As it warms up outside, parents become increasingly interested in the topics of sun exposure. From understanding the SPF in sunblock to how to treat sunburn, parents want to know how to enjoy the sun safely. Here are a few tips you might find helpful to get the most enjoyment for your fun in the sun.
•MEXPOSED: HOW TO PRACTICE PROPER SUN SAFETY
Let’s keep in mind that sunshine is not our enemy! Sunlight delivers a significant source of Vitamin D necessary for healthy bones to absorb Calcium. What may be surprising is that 15 minutes of sunlight exposure a day without sunscreen is adequate for the skin to produce the necessary amount of this vitamin.
Most sun damage occurs as a result of typical exposure during day-to-day activities, not at the beach. The goal for summer safety is to avoid prolonged or repeated sun exposure to reduce your child’s chances of developing skin cancer later in life. Generally, pediatricians recommend children stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit direct sun exposure between the hours of 10am and 4pm.
•MCOVER UP ON SUNNY DAYS
When enjoying sunny activities when it’s not too hot outside, dress your child in lightweight long pants and sleeves with a brimmed hat to shade their face and neck. The importance of toddlers wearing lightweight clothing cannot be over emphasized, to avoid overheating and dehydration with rising afternoon temperatures. If you are planning on heading to the beach or a park, call ahead to see if they offer rentals of sun-protective gear. Umbrellas and pop-up play tents are essential summer gear.
•MSUNCREEN APPLICATION: WHEN AND WHY
It is important to apply enough sunscreen on your child. A good rule of thumb is to pour two “ketchup packets worth” into the palm of your hand at least 15 minutes before going out into the sun. You’ll need to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating, no matter what the level of SPF. When your child is near water or sand (or even snow!) the UV rays reflect and intensify onto your child’s skin, even in indirect sun and can result in sunburn more quickly.
If your infant is at least 6 months old, and it’s not possible to remain in adequate shade or wear appropriate clothing, parents can apply a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15. Keep in mind that infants have thinner skin and underdeveloped amounts of melanin.
Their skin burns more easily than that of older kids. Melanin is a protective skin element that reacts with UV rays as a first line of defense, absorbing harmful ones before they do serious skin damage. But sunscreen should not be applied to babies under 6 months of age, so keep them out of the sun whenever possible.
•MWHICH SPF DO I USE? DECODING SUNSCREEN
On both sunny and overcast days, use a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15(preferably SPF 30 or greater) that protects against both types of potentially harmful rays: UVA and UVB. The SPF of a sunscreen measures the effectiveness of the sunscreen – therefore, the higher the SPF, the more protection, essentially.
But, here is an important fact about SPF that most parents are unaware of:
If you apply an SPF of 15, 92% of the UVB rays are filtered. But if you apply an SPF of 50, you only add 1% to 2% more protection than an SPF 30. The higher SPF values don’t allow you to leave your child in the sun three times longer! SPF does not measure the protection against UVA rays that are responsible for skin aging and skin cancer, only UVB.
•MWHICH TYPE OF SUNSCREEN IS BEST?
There are two types of sunscreen: chemical and mineral.
Chemical sunscreens, containing Oxybenzone, are absorbed by the skin and enter the bloodstream. Oxybenzone has a concerning and somewhat unproven safety profile so when choosing chemical sunscreen choose one containing avobenzone or octisalate instead.
Mineral sunblock are made from Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, which generally do not penetrate the skin and offer protection against both types of UV rays. Think of mineral sunblock as a “physical barrier” on top of the skin.
Regardless of which type you choose, the way your child’s skin reacts to a specific product is an important deciding factor. Rashes and irritation can be unwanted side effects, especially if your child has sensitive skin, so don’t choose a sunscreen containing PABA.
•MRED LOBSTER: HOW TO TREAT A SUNBURN
Sunburns are sneaky. Your child can develop signs of a sunburn hours after being in the sun. They can gradually feel sick. Some develop chills and painful, itchy skin.
If your child is suffering from sunburn, these tips may help:
- Have your child take a cool (not cold) bath.
- Apply cool, wet compresses to soothe the skin and aloe vera gel available at any pharmacy.
- Give your child an anti-inflammatory medication (ibuprofen or acetaminophen to lessen the pain and itching).
- Apply a non-petroleum based topical moisturizing cream.
- If the sunburn is severe or blisters develop, call your doctor.
Keep in mind that every child needs extra sun protection, regardless of their skin tone, because dark-skinned kids also can develop painful sunburns.
Enjoy the most beautiful time of year with your child and HAVE A SAFE AND SUNNY SUMMER!