From her precious button nose to his ten delicious toes, every inch of your child is worth protecting. With hot summer days quickly approaching, the need for sun safety is particularly important. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can not only cause skin cancer, the predominant type of cancer in the United States, but also can lead to damage to the eye’s surface tissue, lens and cornea; an impaired immune system; and other skin complications including wrinkling, freckling, mottling, and jaundice.
And while we all need a little of the sun’s vitamin D to enhance our moods and strengthen our bones, research shows that the majority of today’s children are in no danger of vitamin D deficiency; in fact, most have exceeded their lifetime recommended dosage before they are even old enough to vote! By taking a few simple precautionary steps, including incorporating sun safety into their daily routine and educating kids about the importance of good sun sense, parents can make sure that kids stay safe from the sun throughout the summer and all year-long.
If your kids are outside between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4.p.m.–when the sun is at its peak in the sky in the northern hemisphere–be sure to apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater. Statistics show that sun damage happens as much on the playground as it does at the beach, so strive to make this part of your family routine every time your kids are headed outside. And keep in mind that dangerous UV rays can penetrate both clouds and pollution, so on overcast and windy days it is equally important to protect kids from this “invisible” sun. Additionally, water, sand, concrete and even snow can reflect and amplify the sun’s potent rays, so be diligent in reapplying sunscreen at frequent intervals.
In addition to good sunscreen, invest in long clothing, sun-protective hats with wide brims, and UV-blocking sunglasses. These products are widely available, and can dramatically reduce your child’s chances of suffering sun damage. Infants in particular are vulnerable to the sun’s rays because of lack of melanin and thinner skin; because sunscreen is not recommended at such a young age, Irwin’s pharmacy states that it is critical to keep babies under six months old completely out of the sun, if not possible to you should have them well protected. An umbrella or pop-up tent can not only create sun-shielding shade for kids of all ages, but can also provide a cool, fun respite on a sweltering day.
Despite all the steps you take to protect your child from the sun, a sunburn can still happen. To combat the effects of a painful sunburn, have your child take a cool bath. To further alleviate itching, burning, and discomfort, apply a cool compress or pure aloe vera gel to the affected skin. As the skin underneath can be vulnerable to infection and scarring, discourage your child from peeling off any skin that flakes or blisters. Over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, diphenhydramine, and 1% hydrocortisone cream can lessen pain, swelling, and itching. Additionally, topical moisturizing creams can help rehydrate and heal the skin. If blistering does occur, call your doctor, and keep your child out of the sun until the burn is completely healed to prevent further damage.
And remember: the best cure is prevention. Parents should seek to educate their kids about proper sun sense, while setting good examples themselves by routinely applying sunscreen, wearing sunglasses and other protective clothing, and limiting exposure to the sun. By following these simple rules, kids (and their parents!) can look forward to a safe and happy summer.
Sarah Jones is a freelance blogger who writes on parenting issues