The weather's warm and you're ready to grab a sippy cup and head outside. Whether you're hitting the playground, the beach, or the nature trail, you'll need to know the basics of summer safety. Here's advice for every scenario. Read up, catch some rays, and enjoy your summer!
Head to the pool or beach early. Kids tend to have more energy at this time, plus the sun isn't as strong earlier in the day. Try to plan outings for nonpeak hours (before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.)
Make use of cover-ups. Break out all the gear—sunbonnets, sunglasses, you name it. Your child will look cute in photos, plus she'll be protected from the sun.
Look for sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These minerals block both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure they're the only active ingredients listed—this ensures that a formula is free of chemical sunscreen and safe for young babies, says Kerry Robin Carder, M.D., a pediatric dermatologist in Dallas.
For young babies, apply only a little sunscreen. It's best to keep kids younger than 6 months shaded and covered up with lots of clothes and gear. But the American Academy of Pediatrics says rubbing on a small amount of mineral sunscreen is okay for the times you can't avoid direct sunlight.
Use SPF 30 or higher. If baby has pale skin, apply sunscreen with a stronger SPF, 40 or above, since he's more likely to burn, says Jack Lesher, M.D., a dermatologist based in Augusta, Georgia.
"So I don't forget to apply sunblock, I leave bottles everywhere: in my purse, on the kitchen counter," says Sara Mason Ader, of Hingham, Massachusetts. "I have a family history of melanoma, and my daughter is a redhead, so we can never be too careful."
Reapply after swimming or sweating. A sunscreen's protection is significantly cut the more you move—even if Baby's just tumbling in the grass. Waterproof formulas help, but they don't add that much extra protection. Bottom line: Reapply every hour or so. "My daughter got a terrible sunburn one day," says Leslie Ness, of Arlington, Virginia. "I lost track of time. Even though I'd applied a good amount of sunscreen, she was in the baby pool for nearly two hours."
Soothe burns with a cold compress. This should relieve swelling and discomfort.
Keep baby sheltered until burns are healed. Depending on the burn, this can mean up to a few weeks. Preventing additional exposure will keep burns from worsening; bad ones can cause permanent skin damage or hyperpigmentation. If your child has severe lobster-like redness, extreme tenderness, or blistering, she should see a doctor.
Give the monkey bars a once-over. Check that equipment is housed on beddings of mulch, sand, pea gravel, or rubberized product—basically not grass or cement. These softer surfaces, common on school and park playgrounds, best absorb shock should a child fall. Also look for any bolts that are sticking out, which can cause serious injuries if your child hits one.
Playgrounds are meant for fun, of course, but many danger zones exist. One is the area near the swings. Dallas mom Stacey Dolezal Susini learned this when her son Maxou, then 2, was kicked hard while walking too close to a swinging child. "I didn't think he was close enough to get hit," Dolezal Susini says. "It knocked the wind out of him." Keep your child at least 15 feet away from swings.
Opt for baby swings until age 3. "Big kid" swings are fine if your child can safely climb in and hold himself up, which he can usually do around age 3. Younger kids (6 months and up) should sit in baby swings.
A shade prevents the slide from becoming scalding hot—one trip down a hot slide can result in second-degree burns to hands, backs of legs, or feet, says Yvonne Gustafson, Ph.D., parenting consultant at Riverside Methodist Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio.
Mats and other hot playground equipment can burn the bottoms of kids' sensitive feet. A New York City CBS station surveyed several playgrounds last summer and found that one surface temperature reached almost 167 degrees; above 100 is dangerous.
It's easy for granules to land in baby's eye. Soothe any irritation by washing hands, then pouring a few handfuls of warm water over her eye. If she still seems to be in pain a few hours or even days later, call your doctor—the sand may have scratched her cornea. This usually heals in a week's time, but your child may need prescription eyedrops or ointment.
Pile on the accessories. Make sure your child is wearing socks, shoes, and a hat. This extra clothing cuts the chances of his coming in contact with a tick or poison ivy.
Keep Rover out of the brush. The oil on poison plants won't give dogs a rash, but it can linger on fur and rub off on people. If your pet runs into the woods, wipe him down with a towel. Then give him a bath.
Reactions to poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants are all pretty similar: itching, redness, and blisters. These clear up on their own within a few weeks. But if your child can't stop scratching, apply calamine lotion—but not too often, as it's easy to overdose.
Dress baby in neutral, unpatterned clothing. Bees are drawn to bright and busy clothes.
Don't pull out the stinger if baby gets stung. Instead, use a credit card to gently drag it out with the venom sac attached. This reduces the spread of venom and lessens baby's reaction. After removal, give acetaminophen and apply hydrocortisone.
If your child is allergic, carry an EpiPen. The first time your kid gets stung, his reaction likely won't be more severe than minor itching or discomfort. But this first exposure may result in heightened sensitivity to later stings, which can lead to an allergy. Once an allergy develops, it can worsen with each sting and cause hives, swelling of the lips, wheezing, or trouble breathing. If any of these symptoms pop up, get baby to the ER right away—and ask for an EpiPen prescription to prevent future occurrences. It's a portable emergency treatment loaded with medicine that should stop reactions.
Surprise, mosquitoes aren't out and about only at night! They're also prevalent near stagnant water, like that in ponds, swamp areas, even yards. Treat bites with calamine lotion or a topically applied antacid like Maalox, says J.J. Levenstein, M.D., a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Most spider bites aren't harmful, but if you see a red circle with a tiny dot or bite spot in the center, then baby's been bitten. Wash the area of the bite with soap and water, then apply a cool compress and give acetaminophen for the pain. If the area is grayish, oozing or bleeding, or isn't circular, call your doctor immediately. Your child could have been bitten by a black widow (it has a red hourglass symbol on its stomach) or a brown recluse (it has a violin-shaped mark on its back). These poisonous spiders are mostly found in the South, and bites require anti-venom medication or corticosteroids.
Dress baby in comfy clothes. Forgo the laces and bows, and put your child in items that allow easy movement -- like pj's. He'll be more comfortable (and possibly better behaved).
All airlines should allow one if baby has her own seat. Board early and install it the same way you would in a car; if it's rear-facing, it should sit rear-facing on the plane too.
Whip out a bottle or pacifier during takeoff. Sucking can minimize the discomfort caused by changing air pressure. It's also okay to give acetaminophen an hour before boarding if you know baby is prone to have ear pain while flying, says Dr. Levenstein.
Program your pediatrician's number into the cell. Wondering what to do if a fever breaks out while on the road? Doctors can usually offer instructions over the phone. And if you forgot something crucial, like an inhaler, your doctor can probably call it in to a nearby pharmacy.
It may sound obvious, but always keep extra water, formula, and healthy snacks like fruit and granola bars on hand. You never know when a flight will be delayed or when there's no food stop for miles. New York mom Elaine Harkins also says she doesn't go anywhere without a bag that has Band-Aids, Neosporin, and other first-aid items, for those inevitable scraped knees.
Sunscreen is the best protection. But it's not always easy, or possible, to cover every body part. These products help.
Straps keep the shades from falling off, and the big lenses and frames wrap all the way around a child's eyes to provide maximum protection; julbo.com.
Tie it to any canopied stroller to keep out the sunshine and bugs. It's made from 50+ UPF breathable fabric; buybuybaby.com.
Whether your child plays in the sand or in the water, this surf suit fits over a swim nappy and offers 40+ UPF protection; bodenusa.com.
This wide-brimmed bonnet covers the ears and helps shield the face and neck. Plus, the 50+ UPF blocks out 98 percent of the sun's rays; wallaroohats.com.