Outdoor Safety

Outdoor Safety 

Sun Safety 

As a parent, it is important for you to protect yourself and your family from the sun. The sun gives off ultraviolet (UV) radiation which can be harmful. If your baby or toddler spends too much time in the sun without skin protection they are at greater risk for skin cancer later in life.

Keep these sun safety tips in mind when caring for your baby or toddler:

  • Keep babies under 1 year out of direct sunlight at all times. Babies have less natural sun protection and burn easily.
  • Place a canopy or umbrella over your baby's stroller to give shade.
  • Cover your baby's skin with tightly woven long pants and long sleeved shirts.
  • Use a wide-brimmed hat to protect your baby's face, ears, and neck.
  • Protect your baby's eyes with close fitting/wrap-around sunglasses with UV 400 or 100% UV protection. Choose sunglasses for children and babies that are unbreakable.
  • Do not apply sunscreen to a baby less than 6 months old.
  • After 6 months of age, apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, labelled "broad-spectrum" and "water-resistant".
  • Reapply sunscreen when needed (especially after swimming, sweating or toweling off).
  • If insect repellent and sunscreen are both needed, the sunscreen should be put on first. You should wait 20 minutes and then apply the insect repellent. 

Know your daily UV Index

  • Check your local radio, TV stations or online for the UV Index forecast in your area
  • Limit the time in the sun when the UV Index is 3 or higher, usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., between April and September.

You are an important role model. Practice Sun Safety!

Keeping babies and toddlers safe during hot weather

Keep babies and toddlers safe during hot weather and limit the time they spend outdoors during the hottest part of the day.

Babies and toddlers are more at risk of dehydrating because they have a high metabolic rate, produce more heat, and are smaller. It is also more difficult for them to cool down.

Heat Illness

Be alert for signs that your child is experiencing heat illness and needs to go inside.

These include:

  • thirst
  • fatigue
  • leg or stomach cramps
  • cool, moist skin

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. For more information visit the Canadian Pediatric Society website.

Signs of dehydration in children

  • increased thirst
  • a decrease in the number of wet diapers and less frequent urination (fewer than 4 wet diapers in 24 hours for babies or no urine for more than 8 hours in older children) 
  • drowsiness
  • a feeling of floating 
  • concentrated, dark urine 
  • irritability or listlessness 
  • hot, dry skin 
  • decreased mental alertness 
  • a dry mouth 
  • the absence of tears when the child cries 
  • skin that does not flatten after being pinched 
  • vomiting or diarrhea 
  • a higher body temperature 
  • a sunken fontanel 
  • sunken eyes 
  • a decrease in activity level 

Consult a health care professional if you suspect your child is dehydrated.

Help children avoid dehydration

  • Breastfeeding according to child’s cues should be encouraged for all breastfed infants/children.  If you are breastfeeding your child, remember to keep yourself hydrated so you can produce a sufficient amount of milk.
  • Babies under 6 months of age do not need extra water in hot weather however, you may need to feed them more often.
  • Encourage babies over 6 months and children to drink frequently. Offer small amounts of water between feeds.
  • Keep babies and toddlers close to watch for signs of thirst/hunger.
  • Avoid serving drinks with caffeine or large amounts of sugar.
  • Bring them into air-conditioned or cooler places like shopping malls, libraries, community centres, or a friend’s place.
  • Give them a cool bath or shower or cool them down with wet towels.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Reduce, eliminate, or reschedule any strenuous activity.
  • Make sure they are well rested.

Do not cover your child's stroller or car seat with a blanket. This will increase the temperature inside the stroller. Instead, bring your child to a shady area or use a portable stroller fan, if possible. Be alert for signs that your child is experiencing heat illness and needs to go inside. 

Never leave a child in a parked vehicle or in direct sunlight. When outside air temperature is 23ºC/73ºF, the temperature inside a vehicle can be extremely dangerous – more than 50ºC/122ºF.

Look twice before locking. Always keep cars locked while in garages or driveways to prevent children from inadvertently becoming trapped. The Canada Safety Council suggests making a habit of placing your cell phone, purse or wallet in the back seat — a strategy that requires you to turn around and check the back seat whenever you leave the vehicle.

