A guide to preventing and treating the three most common sun-related risks.

Condition: SUNBURN

(The child's skin is hot, inflamed, red, and tender.)

Prevention: Keep children indoors between 10 AM and 2 PM. If you're out during those times, try to stay in the shade. If that's not possible, make sure children over the average age of 6 months use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Treatment: Apply a cool, wet sheet or towel to the affected areas. Treat the skin very gently, and keep the child in shady areas when outdoors.

Condition: HEAT EXHAUSTION

(The child becomes overheated and dehydrated and develops muscle cramps, dizziness, headaches, and weakness.)

Prevention: Make sure children stay cool and have plenty to drink outdoors. Bring a large thermos outside with you so they'll have easy access to water.

Treatment: Find a cool place for the child to sit or lie down, and give her fluids - preferably an electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte.

Condition: HEATSTROKE

(The child seems drowsy and lethargic; has hot, dry skin; an, in extreme cases may lose consciousness and stop breathing.)

Prevention: Make sure children have plenty to drink, and avoid being outdoors during the hottest part of the day.

Treatment: Heatstroke is a medical emergency. Call an ambulance right away, then lay the child down and try to lower his body temperature. Sponge him with tepid water; wrap him in a cool, wet sheet; place a covered ice pack on his forehead; give him cool drinks; and aim a fan at his body.

Applying Sunscreen

  • If parents haven't applied sunscreen before children come to school, you need to do so before going outside, even on overcast days.
  • Line children up and, one by one, apply a generous amount to any exposed skin, especially noses and necks and tips of ears if no hair covers them.
  • Use an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply every hour that children are outside.
  • Reapply every hour that children are outside.
  • Remember: Never apply sunscreen to children under the age of 6 months or expose them to direct sunlight.

This article originally appeared in the May, 1998 issue of Early Childhood Today.