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Safety & Prevention

Summer Sun, Heat & Air Quality: Tips to Keep Kids Safe

Summer means more time for kids to enjoy the many benefits of outdoor play. Just don't let too much sun, heat or poor air quality spoil the fun.

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Sun safety

Everyone is at risk for sunburn. Kids especially need to be protected from the sun's burning rays, since most sun damage occurs in childhood. Like other burns, sunburn will leave the skin red, warm and painful. In severe cases, it may cause blistering, fever, chills, headache and make a child feel miserable.

Here are some tips to protect against sunburn:

Find shade during peak sun & cover up

  • Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. Move your baby to the shade under a tree, umbrella or stroller canopy. Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs, and use brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn.

  • For older children, the first, and best, line of defense against harmful ultraviolet radiation exposure is covering up. Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours—between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The sun's damaging UV rays can bounce back from sand, water, snow or concrete, so be extra careful around these areas.

  • Select clothes made of tightly woven fabrics. Cotton clothing is both cool and protective. Try to find a wide-brimmed hat that can shade the cheeks, chin, ears and back of the neck. Sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection are also a good idea for protecting your child's eyes.

Use sunscreen

  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF 15 or greater to areas of your child's skin that aren't covered by clothing. Put sunscreen on 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors, as it needs time to absorb into the skin. Re-apply every two hours after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. The additional benefits of using sunscreen with SPF 50+ are limited.

    It's okay to use sunscreen on young babies on small parts of their skin not protected by clothing or hats. But remember that babies touch their mouths a lot and it's best to prevent them from ingesting sunscreen in this way.
  • When choosing a sunscreen, look for a water-resistant product and for the words "broad-spectrum" on the label. It means that the sunscreen will protect against both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays.

    Try to find products that contain the mineral ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. If possible, avoid the ingredient oxybenzone, a sunscreen chemical that may have hormonal properties. (See "Sun Safety: Information for Parents About Sunburn & Sunscreen.")

Heat & poor air quality

With climate change contributing to more intense summer heat, take steps to prevent heat-related illness. Sun and heat can also worsen local air pollution by contributing to ozone and smog, so it's wise to be aware of these conditions.

Extreme heat

  • Find out about your school's guidelines for extreme heat and outdoor play and make sure the school follows these guidelines.

  • Make sure your child dresses appropriately, takes breaks, drinks plenty of water and takes time to get used to the temperature on hot days.

Poor air quality & pollution

  • Check your local Air Quality Index. check the local daily Air Quality Index to identify when air pollution, wildfires and heat raise the risks of asthma and other health concerns. Adjust your child's outdoor activities when needed.
  • If your child has asthma, ask your pediatrician how air pollution can be added to your child's asthma action plan.

  • If your child takes medication, ask your pediatrician if it increases your child's risk for heat illness.summer pollution, pollen

  • Use MERV 13 rating or higher filters in your home's central heating and cooling system, if possible.

Other steps that can help

Advocate in your community for access to green space for all children and plant trees or participate in tree-planting service events. These can help clean the air and reduce urban heat effect, which happens with dense concentrations of pavement, buildings and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat.

Take help combat climate change, use public transportation or choose walking and biking when it is safe to do so. You may also consider a zero-emissions vehicle when you purchase your next car, or ask your school to switch to electric school buses.


Talk with your pediatrician about how you can ensure your child can enjoy a safe and healthy summer.

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2023)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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