What’s the right way to have fun in the sun? 7 questions with pediatrician Melissa Knudson-Johnson, M.D.

By Kristy Bleizeffer Jun 30, 2016

These are the days kids spend all year dreaming about: No school, long days and weather fit for their shorts and sandals. But kids can easily overdo it in the rising temps and blazing sun. Here, pediatrician Melissa Knudson-Johnson, M.D., of Mesa Primary Care offers tips for playing it safe in the summer heat.     

1.   How much exercise should kids get during the summer?

I recommend that all children get at least 60 minutes of physical exercise daily. In the summer months, children should be as active as possible. Increased physical activity will promote better sleep, better mood and improved overall health.

2.   How safe are playgrounds at schools and parks?

While riding bikes and trips to the playground are great ways for kids to exercise during the summer, we always recommend that children are watched closely. Preventable injuries, such as falls on the playground,are one ofthe biggest risks for children during the summer months.

Almost half of the injuries that happen on the playground are considered severe and include fractures, concussions and joint dislocations to name a few.

3.   How can these injuries be prevented?

Young children should be supervised while on the playground at all times. Make sure that the equipment is well maintained and safe.

For children riding bikes, make sure they learn about traffic safety and wear helmets at all times.

4.   What is heat-related illness?

Extreme heat can cause dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke. Children under 4 years of age are at the greatest risk for heat-related illness. You should call your child's physician if your child has been out in the heat and is experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • feeling faint
  • extreme tiredness
  • headache
  • fever
  • intense thirst
  • not urinating for many hours
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • breathing faster or deeper than normal
  • skin numbness or tingling
  • muscle aches or muscle spasms

5.   How is it prevented?

While lying outdoors, plan to have a cool, air-conditioned space for your child to cool down. Libraries can be a great place to cool down and read if you do not have air-conditioning in your home.

Make sure that your child stays well hydrated. Heat can make children tired so making sure they rest frequently is important. Never leave children — or anyone else, including pets — in a car or other closed motor vehicle. The temperatures in vehicles, even with the windows cracked, can increase quickly and can rise to temperatures that can cause death.

6.   How can I prevent sunburns?

Dressing your child in cotton clothing with a tight weave, hats with a brim and sunglasses will help protect from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Applying sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 or higher will also help protect from sunburns. We recommend using sunscreen even on cloudy days and reapplying every 2 hours- sooner if swimming or sweating as this can wash sunscreen away. Staying in the shade will also help prevent sunburns.

7.    How much water and/or healthy snacks do kids need to consumer when playing out in the sun?

Children should drink lots of water while playing outside.Children get busy and forget to ask for water, so make sure they are drinking frequently — at least every 30 to 60 minutes.

Fresh fruits and veggies are in abundance during the summer,and these make great snacks for kids. Making healthy snacks available and eating balanced meals will help keep children healthy during the summer months and year round.

Melissa Knudson-Johnson, MD

Melissa Knudson-Johnson M.D.

Dr. Knudson-Johnson is an internal medicine and pediatrics doctor which is called med-peds, a type of medical specialty which trains physicians to be board eligible in both pediatrics and internal medicine. She sees patients of all ages at Mesa Primary Care. She is board certified in pediatrics and is board eligible in internal medicine.