How to Keep Your Kids Safe Outdoors This Summer

Summer safety for kids has never been simpler with these five tips.

School’s out, the sun’s out, so cue the sunburns, bug bites, and scrapes, right? Wrong! We’ve put together some tips and tricks to help you keep your child safe outdoors this summer.

If I’m being honest, these are all good tips for everyone to follow—yes, you too adults.

Apply Sunscreen

This is one of the most important steps in keeping your child safe outdoors and protected against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays this summer.

So, what exactly are UV rays?

~Science intermission~

UV rays can be categorized under two main subtypes: UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays reach the deeper layers of your skin and are responsible for tans, while you can blame UVB rays for those nasty sunburns. If not protected against, these rays can lead to premature aging of the skin as well as cancer. Luckily, for us, sunscreen works as a barrier to help stop these rays from inflicting permanent damage. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide, found in sunscreen, work to reflect the rays off your skin’s surface while the other chemical ingredients work to absorb the rays. As a result, you and your family can carry on having fun under the sun without having to worry about early wrinkle formation, burns, or any lasting skin damage.

UV rays are the strongest between the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M., so make sure to limit time outdoors as much as possible during that period.

~End science intermission~

Before you start slathering sunscreen on your child, there are a few requirements that you should follow to ensure your sunscreen fits the bill. When making your decision, ask yourself these questions:

Is your sunscreen at least SPF 15? (SPF 30 would be better)

What does SPF stand for? If you guessed Sun Protection Factor, you are correct! SPF measures the effectiveness of your sunscreen. If you typically would get sunburned in a matter of ten minutes without the aid of sunscreen, then sunscreen listed as SPF 15 will multiply that time by 15. This means your new time before burning would be roughly 150 minutes. SPF 15 is the very minimum level of sun protection you should look for but we recommend using SPF 30 or higher for your child’s vulnerable skin.

Has the expiration date passed?

If it has, throw out the bottle. When you purchase a new bottle of sunscreen, look for the expiration. If none is listed, write the current date on the bottle as a frame of reference. By FDA standards, sunscreen must remain effective for at least three years. After three years go by, it’s best just to throw away the product instead of taking any risks. Also, if your sunscreen has changed color or is thicker/thinner than when you initially bought it, this is a good indicator that it’s time to take a trip to your local drug store and find a replacement.

Some sunscreen manufacturers or retailers will replace your product or refund your money if your sunscreen is defective shortly after purchase.

Does it explicitly mention being “Broad-spectrum”? (This means that it has both UVA and UVB protection)

As stated before, it’s essential to make sure that your sunscreen is broad spectrum because both UVA and UVB rays are harmful to the skin. Most sunscreen protects against UVB rays, so double check that yours protects against UVA rays as well.

UV Ray Graphic

Is it water-resistant?

Lastly, ensure that your sunscreen is equipped with water-resistance! This means that it will be able to withstand time in the water and sweating. According to the FDA, to be called water-resistant sunscreen, it must remain water-resistant for 40 minutes or 80 minutes.

Here are a few sunscreens we recommend →

So, now that you’ve picked out a sunscreen. What’s the next step?

Applying it of course!

First things first, sunscreen should be applied about 15 to 30 minutes before you or your children plan on going outside so that your skin has time to process and absorb it.

Measure out roughly an ounce of sunscreen and apply it generously to all exposed areas of your child’s skin. Get under any swimsuit straps and don’t forget about the back of their knees, hands, feet, elbows, face, and ears.

If you decide to use the sunscreen that comes as a spray, be mindful about how much you spray on your child because it’s harder to identify the exact amount being used. Don’t spray near your child’s face as well so it doesn’t irritate their eyes and they don’t breathe it in.

Your child should be covered head to toe in sunscreen. If you have an infant under the age of six months old, only apply sunscreen in minimal amounts to avoid harming their sensitive skin. Reapply sunscreen every two hours at a minimum, or every hour when your child has been either swimming or sweating.

For younger children, make sure you apply the sunscreen yourself to avoid having to clean up white goop from the walls and the family cat.
Consider using a lip-balm labeled SPF 15 or 30 as well to protect you and your child’s lips from sun damage.

Wear Sunglasses

Why is this important? Because pair of sunglasses + tiny face = extreme cuteness.

No, but really, eyes can be sunburned too! Sunglasses are essential to help protect your child’s eyes against harmful UV rays. Young eyes have even less defense against UV rays than an adult’s fully developed eyes.

Undue sun exposure to unprotected eyes, whether you or your child, can contribute to developing cataracts later in life.

Make sure that the sunglasses you purchase for your child offer 99 to 100% protection against UVA and UVB rays. Glasses that are made out of polycarbonate will also be a much more durable purchase to withstand all of the shenanigans your child will no doubt be up to.

