Sun safety

Sun safety

Protecting children from getting too much sun is important, whether they are playing outside or are with you on an errand. The hot summer sun can be dangerous for children. A child can sunburn easily, even on a cloudy day. Bad sunburns and too much time spent in the sun without skin protection have been linked to a higher risk of skin cancer later in life. 

During the summer months, children can easily lose body fluid and become dehydrated. Children’s skin can also be burned by touching hot surfaces, such as pavement, metal slides or car doors.

How can I keep my child safe from the sun?

Avoid being in the sun for long periods of time at the start of the season. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend outdoors with your child over a period of several days. When possible, stay indoors or in the shade during the hottest time of the day, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To prevent sunburn:

    • Limit sun exposure, especially during peak hours,
    • Always protect babies from the sun:
    • Cover your baby in loose clothing and make sure she’s wearing a hat,
    • Use a stroller sunshade to cover your baby,
    • Properly apply a small amount of sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) 30 on exposed areas. Note that sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months old, who can rub it in their eyes and mouth.
    • Make sure your child’s favourite play areas have a shady spot or bring along a sun umbrella.
    • Your child should wear a sun hat with a wide brim and back flap to protect the back of the neck, sunglasses with 100% UV protection (“broad spectrum”) and loose cotton clothing to protect skin from the sun’s rays.
    • At least 30 minutes before heading outside, apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on all areas of your child’s skin that will be exposed to the sun. Use a lip balm with SPF 15 as well.

    Remember to put sunblock on:

    • Ears
    • Nose
    • Back of neck and legs
    • Tops of feet
    • Reapply sunscreen every few hours and after swimming or vigorous play.
    • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Children don’t necessarily feel thirsty while at play.

    Be alert for signs that your child is experiencing heat illness and needs to go inside. These include thirst, fatigue, leg or stomach cramps, and cool, moist skin, which can be a sign of heat exhaustion. Bring your child inside or into a cool, shady area, and offer frequent, small sips of water. Removing extra clothing and fanning can help your child cool down slowly. Most importantly, led by example and remember to protect yourself from the sun as well.

Water safety for young children

Water safety for young children

Drowning is the second most common cause of death for children under 5 years of age in Canada. Children can drown in as little as 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water.

Many of these tragedies happen in backyard pools, and almost always in pools without 4-side pool fencing and self-closing, self-latching safety gates. For rural and remote living children, lakes and rivers serve as transportation routes as well as sources of recreation. Regardless of whether found in nature or a in a backyard, caution needs to be practiced around water.

  • Babies who can’t sit without support and are too young to wear a portable flotation device (PFD) should be held by an adult at all times.
  • Toddlers should always be within arm’s reach of an adult when they are in or around water. This includes pools, bathtubs, and beaches, and other water sources.
  • Swimming lessons are a great opportunity for families to participate in fun activities that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. But on their own, they will not protect or prevent a child from drowning.
  • All children should be supervised by an adult when they are in or around water and should never be left alone in a pool or bathtub, even for a moment.
  • The Lifesaving Society recommends a supervision ratio of at least 1 adult for every 2 young children, and 1 adult for every baby.

Life jackets are different from PFDs. A life jacket can turn the person over from face-down to face-up. A PFD will keep a person floating, but not necessarily face-up. It is lighter and less bulky than a lifejacket. PFDs also keep people warmer in the water because the foam in the vest is spread more evenly around the body.

You can use either a lifejacket or a PFD for your child, as long as it is designed for children.

There is no safety standard for smaller infants. 

  • PFDs or life jackets should be worn by all infants who weigh at least 9 kg (20 lb) and by toddlers who are swimming or playing near or in the water.
  • Check the label to be sure that your child’s PFD or life jacket meets current national safety standards. It should be approved by at least one of the following: Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard or Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
  • It should be the right size for your child’s weight. Make sure it stays buckled up. Keep all safety straps fastened, including the crotch strap.
  • Remember that water wings, bathing suits with flotation devices in them, inflatable wings and other swim toys ARE NOT safety devices.

