by Tina Ding

Kids in North Dakota know their summer season won’t last. As snow melts into slush each spring, winter gear swaps out for summer bikes, scooters, skateboards, strollers and more. Tank tops and shorts hide beneath jackets until the temps allow full summer apparel, including flip-flops or bare feet.

Treks to the zoo, area parks and outdoor swimming pools are required, then add in nature trails, geocaching, golfing and summer sports.

Bismarck Cancer Center Oncology Program Coordinator and Nurse Manager Tara Schilke encourages sunscreen use for the prevention of melanoma. Since the sun’s rays energize and nourish the human body, we crave being outdoors, yet we need to exercise caution and protect against too much exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

“Since melanoma is seen as one of the fastest growing cancers, worldwide, it’s important to stay protected,” Schilke said. “Melanoma is curable if caught early, with over 90% survival rate.”

Parents should be certain their children are protecting their skin and eyes as well as the tops of their heads. Ways to reduce the risk of melanoma and protect skin from UV rays:
Use sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher, covering entire body (include top of head, ears, nose, chin, neck, tops of feet hands).

– Use waterproof sunscreen when swimming or sweating.
– Ensure label indicates ‘broad spectrum’ coverage (for both UV-A and UV-B rays).
– Avoid UV exposure via tanning salons.
– Wear long-sleeved, loose fitting clothing as well as wear either wrap-around sunglasses or a wide brimmed hat for head and facial coverage.

Children playing outdoors should be encouraged to avoid peak sun exposure by offering outdoor time during early mornings or late afternoons and evenings. And caution should be exercised when swimming or hanging out around water and sand where harmful rays are reflected.
Schilke said it’s important to reapply sunscreen every two hours while in the sun.
“Remember you are your children’s role model, let them see you protecting yourself, also,” Schilke said. “Babies under six months should never be exposed to sun. Older babies can be kept under wide brimmed hats, canopies or hoods while outdoors.”

Schilke also said to keep sunscreen available at all times. “It’s so important to offer outdoor activities to kids, it’s vital to their physical health,” she said. “Pack sunscreen in a sports bag or carry it in a purse. Just keep it available.”

Bike Helmets & Wheeled Activity Safety
Outdoor activities often include toys on wheels: bikes, scooters, skateboards and inline skates. Head protection is critical to ensure safety in case of a fall. When parents make it a rule, every single time, wearing helmets becomes a habit. The helmet should fit securely and rest in a level position on the head.

Kids on bikes or other wheeled devices need to be sure to follow the rules of the road and rights of way:
– Make sure bicycles and sports equipment fit children correctly.
– Children grow quickly; helmets should be checked frequently for accurate fitting.
– Clothing should be reflective; however children should not ride in the dark.
– Always include hand signals and ride on the right side of the road, with traffic.
– Be sure children are aware of traffic signals and how to cross intersections.

Water Safety
Hot summer excursions to water activities are a given, and kids can make a certain amount of decisions on their own. However parents and/or other supervising adults need to be completely responsible and keep a watchful eye on children.

Drowning can happen in the blink of an eye. It can be prevented by sticking to a few simple water rules.

– Children should be supervised at all times around water. This means no reading, cell phone usage or other distractions.
– Make sure there is a supervising adult who is CPR trained and prepared to administer CPR if needed.
– Children should be given swimming lessons or taught to swim.

When swimming, sunscreen should be applied and a life jacket used every time while boating or when using water sport equipment, such as when water skiing or rafting.

Keeping kids safe while enjoying sunshine takes very little time – yet the benefits certainly outweigh the disadvantages. Managing or organizing a catch-all space near the door most frequently used may help to encourage the use of sunscreen application and helmet use.

Busy schedules demand a quick option for grabbing outdoor gear. Hang a ‘traveling’ bag near the door. Include sunscreen, bug spray, first aid items as well as spare hats and sunglasses. Light jackets or long sleeve shirts may be rolled inside, as well.

– Manage bike helmets and pads by hanging them in a visible location near bike storage for a visual reminder to all.
– Keep enough life jackets on board boats for all family members and an equal number of guests, just in case.
– Designate a swimming supervisor whenever children are in the water.

Enjoy every minute of outdoor opportunity. Unpredictable North Dakotan climate could mean snow in September. In the meantime, keep children protected while enjoying and rejuvenating in the sun.