When children go outside

  • Dress them in light-coloured, loose-fitting, and lightweight clothing with a tight weave to cover their arms and legs.
  • Encourage children to keep out of direct sunlight. Have them rest frequently in the shade.
  • Teach them to take frequent breaks and to come indoors if they feel overheated.
  • Always use a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher, and reapply it at least every 2 hours. Don’t apply sunscreen to a child less than 6 months old. 
  • If they are swimming or playing in water make sure their sunscreen is water-resistant.
  • Choose a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Have water nearby.

Keep your home cool

  • If you have an air conditioner with a thermostat, keep it set to the highest setting that is comfortable (somewhere between 22o/72oF and 26oC/79oF) which will reduce your energy costs and provide needed relief. If you are using a window air conditioner, cool only one room where you can for heat relief.
  • Prepare meals that don’t need to be cooked in your oven
  • Block the sun by closing awnings, curtains or blinds during the day
  • If safe, open your windows at night to  let cooler air onto your home

If your home is extremely hot

  • Take a break from the heat and spend a few hours with your child in a cool place. It could be a tree-shaded area, swimming facilitysplash pad or an air-conditioned spot such as a shopping mall, grocery store or public library.
  • Bathe your child in a cool bath until your child feels refreshed. Always supervise your child in the bath.
  • If using a fan, keep it a safe distance from the child and aim the air flow in their direction.
Protecting your Family from Mosquito and Tick Bites


Being active in nature is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. Ottawa is home to many beautiful trails, wooded areas, and scenery. While enjoying the great outdoors, take steps to prevent tick and mosquito bites.  You can help by making this part of your family’s regular routine.


Ticks are most often found in wooded, shrubby, long-grassed, or leaf-littered areas providing shade and humidity and the strip immediately bordering such areas. Such tick habitat can be found throughout Ottawa’s geographic area.

What can I do to protect my family from tick bites?

You can practice simple steps to help minimize exposure to ticks. You can make these steps part of your regular routine, if you will be in areas suitable for ticks.

  • Before heading outside, apply sunscreen half an hour before so it can be absorbed into the skin. 
  • Once outside, apply a Canada approved insect repellent containing DEET or icaridin to exposed skin and clothing. Insect repellents containing DEET can be used safely when applied as directed and in the right concentration, depending on age. Visit the Health Canada website to find out which concentration of DEET is best for you and your children. (Sunscreen and insect repellant combination products are not recommended.)
  • Wear long pants, a long sleeved shirt, shoes and socks to cover exposed skin, and tuck your pants into your socks. It will be easier to spot a tick if you choose light coloured clothing.
  • Try to stay on the trails when hiking in the woods and avoid walking in long grass.
  • When you get home, do a tick check on yourself, your children and your pets. Pay careful attention around your toes, knees, groin, armpits and scalp. Try to make tick checks a fun, daily activity with your children so they will want to do one.
  • If you find a tick remove it as soon as possible.  The risk of getting Lyme disease increases with the length of time the tick remains attached.
    • Use fine-pointed tweezers
    • Grasp the tick's head as close to the skin as possible and pull slowly until the tick is removed.
    • Do not twist or rotate the tick. Do not use a match, lotion or anything else on the tick.
    • Wash the bite site with soap and water.
    • See your health care provider if:
      • the tick has been attached for 24 hours or more, or
      • you are unsure how long, or
      • the ticks body looks partially or fully swollen from feeding even if you think it may have been less than 24 hours
    • Monitor yourself:
      • All people bitten by a tick need to monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of Lyme disease for 32 days, even if the doctor gave single dose of antibiotics to prevent onset of illness.
  • Here are some tips to help make your home environment less favourable to ticks:
    • Keep grass mowed
    • Remove brush and fallen leaves from edges of your property, especially if yard is bordered by woods or fields of tall grass
    • Clean up areas under and around bird feeders to reduce attracting small critters such as mice and voles that carry ticks
    • Discourage deer from entering your yard, as ticks also feed on these animals
    • Keep woodpile neat, dry, off the ground, and away from house
  • Teach your children about ticks. Encourage your children to let you know if they find one, so it can be safely removed. Ticks are very small and not easy to see – nymphs are poppy seed-sized and adults are sesame seed-sized. 

Summer Camps and Daycares:

  • If your child is attending a summer camp or daycare, speak with the organizer. Make sure that applying insect repellent and sunscreen before outdoor play is part of the regular routine.
  • Ask how the camp will address finding ticks on the campers. It is important that you are notified when your child will be going into a forested area so you can conduct a tick check at home.
  • To learn more about ticks and Lyme Disease, visit the Ottawa Public Health website.  