  • Swimming pools—whether in- or above-ground—should be fenced on four sides. That means NOT having direct access to a pool from a deck, patio or back door (the house doesn’t count as a “side”). The fence should be climbing-resistant and at least 1.2 m (4 ft.) high. Any gate to the pool area should be self-closing and self-latching.
  • Make sure that hot tubs and spas not contained within the fenced pool area have a locking hard cover or are located in an area that can be closed and locked.
  • Empty toddler and other portable backyard pools after use (at least once daily if you are using them every day). By not having standing water, you also help reduce the risk of mosquito spread illnesses.
  • Parents and pool owners should learn how to swim and how to rescue a drowning victim. They should also maintain certification in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Pool owners should have an emergency action plan, rescue equipment, and a telephone on the deck or poolside.
  • Slide or play equipment should be designed specifically for pool use.

What are some other water safety tips?

  • Use diapers designed for use in water. They don’t get as heavy as regular diapers and are less likely to cause your child to lose his balance in a wading pool.
  • Empty buckets and pails, ice chests with melted ice, or bathtubs as soon as you are done with them. Do not keep a container filled with water (such as a rain barrel) around your home unless the container is child resistant and labeled as such.
  • When your children are playing under a sprinkler, watch for pools of water collecting on the ground. They can be slippery. Move the sprinkler often, or take a break until the water has drained. Use sprinklers on grassy surfaces only, and make sure the play area is free of toys or other obstacles.
  • A backyard water slide should be used with caution. Set it up on a soft, grassy slope, free of bumps, and well away from trees or shrubs. Teach children to slide in a sitting position.
  • Keep children away from ponds and streams at any time of year, unless you are with them. Be extra cautious with fast currents that occur during spring runoff and after heavy down pours.

When can my child take swimming lessons?

There are many opinions and not a large body of research about the exact age when young children are ready to learn how to swim.

Several studies show that children do not have the skills to swim on their own until they are 4 years old, even if they start lessons at a younger age. The Red Cross offers ability-based classes that are ‘unparented’ as young as 3 years of age. Kids won’t really become competent swimmers until age 6 or 7.

If your child is younger than 4 years old, look for swimming programs that focus on building water confidence and that teach parents about water safety. This is a great way to have fun and be active with your child.

Teach your children these important swimming pool rules and follow them at all times:

  • No swimming without an adult.
  • No running or pushing.
  • No food or drinks.
  • No riding toys.

Safe sleep for babies

Safe sleep for babies

Good sleep habits are important for your baby’s physical health and emotional well-being. An important part of safe sleep is the place where your baby sleeps, his sleeping position, the kind of crib or bed, type of mattress and the home environment (i.e. smoke exposure).

Creating a safe sleep environment for your baby will lower the risk of injury and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is when an otherwise healthy baby dies suddenly and unexpectedly while sleeping. With SIDS, there is no known cause, even after a full investigation, including a full autopsy.  

SIDS is more common in babies whose parents smoke, especially those who smoke during pregnancy. It is also more common in babies who sleep on their stomach.

For the first 6 months, the safest place for your baby to sleep is on his back, in a crib in your room (co-sleeping). Having your baby close to you will make night-time breastfeeding easier, and may help protect against SIDS.

  • Starting from birth, and for the first year of life, place your baby on her back at night time and for naps. Do not use sleep positioners or rolled up blankets to keep your baby on her back. These items can cause your baby to suffocate. When she can turn over on her own, you don’t need to return her to the back position.
  • Use a firm, flat surface for sleep. Waterbeds, air mattresses, pillows, couches/sofas or soft materials are not safe sleep surfaces for babies. Babies can turn onto their side or stomach and bury their face in these soft materials, not getting enough air to breathe.
  • Car seats and infant carriers should not replace the crib for your baby’s sleep. 
  • Keep soft materials out of your baby’s sleep environment. Items that should not be in the crib include quilts, comforters, bumper pads, stuffed animals, pillows and other pillow-like items.  
  • Make sure your baby is not too warm. Instead of a blanket, use light sleeping clothing for your baby such as a one-piece sleeper, if the room is cool.  
  • If you choose to swaddle your baby, make sure that you follow a safe swaddling technique. The airway should be clear and enough room should be left for the legs to move. Stop swaddling when your baby shows signs of rolling over.
  • Keep your baby away from cigarette smoke. Babies whose mothers smoked while pregnant, and babies who are exposed to smoke after birth are at increased risk of SIDS. Choose a non-smoking caregiver for your baby. 
  • Be sure your baby’s crib meets Health safety standards. If your room is too small for a crib, use a cradle or a bassinet that also meets current Canadian safety regulations.
  • A playpen is not a safe alternative to a crib for unsupervised sleep. Babies have died as a result of a playpen collapsing or from getting trapped between a playpen and an accessory when left alone. 

