Summer safety tips for the family

July 1, 2024 Providence Health Team


In this article: 

  • Summer months are the perfect time to enjoy three things that can also pose threats: water, sun and heat.

  • Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death for young children; skin cancer is the No. 1 cancer in the U.S.; and dehydration frequently requires a hospital stay. All of these conditions are preventable.

  • Elizabeth Meade, M.D., of Providence Swedish offers tips for keeping your family safe while you enjoy this summer to its fullest.

Summer safety tips for the family

Summer months are a time for fun. However, keeping your family safe takes planning and effort. There are three aspects of summer that pose threats to your family’s safety: water, sun and heat. Hear from Elizabeth Meade, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of quality for pediatrics at Providence Swedish. She offers summer safety tips so you can get the most out of summertime fun.

1. Water safety

“When it comes to summer safety tips, the first thing is water safety,” says Dr. Meade. “Make sure that kids and adults are safe in the water. For young children under 5 years old, water safety looks like touch supervision, so you should always be within an arm’s reach of that child, even if they know how to swim.”

“For older kids and adults, the buddy system is great,” says Dr. Meade, who recommends always having a sober adult watching the water and looking over everyone who is swimming.

Drowning can happen in seconds, and it can occur in less than two inches of water. In addition to swimming pools and bathtubs, drowning is common in natural bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers and oceans.

In fact, about 11 people die from drowning every day in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 to 4 years old. And it’s the second-leading cause of death from an unintentional injury for children 5 to 14 years old.

Some water safety steps to prevent drownings include:

  • An adult or trained lifeguard closely supervising children.
  • Everyone wearing life vests while boating.
  • Infants and children wearing properly fitting life jackets.
  • Learning CPR.
  • Limiting alcohol during water activities.
  • Never swimming alone.
  • Taking swimming lessons and learning basic water safety for people of all ages.

2. Sun safety

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and it can be prevented.

“The second thing that often comes up is sun safety,” says Dr. Meade, who explains how to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays. “Sunscreen is one of the most important tools we have.”

Dr. Meade recommends all kids and adults protect exposed skin and apply sunscreen with high SPF:

  • 20 to 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Every couple of hours while in the sun.
  • After any water exposure.

For young infants who may not be ready for sunscreen, use hats, sun-safe clothing and shade. Take extra precaution against sunburn on summer days when the UV index is particularly high.

Read other tips from the CDC about protecting your skin from sunburn.

3. Heat safety

“The third thing is heat safety and heat illness,” says Dr. Meade. “Even temperatures that are not that hot outside can cause heat exhaustion and heat illness, so it’s important to think about shade and hydrating all the time.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, dehydration is a common condition that affects people of all ages and is a frequent cause of hospitalization. Drinking plenty of water helps your body keep a normal temperature, and hydration is critical during the hot months of summer.

Try to stay out of the sun during the peak time period of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when temperatures and UV levels are highest, advises Dr. Meade. Plan your family fun for the early morning or evening hours.

Dr. Meade suggests everyone should know the signs of a heat stroke, which may be subtle. Early signs of heat illness or heat stroke may include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting

If you or a family member have these symptoms, seek medical care right away. Dehydration and heat illness can cause lasting health problems if left untreated. Read more about the signs of dehydration and heat illness.

“Parents and pediatricians always have a lot to think about in terms of keeping our kids safe and healthy,” explains Dr. Meade. She says taking these simple steps can help you and your family fully enjoy the activities you love to do in the summer.

Contributing Caregiver

Elizabeth Meade, M.D., is a pediatrician and the medical director of quality for pediatrics at Providence Swedish.

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Related resources

Keep your family safe this summer

The top 5 injuries and illnesses we see every summer 

Keep safe as you savor summer

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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