Warm, sunny days are wonderful, it is good get outdoors and to exercise outside, and the sun feels great on you skin. But the sun can harm you and your family. Too much sun exposure can cause dehydration, fever, damage to skin, changes in color and wrinkles, skin cancer, and cataracts of the eye. Sunscreen can help protect the skin, but only if it is used correctly. According the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC), “20% of a person’s lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of 18”. With the summer weather right around the corner, we wanted to help prepare you and your family to have a sun-safe summer!
Preventing Skin Damage
The best way to prevent skin damage, according the CCHMC, is to avoid being in too much sun. The sun’s ultraviolet rays (UV rays) and ultraviolet B-rays (UVB rays) are the strongest during the hours of 10am and 4pm and it is recommended to limit your outdoor activities during those times. Regardless of the time there are other precautions to take when having your children in the sun. According the CDC, here are some methods to help protect your kids’ skin…
- Apply Sunscreen every time the child goes outside. The most effective way to apply sunscreen is to apply it 30 minutes prior to going outside. When applying do not forget the ears, nose, lips, and tops of feet.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your child’s eyes from the UV rays. The way to protect your child’s eyes from the UV and UVB rays is to have sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of the sun’s rays.
- Wear a hat that shades the face, scalp, ears, and neck. Baseball caps are very common but don’t always have the best protection of child’s ears and necks. If the baseball cap is the child’s hat of choice be sure to use sunscreen on exposed areas.
- Cover up when at all possible. Long-sleeved shirts and pants provide the best protection from the sun’s harmful rays. The clothing that provides the best protection are tightly woven fabric, dry shirts/pants, and darker colors. Wet clothing and lighter colors may not offer the best protection against the UV rays. There options out there for clothing that is certified under international standards which comes with the information on their UV protection factor.
- Seek shade frequently under a tree, umbrella, or a pop-up tent. The most effective ways to use these options are to prevent sunburns, not when the sunburn has already happened. Don’t forget that sun reflects off of water, concrete, and sand, being around those areas can lead to unexpected sunburns.
- Drink plenty of fluids while being outdoors to prevent dehydration. The best kind of fluid to prevent dehydration is water.
Regardless of your choice of sunscreen, it is best practice to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and even more often if you are swimming or sweating. Always try and keep sun protection handy- in the car and bag. Sunscreen should be applied to everyone 6 months and older. Newborns and infants younger than 6 months should be kept out of the sun.
Best Sunscreen Choices According to American Cancer Society…
- Choose a sunscreen with “broad-spectrum” protection. Sunscreens with this label protect against both UV and UVB rays. All sunscreen products protect against UVB rays, which is the main cause of sunburn. But UV rays can also contribute to skin cancer and premature aging later in life.
- Choose a sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. The SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays. The higher the SPF does not mean more protection, but the smaller the difference becomes. For example, SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 filters out about 97%, SPF 50 filters out about 98%, and SPF 100 filters out about 99%. There is no one sunscreen that protects you completely.
- “Water resistant” does not mean “waterproof”. No sunscreen is “water- or sweat- proof”, and companies are not allowed to claim that they are. If a label states that the product is “water resistant”, it must also state the length of time that the sunscreen last while swimming or sweating.
- Children with sensitive skin should try to find a sunscreen containing only zinc oxide or zinc oxide ad titanium dioxide.
Advice For Babies Under 6 months
Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight; find shade under a tree, umbrella or stroller canopy. Dress infant in appropriate clothing, for example, light weight cotton, long sleeves, and hats. When adequate clothing and shade are unavailable, a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF can be applied to small areas, such as the face and back of hands.
Advice For Young Children
Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside and use sunscreen even on cloudy days. You should use sunscreen with at least 15 SPF and it should protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to apply to all areas of the body, especially the face, nose, ears, feet and hands.
Advice For Older Children
The best line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and cotton clothing. Be sure to stay in the shade whenever possible. Use a sunscreen with SPF of 15 or greater and be sure enough is applied-about one ounce per sitting for a young adult. Sunscreen should be applied every two hours. It can wear off after swimming, sweating, or by just soaking into the skin.
It is not recommended to use combination sunscreen and insect repellent, as most insect repellent can only be applied one time per day.
Sunburns / Too Much Heat
Sometimes even with all the protection in place, sunburns can happen.
Some signs of too much sun can be, according to CDC…
- Skin turning pink: Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun in as little as 15 minutes. But it can take up to 12 hours to fully see the effect of the sun. So, if your child’s skin is “pink” today, it may be sunburned tomorrow.
- Having a tan is still damaging to the skin. Any change in your child’s skin color after being out in the sun indicates damage from UVA rays.
- If it is cool and cloudy outside, your child still needs protection. UV rays, not the temperature, is what does the damage. Clouds do not block UV rays; they filter them and sometimes only slightly.
What to do if a sun burn occurs per CCHMC…
- Cool bathes followed by application of a moisturizer are soothing
- Hydrocortisone cream may be applied twice daily.
- Ibuprofen can help with pain or discomfort, if the child is 6 months or older. Call our office for dosing questions.
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration
- If your child develops blisters, do not open the blisters and contact our office. You can cover the affected areas with an antibiotic ointment and bandages.
To relieve discomfort from mild sunburn be sure to give child water to replace lost fluids, use cool water on affected area to help skin feel better, give pain reliever (Tylenol/Ibuprofen depending on child’s age) for painful sunburns, and keep your child out of the sun until the sunburn is totally healed.
Contact Us (859-525-8181) if you have any questions!
About Pediatrics of Florence
We believe that children are more than just “little adults.” They have unique personalities, challenges, and life circumstances and we have made every effort to make our offices and care as “kid friendly” as possible. We have an aquatic theme in the waiting rooms (separated for sick and well children) as well as themed examination rooms. All of our physicians are Board Certified Pediatricians and members of the American Academy of Pediatrics and our nurse practitioners are all licensed Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and are available to see both well and sick children.
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