Doernbecher Children's Hospital

Water and Sun Safety

Toddler wearing sunglasses, sun hat, and personal floatation device

Children are more likely to get hurt during the summer than at any other time of year. We have a variety of tips to help you keep your child safe outdoors.

Sun safety

A tan may be the skin’s response to sun damage, even if it’s gradual. You can protect your child with simple steps.

Safety tips

  • Try to keep your child out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when rays are strongest.
  • If your child is 6 months or younger, stay in the shade. A baby’s skin is thinner than yours.
  • Dress your child in loose, dry, lightweight, light-colored, cotton clothing.
  • Have your child wear a hat and sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Give your child plenty of water, even if he or she isn’t thirsty.
  • Know the signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. See the “Heat safety” section below for symptoms.

Sunscreen tips

  • Use waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Reapply every two hours. Don’t forget the tops of ears.
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher if your child has light hair, light eyes and fair skin.
  • Use sunscreen on cloudy days, in the shade and in winter if your child’s skin will be exposed. UV rays can penetrate clouds and can reflect off sand, concrete, snow and other surfaces.
  • Use plenty of sunscreen if your child is in or near water, which reflects the sun.

Heat safety

Children are more vulnerable to dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke because their bodies are less efficient at cooling. These precautions can help avoid heat-related illnesses:

Safety tips

  • Make sure your child drinks lots of water throughout the day.
  • Make sure your child takes frequent breaks.
  • If possible, have your child play in the shade.
  • Dress your child in loose-fitting, lightweight clothes that breathe.
  • Be especially cautious if it is humid.

Warning signs

Become familiar with symptoms of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If you see signs in your child, stop the activity, move to a cool spot and give your child lots of water. If heat stroke is apparent, go to the emergency room or call 911. Find our downloadable flyer on preventing heat stroke.

  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • No tears when crying
  • No wet diaper for three hours
  • Sunken eyes, cheeks
  • Sunken soft spot on top of the skull
  • Listlessness or irritability

Call your doctor if your child:

  • Has diarrhea for 24 hours or more
  • Is irritable, disoriented or much sleepier or less active than usual
  • Can't keep down fluids
  • Has bloody or black stool
  • Dizziness, weakness or fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heavy sweating and cold, clammy skin
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Pale or flushed face
  • Muscle cramps
  • Headache

Call 911 if your child has:

  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • A fever of 104 degrees or more
  • A core body temperature of 104 degrees or more, taken with a rectal thermometer
  • Altered mental state or behavior, such as:
    • Confusion
    • Agitation
    • Slurred speech
    • Irritability
    • Delirium
    • Seizures or coma
  • Hot and dry skin in hot weather, hot or slightly moist skin during strenuous exercise
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Flushed skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing heart rate
  • Headache

Call 911 if you see these symptoms. Take these steps while waiting for help:

  • Get your child into shade or indoors
  • Take off outer clothes
  • Cool your child with whatever is available: a cool shower or tub, a garden hose, wet towels or ice packs

Swimming safety

Children can drown in less than 1 inch of water. Close supervision and teaching children how to play in the water can help keep them safe. We offer a downloadable flyer on preventing drowning.

Safety tips for parents

  • Always assign an adult water watcher to keep a constant eye on your child or group. The person should stay alert and avoid distractions such as cellphones.
  • Explain expectations to children before they enter the water.
  • Make sure your child swims in designated areas.
  • Don’t let your child swim during a storm or lightning.
  • Don’t use water wings or pool toys as life preservers.
  • Keep a first aid-kit, phone and emergency numbers near the water.
  • Learn CPR.
  • Have your child age 4 or older take swimming lessons.
  • Be especially vigilant at the ocean. Don’t let your child dive into waves head-first.
  • Don't let your child swim in rivers. Fast water is dangerous, and currents are hard to gauge.
  • Watch for signs of fatigue.

Safety tips your child can learn

  • Know how deep the water is.
  • Don’t jump or dive into water less than 9 feet deep.
  • Don’t chew gum or eat while playing in the water.
  • Never swim alone at any age.
  • Follow pool rules, including no running, pushing people in or dunking other swimmers.

Backyard pool safety

  • Make sure there is a clear view of the pool from your house.
  • Put a fence or wall at least 5 feet high around the pool.
  • Lock gate handles or make sure young children can’t reach them.
  • Remove toys when no one is swimming so they don’t tempt small children.
  • Follow instructions for safely installing the pool cover, and use it.
  • Keep electrical appliances out of the pool area.
  • Store sanitation chemicals out of your child’s reach.

Life jacket safety

Safety tips

  • Use life jackets approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Teach your child how to put on a life jacket.
  • Make sure all straps are belted and in the right buckle. Tuck in loose straps.
  • Make sure the jacket fits snugly. Put the jacket on your child and lift up firmly by the top. The jacket should not ride up over the chin and ears. If it does, try a smaller size. If you can’t drop a size because of a weight restriction, use a jacket with a crotch strap.
  • Make sure life jackets are not torn or leaking.
  • Dry life jackets before storing.

Learn more about how to properly choose and use a life jacket.

Boating safety

The most common boating accidents are running into things and falling overboard. Oregon requires children 12 and younger to wear a life jacket. Visit the Oregon State Marine Board site to learn more.

Safety tips

  • All passengers should wear a life jacket.
  • Don’t drink alcohol.
  • If your child falls in the water, leave clothes on because they conserve heat.
  • Have emergency distress signals, visual and broadcast, on board.
  •  Don’t exceed the boat’s capacity.
  • Keep a constant eye on the weather.
  • Know your water terrain.
  • Approach docks and stationary objects slowly.
  • Take a boating safety course.

Personal watercraft safety

Personal watercraft are considered boats, and riders must obey boating laws. Visit the Oregon State Marine Board to learn more.

Child regulations

  • Children 12 to 15 years old must:
    • Ride with an adult
    • Take a boating safety course
    • Carry their boater education card if the watercraft is more than 10 horsepower
  • Children 12 to 15 can ride a watercraft of 10 horsepower or less without an adult but must carry a boater education card.
  • Your child must be 16 or older to ride alone.
  • Riders must wear an approved life jacket and carry a sound-producing device.

Safety tips

Teach your child these basic safety rules:

  • Ride away from shore and other vessels.
  • Don’t ride in water less than 24 inches deep.
  • Keep a sharp lookout.
  • Make sure your life jacket fits and is in good condition.
  • Don’t drink and ride.
  • Make sure an adult watches from the shore.
  • Wear eye protection, footwear, gloves and, in cold weather or water, a wetsuit.
  • Keep hands, feet, hair and clothes away from the pump intake.
  • Be familiar with the watercraft’s speed and proximity rules, available on the Oregon State Marine Board site.
  • Make sure your passenger is ready before you start.
  • Don’t start the engine without attaching the cord from the ignition to your life jacket or wrist. If you fall off, the machine will automatically stop.
  • Watch for bad weather.
  • Know your water terrain.
  • Hold on tightly.
  • Tell the driver if your hands slip or if you aren’t ready.

Contact us

503-418-5666
safety@ohsu.edu

Hours and location

9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays or by appointment.

Doernbecher Children's Hospital

700 S.W. Campus Drive
Portland, Oregon 97239

Resources

Visit our Safety Resources page to find brochures you can download and links to safety products in our nonprofit store.

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