You can help protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites by following the tips below.

  • Apply an approved mosquito repellent to exposed skin and clothing. Insect repellents containing DEET can be used safely when applied as directed and in the right concentration, depending on age. Visit the Health Canada website to find out which concentration of DEET is best for you and your children.
  • Wear loose-fitting, tightly woven, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, shoes and socks to limit exposed skin. Be aware that mosquitoes are attracted to darker colours and can still bite through thin, clingy clothing.
  • Try to avoid spending time outdoors between dusk and dawn since this is when mosquitoes are most active. Mosquitoes are also active during the day in or near shady and wooded areas.
  • Make sure all window and doors in your home have well-fitting screens that are in good condition.

Reduce Standing Water

Did you know that mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water (water that does not move or flow)? Mosquitoes need water to breed.

Check around your home to see if you have areas with standing water. This can be a fun activity with your little ones too!  Here are some frequent spots where you might find standing water:

  • Old tires or tire swings (tip: drill large holes in the bottom of the tire to drain water!)
  • Rainwater barrels (tip: ensure every opening is covered by insect screening)
  • Children’s toys
  • Flowerpots and their saucers
  • Wading pools
  • Patio furniture
  • Wheelbarrows
  • Anything that will hold even a little water for a week!

Tips for reducing standing water:

  • Clean eaves troughs regularly to prevent clogs that trap water.
  • Tip fishing boats and other gear onto their sides to drain.
  • Replace the water in bird baths at least once a week.

For more information on mosquitoes, visit the Ottawa Public Health website


Winter Safety

Did you know that the months of December, January and February are the coldest months of the Ottawa winter? It is hard to stay away from the cold weather but there are things you can do to protect your child.

Frostbite happens when your skin that is not covered starts to freeze. You will see it most often on the cheeks, ears, nose, fingers and toes.

Hypothermia occurs when your body's temperature drops too low.

Safety Tips

  • Keep your child indoors if the temperature is below -25°C, or when the windchill is -28°C or greater.
  • Make sure your child always wears a hat that completely covers their ears.
  • Use neck warmers instead of scarves.
  • Take frequent breaks inside for a warm drink.
  • Keep your child active.
  • Cover their skin with layers of clothing. Consider thermal underwear, undershirts, sweaters, two pairs of socks, and/or two pairs of mittens..
  • Always remove your child's wet clothing and boots immediately.

For more information on winter safety, visit Health Canada (PDF).

Helmet Safety

Looking to buy your child a helmet? Here are some important points to remember:

  • Buy a helmet that fits them now, not for them to grow into.
  • Look for safety certification inside or outside the helmet.
  • Buying a second-hand helmet is not recommended.

For children under five years of age: There are special helmets for toddlers (under age five) that provide more protection at the back of the head. Some children may outgrow the “toddler” size helmet before age five and should use a bigger helmet. When buying a helmet for a child, buy one that fits now, and not one they will grow into.

Are you wondering if your child is wearing the right helmet and if it fits properly? Check out the following sections to help answer your questions:

Planning to use a bike carrier or bike trailer for your child?

It is not recommended that children under the age of 1 be in a trailer or carrier. Bike helmets are not made for children under the age of 1 year old because they do not yet have good neck and head control to support a helmet.  They also are not able to handle the movement and bouncing during the bike ride.

After the age of 1, it is important that your child wears a properly-fitting bike helmet and is strapped into the trailer or carrier at all times. Be sure to set a good example and protect yourself by wearing a helmet too.

For more information on preventing injuries while using a bike carrier or trailer and to identify the possible risks, visit Parachute

Is your child riding a tricycle?

It is usually around the age of 3 that children are ready and able to ride a tricycle. A bike helmet is required to protect your child against a head injury.

There are 'toddler' sized helmets that you can buy for your child. These helmets come down lower at the back of the head for more protection, and help support the weaker head and neck muscles. Some children may outgrow these helmets before age 5 and should then use a bigger helmet.

Helmets come with extra padding that can be added to the inside if needed.  This extra padding can be used at the front and the back of your child's helmet to make sure that it fits them properly. 

