Having to endure cancer treatment can really mess with what are supposed to be typical childhood experiences. For instance, when the summer months arrive, kids might wonder if they will be able to do some of their favorite outdoor, warm-weather activities.
Every child’s situation is different, but there are some basic summer safety rules that kids with cancer can follow and still have a ton of fun in the sun. Here are my top 6 recommendations to help your child make the most of summer—during and after treatment.
1. Wear Sunscreen.
Sunscreen is very important because both radiation therapy and some chemo drugs can make a child’s skin more sensitive to the sun. He might be prone to more skin damage and irritation, especially at the radiation site.
Too much sun damage can lead to skin cancers, even if that person has never had cancer before. But if he has, he’ll probably want to stay away from things that increase his risk for developing other cancers. Wearing sunscreen is an easy way to do that.
I’d say go for at least SPF 40.
2. Stay Hydrated.
It’s easy for kids to get dehydrated during treatment. So, drinking enough water is important, especially when a child is on chemo. Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are common side effects of chemo that can cause dehydration.
It might be difficult to get your child to step away from the soccer game or climb out of the pool to take a drink, but it’s really important that she does.
How much water a child needs depends a lot of things, but kids need to drink more water during hot weather and physical activity, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In general, they should aim to drink at least half a cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes when they’re outside in the heat.
3. Know When To Skip Swimming.
Swimming is a common summer activity, but there are times when it’s best for children with cancer to skip the afternoon swim.
Devices like external central lines and PICC lines shouldn’t get wet, so kids who have those need to be extra careful.
If they have an infusaport—a port embedded under their skin for chemotherapy treatment—they usually can swim in chlorinated pools. But they should stay away from lakes and rivers because of infection risks.
And if their blood counts are really low, it’s probably best for them to skip the trip to the neighborhood pool as well.
4. Watch Out For Bug Bites.
Bug bites are another thing to avoid because of infection risk.
One way to keep the bugs off is by using bug spray, but I recommend talking with your child’s medical team before using any bug spray products. That’s because there are some concerns about the chemicals used in sprays.
Your child’s medical team can also help you come up with other safe ways to prevent bites if bug spray isn’t the way to go.
5. Avoid Peak Heat.
Staying out of the sun during the hottest hours is another summer safety tip that can help everyone.
In general, the hottest hours of the day are in mid to late afternoon, explains the National Climatic Data Center. During that time, it’s probably best to stay indoors and cool off, rather than heading out for another round of kickball or capture the flag.
6. Don’t Overdo It.
Heat can also just tire a person out faster. That’s why it’s important to keep your child from overdoing it. Have him come inside from the sun, talk with friends, watch TV, read a book, or find other ways to rest. This can help him regain his energy and feel better.
Kids with cancer can do lots of things during the summer months that anyone else can do—as long as they follow basic safety tips. In the end, anyone who practices tips like these can benefit without sacrificing the fun.
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