    Some parents decide to bedshare, which means sleeping on the same surface with their baby. Adult beds are not designed with infant safety in mind. That’s why they are not the safest place for babies to sleep.

    Adult beds increase the risk of SIDS or suffocation:  

    • A baby can become trapped in a space between the mattress and the wall, or between the mattress and the bed frame.
    • A baby can fall off a bed.  
    • An adult or an older child can roll over and suffocate a baby.  
    • Soft bedding, such as comforters or duvets, can cover a baby’s head and cause overheating. Babies who get their head covered during sleep are at increased risk of SIDS.  
    • Co-sleeper products (infant bed that attaches to an adult bed) are not recommended.
    • Never lie down or sleep with your baby on a couch, sofa or armchair. Do not let your baby sleep alone, or with another person, on a couch, sofa or armchair. A baby can become trapped down the sides or in the cushions and suffocate.

    The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a crib close to your bed.  

    Breastmilk is the ideal food for babies. When you’re breastfeeding, having your baby near you makes night-time feedings easier. When you bring your baby into bed with you to breastfeed, it’s easy for both of you to fall asleep, especially when you are lying down. Here are some important points to consider before taking your baby into bed with you:  

    • Smoking during pregnancy or after the baby is born increases the risk of SIDS, especially if you share a bed with your baby and even if you never smoke in bed.
    • If you fall asleep with your baby, you may not be able to wake up easily and respond to him. This is more likely to happen if:   
      • You have had alcohol to drink.  
      • You have taken any drugs (legal or illegal) that could make you very sleepy.  
      • You are extremely tired (more than usual).  

      Never shake a baby

      Never shake a baby

      What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

      No child, at any age, should ever be shaken.The effects can be very serious and can include lifelong injury or even death.Shaking is not first aid! If your baby is not breathing, shaking will not help.

      Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when a baby or young child is shaken violently and sometimes repetitively (over and over), with or without the head hitting something. The effects can be very serious and can include lifelong injury or even death.Shaken Baby Syndrome is a type of abusive head trauma, which can cause:

      • Damage to a child’s brain.
      • Permanent disabilities, like blindness or paralysis.
      • Death.

      Children less than 1 year old are the most at risk because they cry more often, but older children can also be seriously injured if they are shaken violently. No child, at any age, should ever be shaken.


      • Check to see whether the crying is a signal that your baby needs something specific, like a diaper change, feeding, relief from being too hot or too cold, attention, or has a fever.
      • Hold your baby. This will not spoil him. However, some babies do not like being passed from person to person.
      • Wrap or swaddle your baby in a soft blanket.
      • Turn off the lights and keep surroundings quiet. Too much stimulation can trigger crying or make it worse.
      • Soft music, white noise or a gentle shushing noise can soothe some babies.
      • Many babies are soothed by motion. Try walking with baby in a sling or in a stroller. Rock or sway with baby in a gentle, rhythmic motion. Or try going for a car ride.      
      • Sucking sometimes helps babies to calm and relax. You can provide this by allowing your baby to breastfeed or by offering a pacifier.
      • Give your baby a warm bath.

      If your baby continues to cry after you’ve made sure there’s no specific problem, try to stay calm and be aware of how you feel. Are you upset? Are you frustrated? Are you angry? Take a moment to relax.

      Here are some suggestions to help calm yourself:

      • If you feel like you might lose control, stop! Place your child safely in the crib, take a time-out and leave your child’s room for as long as it takes you to feel calm.
      • Take slow and deep breaths.
      • Cry.
      • Take a shower.
      • Talk to a friend, family member, neighbor, or anyone else you trust, and get some support. Ask a trusted person to take care of your baby for a while so you can take a longer break.
      • If you ever feel you may hurt your baby, call for help: a family member, neighbor, a local crisis line, your child welfare agency, or police. Check the first pages of your local phone book for the emergency numbers in your area.

      It’s a good idea to have plan in place before you become upset or frustrated. Have a list of helpful numbers handy and clearly posted for all caregivers.