Bike Helmets

Anyone under the age of 18 is required to wear an approved bike helmet. Have your child put on the helmet so that it is not tilting backwards or forwards. Then check the following:

cartoon showing Two fingers distance from helmet to eyebrowcartoon showing V-shape straps around each earCartoon showing One finger between chin and fastened strap
  • Two fingers distance from helmet to eyebrow
  • V-shape straps around each ear
  • One finger between chin and fastened strap

Have your child shake their head up and down, and side to side. Their helmet should stay in place and feel comfortably snug. 

Hockey  Helmets

Children 10 years old and younger must always wear a CSA-certified hockey helmet to skate in City of Ottawa indoor arenas. However, helmets are always recommended for any activity on ice.  Bicycle helmets are NOT recommended for skating.

Have your child put on the helmet so that it is not tilting backwards or forwards. Then check the following:

cartoon child showing one finger distance from helmet to eyebrowcartoon child showing One finger between the chinstrap and chincartoon child showing helmet does not move

  • One finger distance from helmet to eyebrow
  • One finger between the chinstrap and chin
  • Helmet does not move

Have your child shake their head up and down, and side to side. Their helmet should stay in place and feel comfortably snug.

Helmets are recommended for all ages while taking part in recreational activities. 

How do helmets protect your child's head?

Helmets prevent the risk of serious head injuries by absorbing the force from a fall or a hit to the head. There are many types of helmets. Most helmets fit into one of the following categories:

  • Single Impact - made to protect against ONE impact. It must be replaced after a crash or hard hit, even if it does not look like it has been damaged. For example, this applies to bike helmets.
  • Multi Impact - made to protect against more than one impact. It must be replaced if you see any damage. For example, this applies to hockey helmets
  • Multi Sport - have been approved for more than one activity and are mostly single impact. It is important to check the manufacturer's label for the list of activities that this helmet can be safely worn. For example, this applies to some bike helmets that have been approved to be used for biking, in-line skating, and skateboarding.
Recommended helmets for different activities


Recommended Helmet

Type of Protection

(Canadian, US, European)

Non-motorized scooters

Bicycle helmet

Single impact


In-line skating

Roller skating  

Bicycle, in-line skating or skateboard helmet

Mostly single impact


BMX cycling

BMX helmet

Single/Multi impact



Skateboard helmet

Multi impact

ASTM, Snell, CEN,

Ice hockey 

Hockey helmet

Multi impact


Ice skating

Hockey helmet

Multi impact




Ski or snowboard helmet

Single impact

Snell, ASTM, CSA



Ski, snowboard or hockey


Single/Multi impact

CSA, CPSC, Snell


Sport-specific helmet recommendations from Parachute Canada.  Parachute Canada encourages you to refer to the manufacturer guidelines and manuals. 

Other sport helmets
  • Make sure your child's helmet is level on their head and not leaning forwards or backwards.
  • Adjust the side and chin straps according to the manufacturer instructions.
  • Have your child shake their head up and down and side to side. Their helmet should stay in place and feel comfortably snug.
When should you replace your child's helmet?
  • After a crash or large impact
  • When it does not fit anymore
  • If the helmet has a crack or is dented.
  • When the straps are frayed, torn straps or do not work.
  • Every five years.  The plastics of the helmet dry out and may become brittle over time.  Also, many helmets can only take one impact before they must be replaced.  Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.  Hockey helmets are designed to protect against more than one impact.  They must be replaced when they are damaged, cracked, have loose-fitting or missing liner pieces, or have had a severe blow.  Replace helmets every five years.    
Does it matter if your child puts stickers on their helmet?

Stickers are not recommended because they have adhesive on them. This adhesive can make the plastic of the helmet weak. Some sticker adhesives may be compatible with the plastic of your child's helmet, but if you don't know, it's best not to use them.


Playground Safety

Safe Playground Fun

Playgrounds are a great place to have fun and be active with your child!

Did you know that playing outdoors has many benefits for your child? They include:

  • Improved mental and emotional health
  • Improved physical health and muscle strength
  • Better concentration and higher grades in school

Playing outside is important for your child’s development. It is also important to keep your child safe from preventable injuries.  Here are the most common injuries:

  • Falls from monkey bars for children, aged 4 to 10. Many of these falls result in a broken bone or head and neck injury.
  • Infants and teens are more likely to be injured on the swings. Infants need to be able to sit up on their own before being on a swing. 

