One of my favorite things to do this time of year is head to Progressive Field (or as I still call it, “The Jake”) and catch a baseball game. While I love seeing fans of every age at the ballpark, I am often concerned by the lack of sun safety during the hot afternoons. Many parents don’t think about how much sun their child is exposed to. So as we ease into summer, this is the perfect time to review some basic tips for ensuring a safe and enjoyable time for the whole family.

Limiting sun exposure

Several nervous parents have asked if sunscreens are safe and if there is one I’d recommend. There are so many brands and strengths of sunscreen that it can easily become overwhelming for new parents. 

Here are my main takeaways regarding sun exposure:

  • Do not expose babies under 6 months of age to direct sun. Dress babies in wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants (made of cool, breathable material, so babies aren’t overheated).
  • Try to limit everyone’s sun exposure, especially 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are the strongest
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (covering UVA and UVB) with SPF of 15 to 50
  • Apply sunscreen to exposed areas of skin, avoiding eyes and mouth
  • Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours or after getting wet, sweating or drying off with a towel 
  • Wear sunglasses with at least 99 percent UV protection

Preventing insect bites 

This has become a bigger issue since the outbreak of the Zika virus, which thankfully has not become a threat in our region. Insects can be carriers of bacteria and their bites are irritating. 

The following are some important facts to keep in mind:

  • Avoid areas that attract insects such as flowerbeds, areas near stagnant water and shady areas under trees, especially in the evenings
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants when there is an increased chance of exposure to insects
  • Avoid bright or flowery prints, which seem to attract insects
  • Apply insect repellent on the outside of clothing and on exposed skin, keeping the repellent away from the eyes and mouth
  • If using a spray repellent, make sure to apply it outside or in a well-ventilated area
  • Do not use insect repellent on children under 2 months old

Protecting with bike helmets 

Whether it’s Rollerblading, skateboarding or biking, the same rule applies – wear a helmet:

  • Buy helmets that meet the standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission 
  • Make sure children wear helmets every time they Rollerblade, skateboard or bike
  • A helmet should sit securely on the top of the head, covering the forehead, with the chin strap fitting snugly
  • Replace a helmet if it has sustained damage after a fall/crash 
  • Make sure everyone rides on the right side of the road, following basic traffic safety rules

Establishing water rules 

  • The beach, large public pool, backyard swimming pool or small wading pool all require vigilance.
  • Never leave children unsupervised in or near water; always have a responsible “water watcher” 
  • Enclose private pools with a fence that is at least four feet high and with a latch that children cannot open (or follow your community’s requirements)
  • Teach children how to swim – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends swimming lessons for all children older than 4 years old, and for younger children who are ready
  • Allow diving only if water is deep enough for safe diving
  • Make sure all children who are boating are wearing life jackets of the appropriate size 

These tips can help make a safer summer for the whole family. So get out and have some fun, and take in all that Cleveland summers have to offer ... just don’t forget the hats and sunscreen. And of course, go Tribe!

Dr. Laura Shefner writes about pediatrics for the Cleveland Jewish News. She is a pediatrician at The MetroHealth System and practices in Beachwood and Parma. 

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