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Spring break safety tips

OHSU Doernbecher experts suggest strategies for avoiding common hazards

Whether families are escaping the dark and damp Pacific Northwest in search of fun in the sun or planning a “staycation,” OHSU Doernbecher experts stress the importance of being prepared to address the risks that can spring break can present.

On the road

If traveling by car, ensure that all passengers are restrained at all times, in a car safety seat, booster seat or with a seatbelt, as appropriate. Keep in mind that car seat laws may vary by state.

In the air

Remember to bring your child’s car safety seat or booster seat. All airlines will check them for free, either at the main desk or at the gate. Be sure it’s ready to use upon arrival.

Sun safety
Don't forget UV protection for eyes and skin. (Getty Images)

In the sun

Sunscreen is not recommended for use in infants younger than 6 months – it’s best to keep them out of direct sunlight, taking advantage of the shade under a tree, umbrella or stroller canopy. Dress babies in brimmed hats and lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs. Use swimsuits that protect skin from the sun. If there is no way to avoid the sun, it’s OK to use a small amount of sunscreen with infants younger than 6 months. A little sunscreen is way better than a sunburn.

Consider using a hat to protect kids’ faces and necks. Sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection are great for protecting your child’s eyes (and they look pretty cool, too). Sun-protective clothing (like swim shirts or rash guards) are a great choice for the beach or the pool.

Sun safety
Use SPF 30 or higher, and reapply frequently. (Getty Images)

Be aggressive with sunscreen – one that’s effective against both UVA and UVB rays with a protective factor of 30 or higher. Use it on all exposed body areas, and remember to reapply every 90 minutes or so. The biggest mistake most of us make is not reapplying.

If possible, avoid sunscreen with the active ingredient “oxybenzone” -- there is some evidence it may have hormonal effects.

The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Of course, this is when families tend to be most active, so it’s extra important to follow the suggestions above during that time period (though staying out of the sun is also a great choice).

By the water

  • No one should swim alone. Be sure there is always supervision. For kids, this means practicing “touch supervision,” i.e., there should always be an adult within arm's reach anytime a young child is in or near water. 
  • Children who cannot swim should always use a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Inflatable floaties may be fun, but they are not effective in protecting kids from drowning.
  • Remember: Mother Nature will always win. Beach warnings are there for a reason, so do not go outside the designated swimming area.
  • In the ocean, be aware of rip currents. If you should get caught in one, don't try to swim against it. Swim parallel to shore until clear of the current.
Winter safety
Stay safe on the slopes by wearing snow-sport approved helmets. (Getty Images)

On the slopes

  • Always use a Snell- or ASTM-approved snow-sport helmet when skiing or boarding.
  • Stay within marked trails and areas. If anyone goes into the backcountry, make sure to have a beacon, a buddy and common sense!
  • Snow reflects the sun’s damaging UV rays, so don’t slack on the sunscreen.

Here, there, everywhere

  • Supervision, supervision, supervision. Kids are quick and impulsive. Things can happen fast no matter where you are, so stay vigilant and prepared.
  • At home, make sure any guns are locked up and the ammo is stored separately. Before sending your child to a friend’s house, ask if there are any unlocked guns in the house.
  • Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re working properly.
  • Ensure that all windows have window guards to prevent them from opening more than four inches. 
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