phone and, when traveling with young children, that it works where you are going. As parents, it’s also good to know the details of your campsite and how far you are from the local hospital. advises that if you are bringing little ones who are first-time campers, you may want to keep the travel time to the camp to a minimum (stay close to home) and possibly camp at a State park where there are bathrooms with running water (for obvious reasons!) Also, bring healthy, easy-to-consume snacks and keep your menus simple.

Make sure to purchase and bring a first aid kit on the trip. The kit should include at a minimum: Sterile adhesive bandages in different sizes, gauze rolls and pads in different sizes, adhesive tape, safety pins, scissors, tweezers (for splinters and ticks), a needle (splinters, thorns, etc.), latex gloves, cotton swabs, and tongue depressors– and don’t forget to bring whatever prescription medications you or your child must have while on the trip. It’s also a good idea to bring some type of ointment your family doctor advises you use if your child comes into contact with poison ivy or poison oak (i.e., calamine lotion, Caladryl, etc.) to minimize itching and encourage drying of poison ivy or other rash. Anti-bacterial spray and/or wipes are also handy to have along on the camping trip. Also, make sure to bring a flashlight for every family member and a battery-operated (no flame) lantern with batteries that work.

Camping outdoors presents endless opportunities for young children to discover and experience the world around them. We hope this post has given people ideas as to how to do it more safely.