Your children will probably be playing outside a lot this summer. Spending time in the sun without protection can cause sunburn and other health problems. Here are some tips to keep your kids safe.
How the Sun can Cause Damage
The sun emits light that contains ultraviolet rays. UVA rays can cause the skin to age and wrinkle and can lead to skin cancer. UVB rays can cause sunburn and cataracts, which can lead to blurred vision. UVB rays can also affect the immune system and cause skin cancer.
Skin contains melanin, a chemical that provides some protection from the sun. People with lighter skin have less melanin than people with darker skin. All children need sun protection, regardless of their skin tone. Both a tan and a sunburn are signs that the skin has been damaged.
Ways to Protect Your Kids From the Sun
When your kids play outdoors, keep them in shaded areas as much as possible, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Have your kids play in a covered location, such as under a tree, tent or umbrella, if the sun is strong.
Long-sleeved shirts and pants made with tightly woven fabrics can protect your kids from the sun’s UV rays. Hats can protect their faces, ears, necks and scalps. If your kids like to wear baseball caps, apply sunscreen to exposed areas, such as the ears and neck. Have your kids wear sunglasses that wrap around to protect their eyes from the sun’s rays.
Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays and has at least SPF 30. If your kids are going to be in the water, choose a water-resistant sunscreen.
Apply a generous amount of sunscreen 30 minutes before your kids go outside. Cover frequently overlooked areas, such as the nose, ears, neck and tops of the feet. Under most circumstances, you should reapply sunscreen every two hours. If your kids swim or sweat a lot in the sun, you may need to reapply it more often. Monitor your children’s skin for signs of irritation or an allergic reaction. Call your pediatrician if you have any concerns.
Since babies’ skin is thinner than the skin of older kids and adults, and since infants have underdeveloped melanin, their skin can burn easily. Keep an infant under six months old in the shade as much as possible. If you must take your baby out on a sunny day, dress him or her in protective clothing and a hat. If necessary, use a tiny amount of sunscreen with SPF 15. Read the label to make sure it’s safe for infants.
Other Important Facts
The sun’s rays can penetrate clouds. That means it’s possible to suffer the ill effects of sun exposure, even on a cloudy day.
Some prescription and over-the-counter medications can increase sun sensitivity. Ask your pediatrician or pharmacist if a medicine your child takes could make them more sensitive to the sun.