There’s more to summer than fun in the sun. Ensure your children are safe with these tips from Lorrie Lynn, manager of the Injury Prevention Center at Rady Children’s and coordinator of Safe Kids San Diego.
Drowning is the leading cause of death among San Diego County children ages 14 and under, and children who survive a non-fatal drowning can face lifelong injuries. These facts are proof positive that it’s imperative to always keep a close watch on your kids—no matter their age or competency level in the water.
So what’s the best way to keep your kids safe during water play?
“I recommend assigning someone to watch, using the Water Watcher tag,” Lynn says. “Always have an adult responsible for keeping an eye on the kids. That adult can then hand the Water Watcher tag to another adult to keep watch. It’s always important to have a responsible adult watching the children.”
For pool play, basic water competency is a must. Make sure your child knows how to float, locate the exit and swim at least 25 yards. For children who don’t yet have those skills, outfit them with a Coast Guard–approved life vest rather than just water wings.
When it comes to ocean water, these skills are essential, and Lynn recommends also staying near a lifeguard station and asking about the swimming conditions.
“You can always ask the lifeguard if there is anything you should be aware of,” she says.
Other tips include having a plan in place if an incident occurs, knowing CPR and having a cell phone handy in case you need to call 911.
Get your Water Watcher tag at a local San Diego County fire station or the Prevent Drowning Foundation.
Sun Safety 101
Although it’s not a fan favorite, sunscreen or sunblock is vital for anyone living in San Diego, especially children. And it’s important to read the label to know what you’re applying to your child’s skin. Typically, any sunscreen or sunblock with an SPF of 50 is a safe bet. But whatever the number, you’ll still need to apply regularly, since no sunblock or sunscreen will last all day.
“Reapply any time a kid gets in the water then out, because the water will wash away the sunscreen,” Lynn says. “Even if your child isn’t in the water, but is sweating, reapply. I typically recommend reapplying every hour to make sure kids are protected.”
Other ways parents and supervising adults can keep children protected from the powerful California sun include wearing hats and lightweight, long- sleeved shirts.
And while we’re on the topic of water, remind kids to hydrate.
“It’s a good lesson to teach your kids to stop to drink water,” Lynn says. “Hydration is also important when you’re going in and out of the pools because water play causes dehydration.”
Hydration is the ultimate key yo summer safety, Lynn says: “It’s really sunny in San Diego and it get hot. I’ve seen people have heat strokes, and it’s scary”
She says parents should give children plenty of opportunities to rest in the shade and drink water during outdoor activities. She recommends having a cooler stocked with water and hydrating snacks, like oranges or sugar-free, fruit-based ice pops any time you plan an outdoor trip.
If your child is an athlete, hydration is even more important. Athletes should drink plenty of water before a sport or activity, as well as after, to ensure their safety. “Overexertion is the No. 3 reason for emergency room visits for kids ages 10 to 14,” Lynn says. “It’s mostly from being out in the heat and not drinking enough water.”
Adults should also stay aware of rising temperatures and know when to have children take a break from the sun.