      There are often no marks or bruises on the baby’s skin. Common signs include:

      • Unusual sleepiness or extreme fussiness.
      • Refusing to eat, poor feeding or vomiting for no apparent reason.
      • The baby is no longer smiling, making eye contact, or babbling.
      • Stiff body or seizures (legs and arms become stiff or move in a repetitive, jerky manner).
      • The baby’s body is limp.
      • Difficulty breathing, or there is a change in breathing pattern.
      • The baby’s eyes become unfocused or roll back.

      What should you do if you think your baby has been shaken?

      • Call an ambulance or go to an emergency room immediately.

      Shaking is not first aid!

      If your baby is not breathing, shaking will not help. The only way to help a baby breathe is mouth-to-mouth breathing (using the correct technique for young infants). Call ambulance and start mouth-to-mouth breathing.

      Where can parents go for help and support?

      Being a parent or caregiver is not always easy. A baby’s constant crying can be stressful and cause you to feel frustrated. You’re probably not sleeping much while trying to meet your baby’s needs around the clock.
      Try to arrange for regular child care relief so you can get some rest. Find a friend, family member or someone else you trust who can look after your baby for periods while you get a break. If people that you trust offer help, accept it. Know your caregiver. Never leave your child with someone you don’t trust, someone who has violent reactions, or someone who is not comfortable with babies.

      Make sure that everyone in contact with your baby understands the dangers of shaking. This includes older siblings who may accidentally injure the baby in rough play.

      Remember, no matter how upset you feel, DON’T SHAKE YOUR BABY.

      If you have concerns or questions, talk to your paediatrician, family doctor or a public health nurse, and look for local community resources that support parents.

      If you think you might be struggling with depression, or know someone with a new baby who is, talk to your health care provider. Don’t harm a baby in a moment of frustration. The effects could last a lifetime.

      Keep your baby safe

      Keep your baby safe

      Injury is the leading cause of death among children in Canada. Some of the biggest dangers to babies are falls, burns, drowning, choking, suffocation, strangulation and car crashes. The good news is that these injuries are almost always preventable. 

      Parents can take steps to protect their new baby by: 

      • Recognizing everyday risks, and taking precautions.
      • Anticipating baby’s new skills, and being prepared.
      • Actively supervising babies and toddlers at all times.
      • Paying special attention at extra busy times of day.

      The best way to prevent injury is to watch, listen and stay nearby. When you have to move away from your baby, put him in a safe place, like his crib. 

      • Your baby can’t lift her head until she is about 4 months old, when her neck muscles are stronger, and then only for a short time. She can’t avoid conditions or objects that make it hard for her to breathe.
      • Your baby can squirm and move along a surface long before she can turn over by herself. Even a newborn can wriggle enough to fall off the change table, bed or sofa.
      • Your baby can grasp and shake things, reach for dangling objects, wave a fist and push down firmly with his legs—and fast enough to knock hot or sharp things from your hand.

      • Crib should include a permanent label and detailed manufacturing information, instructions and a warning statement about mattress size and proper use. Never use a crib that is missing this label or made before 1987.
      • Check that all the crib bars are present and secure.
      • The mattress should be firm, flat and fit tight within the crib frame.
      • Sheets should be smooth and tight-fitting.
      • Crib sides should lock securely in place when raised.
      • Place the crib away from windows, window coverings and blind cords.
      • Do not use bumper pads, pillows, lambskins, quilts, stuffed toys or comforters in the crib.
      • Hang mobiles out of reach of your baby’s hands and fasten them securely to both sides of the crib.
      • If you choose a bassinet or cradle, make sure it is CSA-approved and that you follow all manufacturer’s recommendations.
      • Install a smoke alarm in your baby’s room. 
      • Install a carbon monoxide detector outside the bedrooms so that you can hear it while sleeping.

      • Never leave your baby unattended especially when she is on a raised surface such as a bed, sofa or change table.
      • Make sure your change table has a guard rail and safety strap. Use them!
      • If the phone rings while you are changing a diaper, take your baby with you to answer it, or better yet, let it ring.
      • Store everything you need to change a baby within easy reach, so you don’t have to turn away.
      • Make sure your baby sling or front carrier is appropriate for your baby’s age and size. It should support her head and shoulders and have small leg openings, so she can’t slip out. If you bend over, hold your baby against you with one hand so she won’t fall.

      • Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of the home and in every sleeping area. Test alarms monthly and change the batteries twice a year (i.e., when you change the clocks in the spring and fall).
      • Do not allow smoking in your home. Many house fires are caused by careless smoking or children playing with lighters and matches. Also, cigarettes and cigarette butts are poisonous to young children. 
      • Set your hot water heater temperature to 49°C (120°F), or put an anti-scald device on your faucets. A baby’s skin burns very easily.
      • Before bathing, check the water temperature with your elbow or wrist. It should feel warm, not hot. Bathe your baby away from the faucets, and remove him from the tub before running the hot water again.
      • Never carry a baby and a hot drink at the same time.
      • Use plastic mats instead of a table cloth that your baby might pull on and cause a spill of hot liquid.
      • Don’t heat breast milk or formula in a microwave. Dangerous “hot spots” can burn a baby’s mouth. Warm a bottle in a pot of hot water instead, and test the milk on your wrist before feeding.

      • A baby can drown—very quickly and quietly—in as little as 5 cm (2 inches) of water. Always watch and have at least one hand on your baby when she’s in the bathtub, wading pool or near any standing water.
      • Have everything you need for bathing at hand, so that you never have to turn away.
      • Don’t use a bath seat or ring. They are not safe.
      • Never leave your baby alone in the bath with a brother or sister, even for a few seconds.
      • Do not use a cell phone during bath time. If you must answer, take your baby with you.

      Choking, suffocation or strangulation

      You can use an empty toilet paper roll to test for choking hazards in your home. If an item is small enough to pass through it, it’s a choking hazard.

      If your baby uses a soother, make sure it’s one piece with a shield to prevent him from sucking the nipple too far into his mouth. Discard any soother that shows signs of wear or is more than 2 months old. 

      In your baby’s crib:

      • Keep soft materials out of your baby’s crib. Items that shouldn’t be in the crib include quilts, comforters, bumper pads, pillows or stuffed animals. Keep the crib away from window blinds or cords. 
      • Remove your crib mobile when your baby is 4 months old or when he starts pushing himself up on his hand and knees.

      When awake and at play:

      • Vacuum often, and never leave small objects within your baby’s reach. He will put anything and everything in his mouth.
      • Don’t keep toys with pull strings longer than 20 cm (8 inches) or toys that have small, loose or breakable parts that your baby could swallow or inhale.
      • Don’t use bibs with ties.
      • Don’t hang pacifiers, a necklace or anything else around your baby’s neck. Use a clip with a short ribbon attached to your baby’s soother instead.
      • Don’t use amber necklaces to reduce teething pain. These necklaces made of small amber beads on a string are worn around a baby’s neck and are said to relieve teething pain. Your baby can choke on the beads or be strangled by the necklace. Use a teething ring instead.
      • Keep all plastic bags out of reach and out of sight.
      • Latex balloons are a choking hazard and shouldn’t be used.
      • Avoid clothing with drawstrings at the neck or waist. For winter, use a neck warmer instead of a scarf and mitten clips instead of strings.
      • Keep magnets, especially toy magnets that are small enough to be swallowed, away from your baby. They are extremely dangerous. If your baby swallows two or more magnets, they can attract to one another even through your baby’s intestinal walls and become trapped in her body, causing serious injury. Jewelry magnets should be kept out of reach.

      Car safety

      All babies need a rear-facing car seat for their first ride home from the hospital. Your baby will use this seat whenever you travel– even the shortest distance– for one year or longer. While babies may use a forward-facing car seat once they are at least one year old and at least 10 kg, it is safest for them to rear-face as long as possible. Look for a car seat with the highest rear-facing weight and length limits once your child has outgrown their first car seat.

      • Always install the car seat in the rear seat—the middle position is the safest.
      • Read the manufacturer’s instructions for the car seat and follow all age, height and weight specifications. 
      • Secure the car seat using the Universal Anchorage System (UAS or LATCH), which is now mandatory in all car models. Follow both the car seat and car manual instructions. If the UAS system does not secure the seat adequately, then use the seat belt, as indicated in the car seat instructions. 
      • Check that the car seat does not move more than 2.5 cm (1 inch) forward or from side to side once it is installed.
      • Harness straps should be threaded just at or below your baby’s shoulders. The chest clip should be at armpit level and the harness should fit snugly.
      • Tuck a blanket around your baby if needed instead of using a bunting bag.
      • Don’t use a car seat that has been in a car crash, even a minor one. It is not safe.
      • Never leave your baby unattended in a car, even to run a quick errand.

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