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Summer Safety - Health Consultant Corner

Kathy Gates, BSN, RN, IMH-E®, Child Care Health Consultant

It is beneficial for adults and children to get outdoors and enjoy fresh air and the warmth of the summer sun. Active outdoor play promotes a healthy body weight, strong bones, and muscle development. There are also opportunities for social and emotional development. Outdoor activities increase the opportunity to build relationships with others. Being active outdoors can help a child reduce anxiety and irritability which will aid in the reduction of indoor challenging behaviors. With careful planning, children and staff can enjoy the outdoors while staying healthy and safe. Here are helpful tips to ensure the health and safety of the children in your care during the summer months:


Avoid scheduling outdoor play during the hottest part of the day. Ensure that shade is available. Instruct parents and caregivers to dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing including hats. Place infants under 6 months of age in a shady area and out of the direct sunlight. Sunscreen containing a SPF 15 or higher and UVA/UVB protection is recommended every time children and adults go outside. It is best practice to obtain written permission from parents before using sunscreen on a child. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside. It is important to prevent severe sunburns in childhood to lessen cancer risk in adulthood.


Make sure all children stay well hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of water. Avoid high sugar drinks. Keep kids hydrated and cool. Younger children do not regulate their body temperatures as well as adults in warmer temperatures. They become so engaged in active play that they do not always acknowledge they are thirsty. Regularly scheduled water breaks are necessary to prevent dehydration. Observe children for any sign of overheating and/or dehydration including flushed skin, fast pulse, nausea or vomiting, headache, dizziness, or confusion. Seek immediate medical care if a child exhibits symptoms of a heat-related illness.


When transporting children, always account for every child and NEVER leave a child in a parked car. Even when it feels cool outside, the interior temperature of a car can reach dangerous levels quickly and having a window partially open does not prevent temperatures from rising. The temperature inside a car can increase almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes. A child left in a parked car is at greatest risk for heat stroke and death.

Toddler tragically dies after being found in hot vehicle at Tennessee daycare


Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 children ages fourteen and younger are patients in hospital emergency departments from playground related injuries. Falls are a common cause of injury. The most common injuries from falling off playground equipment including swings and slides are injuries to the face, head, or arms. Children require constant supervision. The playground should be age and developmentally appropriate and well-maintained. Routinely inspect the play equipment for any hazards. Remove any broken or hazardous play equipment from the play area immediately. The surface under the play equipment needs to be safe, cushioned, and well maintained. Prior to children getting on the playground, check the temperature of the equipment and surface under and around the equipment to reduce the risk of harmful burns. Ensure that the surface under the play equipment is impact absorbing and the proper depth to reduce fall injuries.


Perishable food that is unrefrigerated at picnics or other activities is vulnerable to bacteria that grows quickly in warm temperatures. Ensure that food is cooked thoroughly. Wash your hands often when preparing and serving food. Never leave food out for more than one hour. It is advisable to store food in a well-insulated cooler packed with ice. Symptoms of food poisoning include nausea, cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea.


Water-related activities are popular during the summer months. As with other outdoor activities, constant supervision is imperative. Drownings are the leading cause of injury deaths for young children ages 1 to 4 years. According to the CDC, three children die every day due to drowning. Often, we think of drownings occurring in swimming pools, lakes, rivers, and larger bodies of water. Insignificant amounts of standing water can contribute to drownings. For example, drownings can occur in wading pools or standing buckets of water. Caring for Our Children does not recommend the use of wading pools. Their rationale is that “portable wading pools do not permit adequate control of sanitation and safety, and they promote transmission of infectious diseases.” The use of sprinklers or hoses would be preferable to wading pools. Water tables and toys must be cleaned and sanitized. Children should wash their hands before and after any water play.


Outdoor play is advantageous for children; however, children should not go outdoors when weather conditions pose a safety or health risk. Children need protection from adverse weather events. According to Caring for Our Children, adverse weather considerations include a heat index at or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Children do not adapt to extreme temperatures because they have greater surface area-to-body mass ratio than adults. Children need protection from air pollution. Teachers should check the air quality index each day to determine if outdoor play is feasible. Poor air quality can contribute to asthma attacks and can contribute to permanent decreased lung size and function. Child Care Weather Watch is a great resource for childcare providers. This resource aids teachers in monitoring the temperature, humidity, and air quality. Facilities can sign up for EnviroFlash. This resource provides frequent air quality updates. The National Weather Service will also provide accessible forecasts and current weather conditions on mobile devices.


If you have questions or need additional information regarding Summer Safety, please contact your regional Child Care Health Consultant by dialing 2-1-1.