Summer can be an extremely dangerous season for Australians, especially the young ones for whom school has recently been let out. Most children will want to spend their days outdoors playing with their friends, or visiting beaches and amusement parks. Before letting them out in the hot sun, enforce these 5 rules that can keep them healthy and safe this summer:
Heatwaves are the most lethal natural hazard in Australia, and they are getting longer, hotter, and more frequent as time goes by. January 2019 is Queensland’s warmest January on record, with temperatures having risen to 47.3°C on the hottest day. Extreme heat affects everyone, but most especially the elderly, young children, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Encourage your children to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water over the course of the day, especially if they will be taking part in physical or outdoor activities. Teach them to avoid sports beverages and drinks loaded with sugar and preservatives, as these can have the opposite effect and be dehydrating instead. If possible, you can download a smartphone app onto their phone or equip them with a smart band that will notify them periodically with a reminder to drink water.
If they complain of nausea or light-headedness, provide first aid interventions for mild dehydration. You can learn first aid treatments for typical summer illnesses by enrolling in a first aid course in Brisbane or in any city near your address.
Protect yourself from the sun
In addition to the heat, the sun also emits harmful UV rays that can cause sunburn and damage to the eyes. Overexposure to UV radiation can also increase the risk of your child developing melanoma or other skin cancers later in life.
Your children should already know the 5 SunSmart steps by now, but it’s always a good idea to provide a yearly refresher. The 5 S’s of staying safe under the sun are Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, and Slide.
- Slip on protective clothing that is made with close-weave materials and covers up as much skin as possible. Dark-coloured pieces are recommended, as these can absorb UV radiation as opposed to white or light-coloured clothes that merely reflect it onto the skin.
- Slopon a broad-spectrum sunscreen product with an SPF of 30 or higher. Ideally, it should also be water and sweat-resistant. Sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes before stepping outside. Teach your children to reapply every 2 hours.
- Slap on a hat that protects the face, nose, neck, and ears—sites where skin cancers commonly develop. Make sure the hat is also made with closely-woven fabric.
- Seekshade under trees or pre-built structures, or bring an umbrella or a pop-up tent to protect yourself from the sun. Even while under shade, protective clothing should be kept on to combat UV radiation that can be reflected off of nearby surfaces.
- Slideon a pair of sunglasses that meet Australian Standard AS 1067 with an Eye Protection Factor or EPF of 9 or higher. Go for close-fitting or wrap-around styles instead of fashion spectacles. Advise your children never to look directly at the sun, even with sunglasses on.
Only go swimming between the red and yellow flags
The safest part of the beach for swimming is the area between red and yellow flags, which signify that it is being patrolled by lifesavers. Tell your children that they should never go off to swim by themselves, and teach them how to identify rip currents, which can be strong enough to sweep people out to sea.
Keep an eye out for jellyfish
Stingers such as Irukandji, box, and blue bottle jellyfish tend to swarm Australian beaches between the months of November and May. Irukandji and box jellyfish are small and can be difficult to see in the water, but bluebottles are fairly easy to spot—sometimes they wash up right along the shoreline. Authorities can close beaches even during peak season when there is an overabundance of these creatures in the water, so teach your children how to read the signs. Tell them that they should alert an adult immediately if they think that they’ve been stung.
Call for help in case of an emergency
The most important thing you can teach your children this summer is how to identify and alert an authority figure if they sense that something is wrong. Point out uniformed officers, lifeguards, lifesavers and other safety personnel. Assure them that they should never be afraid to approach these people if they sense danger or see anything that seems out of the ordinary. Tell your children that they can always call the attention of lifeguards even from the water by raising their arms and waving them.
With these rules in place, your children should be able to make the most of their summer holidays.
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