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Protecting kids from the perils of summer

Parents are being warned about the dangers of the sun and sea in Cyprus as thousands of children across the island take to the outdoors during the summer holidays.

Drowning in the sea or swimming pool, sunburn and sunstroke, and food poisoning present the most common dangers, Health and Safety official at the Ministry of Education Christos Antoniades cautions in an article in Monday’s Phileleftheros newspaper.

Children should never be left alone by the sea or a swimming pool eve for a few minutes. This extends to even shallow paddling pools and even bathtubs for little children.

“Drowning accounts for the world’s second most prevalent cause of death for people aged 14 or under.”

An adult be responsible for no more than two children at a time if they are at the sea or by the pool and that a 60-minute wait between a meal and getting back into the water is strictly enforced for everyone. Children’s skin is more susceptible to burns and can be left permanently damaged with far-reaching consequences including developing skin cancer later on in life.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO,) children can get burnt after just 15 to 20 minutes of being out in the sun. Exposure can also damage their eyes and immune systems.

Babies under the age of six months should not be exposed to the sun at all.

Older children should be protected by sunscreen with both UVA and UVB filters and with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) strength of 25 and above.

“This should be applied 30 minutes before they go out into the sun and be reapplied every 30 minutes and reapplied once children get out of the water, even if the weather is overcast”, said Antoniades.

“Children under the age of five may suffer skin irritation to sunscreen with a SPF of over 25 due to its composition.”

Consideration should also be given to children’s clothing, ensuring it protects them from the sun. They should also wear hats and optician-approved sunglasses when out and about.

“Don’t forget that by the age of 18, we absorb up to 80% of the ultraviolet (UV) rays we will be exposed over our entire lives as our bodies will not have had time to develop the necessary defences yet.”

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“This means it is imperative children wear sunglasses that have 400 UV CE or 100%UV protection rating.”

Children should also be provided with plenty of drinks throughout the day as they are more susceptible to dehydration.

Antoniades also warns about the dangers posed by open windows. Babies and small children can often be a lot more mobile than we think so be sure they cannot reach open windows.

Also keep in mind when allowing your child to play outdoors that some plants are poisonous and that chemicals used to protect plants from insects also pose a danger.

Insects are also a threat, particularly when children are allergic to a specific type.

“US paediatricians do not recommend using insect repellent on babies aged under two months. For children over two months old, choose a spray with a diethyltoluamide (DEET) concentration of less than 30% and do not use it more than once a day.”

If you are applying both insect repellent and sunscreen on your child, put on the sunscreen first as simultaneous application will reduce the sunscreen’s effectiveness by a third. An allergic rash would develop within less than an hour and last a few hours, sometimes being mistaken for sunburn.

Even if they are not allergic, if children react to a bee or wasp bite with a larger than expected bite mark or by developing a fever, they should immediately be taken to hospital.

Children and adults who are allergic will suffer swelling and may go into anaphylactic shock.

Allergies to food, from seafood to fruit, can cause symptoms ranging from itchiness around the mouth and lips to anaphylactic shock.

“The hotter weather increases the danger of food poisoning. The golden rule when it comes to food is ‘boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it’”.

He goes on to warn that parents should remind their children to wash their hands regularly or use antiseptic wet wipes.

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