Posted on June 29, 2017 by CHS
Summer time means more time outdoors, vacations, and summer camps for children, all of which translates to more sunlight exposure. Sunlight exposure is especially strong during summer time and will require extra safety precautions to avoid major skin damage from sunburns or skin cancer. This doesn’t mean you should avoid sunlight completely as it is our body’s main source of vitamin D, which according to KidsHealth, “helps our bodies absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones.” It means, however, that we need to make sure our skin is well protected while we are outside. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it is “estimate[d] that 80% of lifetime sun exposure occurs during childhood – and that just one blistering sunburn can double the risk of getting melanoma later in life.” Protect your child by using the tips below to lower his risk of skin cancer in the future.
Avoid the outdoors in the midday hours
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are invisible rays that radiate from sunlight and are the cause of tanning, burning, eye damage, immune system suppression, and other skin damage. UV rays are at their strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is recommended that parents and children stay indoors during those hours or stay in as much shade as possible if out and about. If your child is going to be outside during these hours, be sure to apply and reapply sunscreen generously to protect her skin. There is a misconception that one won’t get sunburned if the sun is covered by clouds, however, this is false. UV rays are able to penetrate clouds to reflect off of sand, water, and concrete. Make sure your child is still protected from the sun’s rays on these days.
Lathering up with sunscreen is the best thing you can do for your child to protect his skin. Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before your child goes outside. Dermatologists recommend applying 1 ounce of sunscreen to cover the body. Choose a sunscreen that is labeled for “Broad Spectrum” with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher as it will lower the risk of sunburn and other damage. Make sure to reapply every 2 hours as sunscreen wears off over time. When applying sunscreen, make sure to apply it to small and exposed areas like ears, hands, feet, shoulders, and behind the neck.
Protect with clothes
Protect your child’s skin by covering with clothes. Comfortable long-sleeved shirts and long pants are best to shield the skin. You can also bring along an umbrella or tent so that your child can cool off after playing around outside. Younger children, including infants, require extra care as they have a thinner outer layer of skin and less protection against the sun damage. Dress your infant with clothes that cover her whole body and with a wide-brimmed hat to protect her face. If there is still some skin exposed, you may apply a small amount of sunscreen for those areas.
Although skin requires the most attention when it comes to sun safety, eyes are just as important. According to KidsHeath, “even 1 day in the sun can result in a burned cornea (the outermost, clear membrane layer of the eye). Cumulative exposure can lead to cataracts (clouding of the eye lens, which leads to blurred vision) later in life.” Have your child wear sunglasses when going outside to protect his eyes from the UV rays. When obtaining sunglasses for your child, make sure they have a label indicating 100% UV protection. Some lenses are made out of darkened plastic/glass or without UV filters, so it is important to find lenses with proper protection.
When sunburns do occur
Despite following all the tips, your child may still get sunburned for various reasons. Sunburns can cause pain, a sensation of heat, itching, and peeling in the burned area. Encourage your child to not scratch or peel off loose skin because the skin underneath will be exposed to infection. To recover from sunburn, have your child take a cool bath to relieve the pain and apply pure aloe vera gel, and moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin. However, if the sunburn is more severe and there are blisters or anything worse than described above, contact your child’s doctor as the burn can cause long-term damage if not treated correctly.
Children tend to copy their parents’ actions. Be a good role model by following these tips yourself as it will encourage your child to adopt your behavior. Wear your sunglasses often, apply and reapply sunscreen thoroughly and in a timely manner, cover your skin, and find shady areas while outdoors. Your child may learn some of your habits and apply them through adulthood.
To learn more about sun safety for young children, see the links below.
- http://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/ (This is to find ratings on sunscreens and their effectiveness)
- http://cchp.ucsf.edu/sites/cchp.ucsf.edu/files/Sunscr_SunSm.pdf (English permission form for a child care to apply sunscreen)