As the days get longer and the temperatures rise, the more time you are likely spending in the sun. Among the most vulnerable to both sun and heat illness are infants and young children.1,2
The sun is more powerful than you think!
It only takes 15 minutes to get a sunburn depending on the UV Index value that day (which you can find in your local weather report). If the UV Index is higher than 3 you and your child need sunscreen, and if it’s over 8 you need even more protection, like wearing hats, covering up more skin, and taking breaks from being directly in the sun.1
SUN SAFETY TIPS
According to the Government of Canada, here are a few safety tips to keep adults and children safe in the sun1:
- Cover up. Wear wide brimmed hats, sunglasses, and fabrics that are thin, light-coloured, and breathable and covers the areas of your body that get the most sun.
- Limit your time in the sun. The hottest part of the day is between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm. If you’re out during this time of the day, take frequent breaks from the sun, whether that’s indoors or moving your kids into the shade. Even if your child is wearing sunscreen, the Government of Canada advises not to let children stay in the sun for long periods.
- Use the UV Index forecast. Don’t forget to use this as a guide for sunscreen use. Anything over a UV Index of 3 requires sunscreen, and over 8 needs some extra protection.
- Create a sunscreen habit. It’s important to get your children into the habit of wearing sunscreen when they go into the sun. From an early age, start developing a routine: get them to pay attention to the areas of the body that are most exposed to the sun, like the nose, lips, back of the neck, shoulders, arms, back, knees, and feet.
- Reapply sunscreen often. Use lots of it, apply it early in the day, and reapply often. Don’t forget to find one with a high SPF, which means SPF 15 or higher with “broad-spectrum” protection.
Don’t overlook heat illness prevention!
In Canada, we get to experience the joys and pitfalls of both extreme cold and extreme heat. In the warmer months, when it comes to avoiding heat illnesses—such as heat stroke, rashes, cramps, fainting, edema, or exhaustion—protecting yourself from the sun and keeping the body cool are important for you, your children, and others in your care. Keeping hydrated by drinking lots of water throughout the day allows the body to stay cool.2
EXTREME HEAT SAFETY TIPS
Here are a few safety tips the Government of Canada provides to keep you and your kids safe in the extreme heat2:
- Prepare for the heat. This includes listening to regular weather forecasts and finding ways to keep cool in advance—like keeping cool drinks accessible in your home or car, setting up a fan in your apartment, or making sure your air conditioner is operational. It also means finding nearby spots that are air conditioned on really hot days, like a mall or even a pharmacy or convenience store, during high peaks of heat in the day.
- Pay close attention to how you (and your children) feel. Keep an eye out for heat illness symptoms like dizziness, fainting, nausea, headache, rapid breathing, extreme thirst, decreased urination, and even changes in behaviour (particularly in children). If you notice these symptoms, try moving to a cool place, applying cool water to large areas of skin or clothing, and fanning the person as much as possible.
- Stay hydrated. This is an especially important step. Drink plenty of cool liquids, particularly water, before you even feel thirsty. This decreases the risk of dehydration, and the struggle to “catch up” on what your body needs once it’s reached such an extreme state. Remind yourself to eat more fruits and veggies and drink water before, during, and after physical activities.
- Stay cool. There are plenty of ways to do this: dress for the weather, take breaks from the heat, and keep your home cool. If you don’t have air conditioning, remember to use fans (standing or ceiling fans) and keep the air flowing, particularly in your direction. Find cool places nearby and spend an hour or two there to cool off if your home isn’t as cool as you need it to be.
- Avoid exposure to extreme heat when outdoors. Plan outdoor activities doing the cooler parts of the day, and reschedule activities that take place outdoors when the heat is at its peak. Avoiding sun exposure goes hand-in-hand with this tip: when your skin has a sunburn, you can’t sweat as effectively, which means it’s even harder for your body to keep cool and regulate its temperature. The more you know, the more you can protect yourself.
Staying regularly active is important for the health of your spine, muscle, and nervous system. Following these tips when you’re out in the heat and sun will help you stay safe!
- Sun safety tips for parents. Government of Canada website. Modified June 30, 2015. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/sun-safety/sun-safety-tips-parents.html. Accessed May 18, 2017.
- Extreme heat: heat waves. Government of Canada website. Modified January 12, 2012. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/sun-safety/extreme-heat-heat-waves.html. Accessed May 18, 2017.