Outdoor safety for toddlers

Whether Baby is an intrepid explorer, or more or a stick-to-the-path hiker, there’s a good chance they have some fun putting some of that energy to work in the great outdoors now and then. However, the wilderness – even the relatively tame wilderness of a public park or front lawn – can have some unexpected dangers, and being prepared for them can help to keep your outdoor adventures from ending in tears.

Keeping sunshine fun

Whenever you’re outside with Baby during the day, any of their skin that is exposed should be protected with sunscreen. The sun is at its strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., but the potential for getting a sunburn when outside is always present – even on cloudy days. Look for a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, though you’re better off with an SPF 30 or above. Be sure to apply the sunblock at least 30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply every two hours. You’ll also want to reapply after 80 minutes in the water, regardless of whether the label says it’s waterproof.

Stay cool

When you and Baby are outdoors, stick to shady areas whenever possible. Setting up a sun canopy, providing lots of fluids, and watching out for signs of heatstroke are key ways to make sure outdoor play stays safe and fun. Dizziness, headaches, and vomiting can all be dangerous warning symptoms, and must be treated immediately.

Consider footwear

In many cases, it’s okay to let Baby to walk around barefoot. In fact, experts say this allows the foot to remain in its natural state, which is great for early walking, and helps children to be more aware of their surroundings. Still, you’ll want to be sure the area they are exploring is safe. Don’t let them walk barefoot if the ground is especially hot, if the area may contain poisonous plants, or if you’re somewhere that it looks like Baby might step on something sharp.

When a toddler does end up with a wound that breaks the skin, especially a deep or dirty wound, they should receive a tetanus booster shot. Common causes are puncture wounds caused by nails, needles, or glass. They may also be at risk of infection from wood (splinters) or gravel.

Bug spray

Insect repellent containing DEET can help to protect against insect-related diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using 10% to 30% DEET to protect against diseases like Zika, Lyme disease, and West Nile virus. Even if you’re using bug spray, it’s still important to check Baby for ticks after they're been playing outdoors, especially in wooded areas.

  • “2017 Summer Safety Tips.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017. Retrieved August 21 2017. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/pages/summer-safety-tips.aspx.
  • “How Can I Protect My Children from the Sun?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, April 27 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/children.htm. 

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