Summer Safety Series: Outdoor Play and Sunburn Prevention

With summer in full effect and temperatures peaking in the GTA, many kids and adults are spending more time outside sunbathing, swimming, and participating in various outdoor activities. While these activities are a great way to spend time with family and keep your kids busy, it is important to be aware of the dangers of sun exposure.

While the redness and discomfort associated with sunburn may not become apparent for a few hours, burns can actually occur within 15 minutes of being exposed to the sun. Prolonged exposure can cause second- and third-degree burns and even skin cancer, especially if your children have fair skin, moles, or freckles.[1]

Recently, two children in a Texas daycare suffered dangerous second- and third-degree burns after being left outside to play at a splash pad.[2]  Parents who send their children to camp or daycare should take precautionary measures such as stressing to them the importance of sunscreen application and reapplication, and ensuring that camp counsellors and staff are aware of their concerns. Some easy precautionary steps to avoid dangerous sun exposure are:

#1—Sunscreen!

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF rating of 60 or higher.
  • Remember, SPF ratings indicate protection from UVB but not harmful UVA radiation, so be sure to choose a multi or broad spectrum product.
  • Reapply! Sunscreen does not last all day and should be reapplied frequently (about every 1-2 hours). This is particularly important when kids are sweating or swimming. Kids Health[3] suggests that sunscreen be applied 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and again 30 minutes after sun exposure begins.
  • Make sure your sunscreen has not expired.
  • Store sunscreen in a cool, dry place as high temperatures can reduce its shelf life.

#2—Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. whenever possible

  • Seek shade during midday hours.

#3—Wear clothing that protects exposed skin[4]

  • Darker coloured clothing may offer more protection.
  • Loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection from UV rays.

#4—Accessorize[5]

  • Hats help protect and shade the face head, ears, and neck, while many types of sunglasses can protect your eyes from UV rays.

As a personal injury lawyer, however, I’ve learned that direct exposure is not the only cause of serious sun related injury. On July 27, 2015, a one-year-old boy was injured while playing at a splash park in Georgetown. After wandering onto the grass next to the park he stepped onto a pair of metal doors suffering severe burns to his feet and minor burns to his hands. The metal doors, hot from the sunshine, read “Danger Keep Off” but were not surrounded by protective gates despite being mere steps from the children’s splash park. The CBC article and graphic image of the young boy’s burns illustrate how dangerous sun-related accidents can be: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/boy-burned-after-stepping-on-hot-metal-at-georgetown-ont-splash-pad-1.3171527

The risk of sun-related injury during the summer months means that parents and guardians should closely monitor their children’s activities and be on the lookout for other dangers the heat may pose. In the event of a severe burn, call a doctor and tell your child not to scratch, pop, or squeeze the blisters, as this could lead to infection and scarring.[6]

Finally, remember to be a good sunburn prevention role model and take your own health and safety seriously when spending time in the sun. Play safe, dress appropriately, and use lots of sunscreen!

[1] Kids health:  http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/sheets/sunburn_sheet.html

[2] Fox23: http://www.fox23.com/news/news/local/mother-says-children-got-severe-sunburns-while-day/nm7Wt/

[3] See footnote 1.

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/media/subtopic/matte/pdf/summer_burned.pdf

[5] See footnote 4.

[6] See footnote 1.

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