Invest in sunglass “retainers” (AKA: Croakies) to minimize the risk of your child losing them. NOTE: Not for toddlers or infants as they do pose a choking hazard.

Dress in Appropriate Clothing

Yes, it’s time to swap out that Buzz Lightyear costume your kid has been sporting for the last 4 days for an alternate, yet equally awesome, outfit. Fill your child’s wardrobe with light-colored, lightweight clothing that they can stay cool and comfortable in, all while having increased protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. If possible, long sleeves and long pants will give an additional layer of protection from both the sun and insects. All clothing should be tightly woven, meaning that you shouldn’t be able to see through any of the fabric. There are also clothes that have built-in SPF protection for your child to receive even more defense against the sun’s rays.

Looking for another way to reduce UV exposure? Wear a hat! A wide-brimmed hat helps provide shade to the face, neck, and ears. This can reduce your child’s UV exposure by about 50%. Hats are especially important for infants who need to be kept in the shade at all times.

We have one more thing to highlight in the safe summer outfit department—comfortable shoes. These are a must for active kids when playing outside. Flip-flops may be convenient, but close-toed running shoes will definitely make your child’s time playing outside much safer. Sneakers provide more support, which means less stubbed toes and scrapes all around!

Use Bug Spray

This time of year, bugs are everywhere. Literally, everywhere. That’s why it’s so important to apply bug spray to your child to prevent itchy bug bites. When applying repellent to your children, make sure to spray it on to your hands first, and then rub your child’s exposed skin. This will help make sure that no chemicals find their way into your child’s mouth or eyes. Sprays should also be applied to the edges of long pants and sleeves for further protection. Insect repellent should not be used on infants younger than 2 months.

You can also get your yard sprayed for mosquitos throughout the summer months. In many cases, this makes a big difference.

Bug spray isn’t the only way to steer clear of Mosquitopocalypse, avoiding the outdoors in the early morning or late evening when bugs are most active is another way to prevent bites. Scented perfumes or lotions also may attract insects, so it’s best to save those for another occasion. Lastly, standing water is where mosquitoes like to get it on. Seriously though, get rid of that standing water.

Bug sprays that contain DEET as an active ingredient work to repel more than just mosquitoes, they also deter flies, gnats, chiggers, and ticks from coming in contact with you or your child’s skin.

Here are a few insect repellants we recommend →

After your child is done playing outside, make sure to conduct a thorough investigation of their clothes for ticks that may have hitched a ride into your home. If you spot any, remove them immediately. Wash clothes in hot water and then dry on high heat to kill any unwanted visitors that may have slipped past the initial inspection. Ticks are most commonly found in areas that are wooded or grassy, so it’s best to be extra careful if this sounds like your backyard.

According to the CDC, showering within two hours of being outside has been shown to reduce the risk of diseases associated with tick bites. This is also a good time to check your child for any ticks that may have attached to their skin. Places where ticks especially like to hide include underarms, ears, belly button, back of knees, hair, between legs, and around the waist.

Apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second. Don’t use a product that combines the two since insect repellent shouldn’t be applied as frequently as sunscreen. And that’s like shampoo and conditioner combined. It just doesn’t really work as well.

Stay Hydrated

Have your child drink water and then drink some more water, and then maybe even more water. Water is critical for keeping your child safe on hot, summer days. Staying hydrated has many benefits including heat stroke prevention. During playtime, have children take a water break about every 20 minutes. Toddlers and preschool-aged children should aim to consume about five cups of water a day, while older school-aged children should be consuming about eight cups.

Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t exactly mean that you need to drink eight cups of water per day. Water can come from many different sources like fruits, vegetables, and other beverages. As long as your child’s total water consumption meets this recommendation, dehydration shouldn’t be a concern. Remember to stay away from juices and sports drinks, however, as they are high in sugars.

Add an orange slice, pineapple, or lemon wedge to make your child’s water a little less boring and encourage hydration.

All that running around will definitely give your child a large appetite. Don’t let them get #hangry, have an arsenal of healthy snacks on deck at all times. This is the perfect opportunity to fill them up with fruits and veggies, which have a high water content.

Lastly, allergies aren’t just a problem in the spring, they can carry on through the hot summer months as well. We want to make sure that your child’s time indoors is just as safe and comfortable as their time outdoors. Pollen and mold spores are often to blame for allergy symptoms that extend into the summer months, but regular air filter changes are a strong defense against these indoor pollutants. As we do happen to be a super cool air filter subscription service, we can help you out with this! Try us out here.

So there you have it, those are our tips on how to keep your kids safe outdoors. Now go apply that sunscreen, spray that bug spray, and change that air filter.

Alec Lower

Content Writer

Alec is a third-year member of the team at Second Nature. He brings expert knowledge of a myriad of home air filtration topics including HVAC filters, filtration efficiency, and indoor air quality.