Most of these injuries are preventable through:

  • Active supervision for the age and development of the child
  • Following simple safety guidelines

Playground Safety Tips for Parents:

  • Stay close enough that you can take action if needed. Stay alert, pay close attention, and anticipate hazards.
  • Remember the 5 under 5 rule! If your child is 5 years old or younger, encourage play on equipment that is less than 5 feet in height.
  • Avoid distractions, such as reading and cell phone use.  
  • Avoid using playground equipment in the winter. It is more dangerous to fall on frozen ground.
  • Have your child wear rubber soled shoes with tied laces.
  • Call your local park authority at 3-1-1 or your school office, if there are any hazards such as sharp objects or garbage in or around the playground area.
  • For more playground safety tips, go to Parachute Canada.

While at the playground encourage your child to:

  • Wait their turn
  • Slide down feet first
  • Use the equipment as it was meant to be used
  • Keep away from moving swings and the bottom of slides
  • Do not use the equipment when it is wet since it can be extra slippery
  • Walk away from bullying and unsafe situations
  • Before using the playground, remove helmets, scarves, drawstrings and cords

Keep bikes and bags away from equipment and play area to prevent tripping

Backyard Play Structures

Backyard play structures should meet the Canadian Standards Association Canadian Playground Safety Standards. Some of the standards are:

  • Surface area around playground equipment should be deep with a soft surface such as:
    • sand
    • pea gravel
    • mulch
    • rubber chips.
  • Surface depth for children 5 years old and younger should be 15 cm (6 inches) and 30 cm (12 inches) for older children.
  • Openings in the equipment should be less than 9 cm (3.5 inches) or greater than 22.5 cm (9 inches). This is to prevent a child’s head from getting stuck.

For more information on playground equipment standards, go to Canadian Standards Association or call 1-800-463-6727.

It is important to know that backyard trampolines can cause serious injuries. These injuries can happen even when adults are supervising and with the use of safety nets.  The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends “trampolines should not be used as play equipment.”  For more information go to Canadian Paediatric Society, Caring for Kids.

Remember, backyard kiddy pools are a potential hazard for drownings.  Active supervision of your child and emptying the kiddy pool after use, will help keep your child safe.  For information on water safety, go to Parenting in Ottawa.

Check Ottawa Parks for a list of playgrounds in your neighbourhood.  

Water Safety

Did you know that drowning can occur in as little as 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water? According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, drowning is the second most common cause of death for children less than 5 years of age.

General Safety

To keep your kids safe around water, follow these tips:

  • Your child should always be within arm's reach of an adult when they are in or around water. This includes pools, bathtubs, bodies of water, and other water sources. They should never be alone, even for a moment.
  • Your child should wear lifejackets or personal flotation devices in and around water.
  • Your baby should be held by an adult if they cannot yet sit without support.
  • Swimming lessons are great for your child but alone, they will not protect or prevent your child from drowning.
  • Know what do in an emergency, including CPR and calling 9-1-1.

Backyard Pools

According to Parachute, nearly half of all child drownings occur in backyard swimming pools. Follow these tips to help ensure pool safety:

  • Your child must be supervised by an adult at all times.
  • Have safety equipment nearby, such as a non-metal reaching pole, a throwing line with buoyant aid, a first aid kit and a phone.
  • Bring everything you need such as drinks, snacks, sunscreen, toys, and towels, before allowing your child into the pool.
  • Use signs to show deep and shallow ends to avoid injuries that could occur from diving in the shallow end.
  • Store chemicals properly. All chemicals, including chlorine, should be out of your child's reach.

New Rules for Backyard Pools

All pool owners in the City of Ottawa must have pool enclosure gates that are self-closing, self-latching and locked at all times, except when the pool area is in use. See Pool Enclosure By-law (No.2013-39) for more information. 

Do you have more questions about parenting?

  • Connect with a registered nurse from Health811 for free, secure, and confidential health advice. Service is available 24/7 in English and French, with translation support also offered in other languages. Call 8-1-1 or visit Health811.ontario.ca.
  • Connect with a Community Navigator from 2-1-1 for information about community programs and resources across Eastern Ontario. Helpline service is available 24/7 and in many different languages. Call 2-1-1 or visit 211ontario.ca.
  • Connect with other parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page.
  • There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa.
  • You can update your child's immunization record using either the CANImmunize App or the Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) Tool
  • If you have received a message from Ottawa Public Health such as a letter or a call regarding immunization, an infectious disease, or infection control lapse, please call 613-580-6744 and listen to the menu options carefully.

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