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How to Play It Safe This Summer

Outdoor activities are part of the joys of summer, but spending time in the sun’s harmful rays can lead to heat-related illnesses. Playing outdoors can also lead to injuries and exposure to insect bites from ticks or mosquitoes that can spread disease. Help your children play it safe by following these tips from the Tennessee Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Reduce Sun Exposure

Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child's risk of skin cancer later in life. Their skin needs protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays whenever they're outdoors.

  • Dress infants and children in loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing that covers their skin and reflects the heat.
  • Wear a water-resistant sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) 30 or higher.
  • Some water-resistant sunscreens may last up to 80 minutes in the water, but be sure to reapply sunscreen when kids come out of the water.
  • Remind children to wear a large hat and sunglasses to block the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Take frequent breaks from the sun by moving into the shade.

Beat the Heat

Strenuous physical activity or prolonged exposure to the sun can cause heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps or heatstroke. Heat-related illnesses prevent the body’s ability to regulate internal body temperature at a safe level. Infants and children up to 4 years old are at greatest risk, but teens and adults are also at risk. Help prevent heat-related illnesses by:

  • Scheduling outdoor activities for morning and evening hours
  • Avoiding excessive physical exertion in the heat, especially in the middle of the day
  • Drinking at least 8 ounces of water each hour
  • Eating small meals more often
  • Avoiding salty foods or foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat and water loss
  • Staying cool with cool showers or baths
  • Never leaving infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked

Seek immediate medical care if your child has any symptoms of heat-related illness, such as heavy sweating; cold, pale and clammy skin; a fast, weak pulse; nausea or vomiting; or fainting.

Learn more about how to prevent heat-related illness from the Tennessee Department of Health.

Prevent Mosquito Bites

Follow these tips to protect yourself and your family by preventing insect bites from mosquitoes, which can transmit diseases.

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats.
  • Limit the amount of time spent outside between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Apply insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors.
  • Use an effective insect repellent while playing outdoors. The CDC recommends using products containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or a plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Consider using permethrin to treat clothing, as it is highly effective as a repellent and insecticide, according to the CDC. Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills mosquitoes and other pests and retains this effect after repeated washing. Some commercial products are available pretreated with permethrin. However, permethrin is not to be used directly on skin. You can purchase permethrin-based clothing insect repellent from various brands available at sporting goods stores.

Watch this video from the Tennessee Department of Health for more tips about mosquito bite protection.

Prevent Tick Bites

It is important for parents to check themselves, their children and their pets for ticks after spending time outdoors—even in their own backyard. Follow these tips to avoid tick bites, which can spread many serious diseases:

  • Reduce tick populations in your backyard by removing leaf litter, clearing tall brush, mowing the lawn frequently and removing old furniture or trash from your yard.
  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hats.
  • Tuck in shirts, tuck pants into socks and wear closed shoes instead of sandals.
  • Avoid wooded areas with high grass, brush and leaves.
  • Walk in the center of hiking trails.
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors.

If you find a tick on a member of your family, don’t panic. Ticks can be removed with fine-tipped tweezers and then flushed down the toilet. Find detailed instructions from the CDC on how to remove ticks.

Prevent Injuries

Summer is a great time for kids to be active outdoors through sports and other physical activities. These guidelines will help to prevent accidents and injuries:

  • Supervise young children at all times, especially around falling hazards, such as stairs and playground equipment.
  • Check to make sure the surfaces under playground equipment are safe, soft and well-maintained.
  • Make sure kids and teens wear the right protective equipment, such as helmets, or knee or elbow pads, for their sport or recreational activity.
  • Whether enjoying water-related activities such as swimming or boating with your family at a lake, a pool or in the ocean, follow these tips to keep your kids safe in the water.

Seek immediate medical attention if children or teens show or report signs or symptoms of a concussion, or if they say they just “don’t feel right” after a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body.

Additional Resources

Learn more outdoor safety tips from the CDC here.