Summer sun safety for kids

Summer is finally here! Families are ready to spend their days outside swimming, playing on the beach, picnicking at the lake or just hanging out together in the yard. With so many fun activities, don’t forget to take care of your child’s skin.

Most of us worry only about sunburn, but too much sun exposure can also set up your child for skin cancer and premature aging. Too much sun exposure is not a good thing! Be proactive and protect your child’s skin. Here are a few sun safety tips to remember :

• Protect your child’s skin from the sun using a physical barrier including a hat with a wide brim made of tightly woven fabric. When swimming, have them wear a “rash guard,” a shirt made of special fabric that can protect skin from the sun’s rays.

• Avoid prolonged sun exposure during the hottest part of the day. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is a good excuse for a mid-day nap indoors! Seek shade. For example, choose to rest under a leafy tree in your yard or under an umbrella at the beach or pool.

• Choose sunscreen with at least 15-30 SPF and be sure that it says “broad spectrum,” which means it protects against both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) sun rays. Especially for children, look for a product containing physical blocker, such as zinc oxide. It is best to purchase a cream or stick product as sprays are more difficult to get good coverage and your child could inhale harmful chemicals during application.

• Be sure to apply your sunscreen BEFORE going outside and reapply every couple of hours or after heavy toweling. There is no such thing as a “waterproof” product.

• Apply sunscreen to all exposed surfaces, including the back of the neck, ears and feet! Especially if you have thin or light hair, be sure to apply on the part of your hair as well.

• For infants, it is best to limit sun exposure in general, but the American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend using small amounts of sunscreen on exposed skin. Babies have smaller amounts of melanin and burn more quickly than older children and adults, so be sure to watch them carefully.

• Talk to your teenagers about protecting their skin and remind them about premature aging from tanning. Don’t give permission for your teenager to use a tanning bed, ever. Sunless tanning creams are a safe alternative.

• Parents who use sunscreen appropriately tend to have children who use sunscreen appropriately. Be an example for your child and protect your skin!

Mary T. Martin, MD, is a pediatrician with Pediatric Associates–Easley.

Last reviewed 8/2018
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