Just about everyone enjoys soaking up the sun, but too much sun can damage your skin. Of course, even if you know this, your kids might not. Indeed, kids are even more susceptible to developing sun damaged skin than adults for two main reasons: 1) they have thinner, more sensitive skin, and 2) they don’t have the same level of self-awareness that most adults do. Without proper supervision and precaution, then, your children’s time in the sun can turn dangerous. And while skin cancer in children is relatively rare, incidences have been steadily rising, with excessive sun exposure playing the biggest role in development.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to protect your little ones this summer season. Here’s how.
If your kids are old enough to soak in information, it’s worth teaching them about proper sun safety. Chances are at some point they’ll spend time outdoors without your supervision, after all. Tell them about the importance of wearing sunscreen, limiting their time in the sun, covering up, etc. If they ask “why” and/or questions for which you don’t have an answer, organizations like the CDC have helpful resources that you can review with your children. You might learn a thing or two as well!
Any child over six months old should be lathered up with sunscreen before being brought outdoors. Of course, not all sunscreens are created equal. Sunscreen products marketed towards children are typcally mineral-based and contain zinc oxide and titanium oxide. It’s also important to choose a product with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15, though 30 and above is ideal. Sunscreens should be applied liberally to all exposed areas of skin about 30 minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours or so, as well as after swimming.
Sun damage can still occur when wearing sunscreen, though, which is why it’s important to not only apply it properly and frequently, but to also adhere to the following recommendations.
The sun’s rays are more or less aggressive at certain times of the day based on their angle. “Peak hours” refer to the range of time when the sun is highest in the sky (in the summer this is usually between noon and 4 P.M.) and therefore most intense. If you want to keep your kids safe and free from sunburns and skin rashes, try to get outside in the morning and/or early evening to avoid these peak hours. And if your kids are outside in the middle of the day, try to break up their outside time by calling them inside for an hour or two before going back out.
After being out in the sun for a while, finding a shady spot can be a big relief. Not only do shady areas help you cool off -- they also provide a barrier from most of the sun’s rays. As it turns out, you’ll find more natural shade before and after peak hours, thanks to the sun’s lower angle. But if you and your kids are out when the sun is high, make your own shade -- bring an umbrella or partial tent to the beach, utilize an awning or roof if applicable, or make sure everyone has proper headwear to keep their faces, ears, necks, and shoulders free from sunshine. On that note...
Hats won’t cover your kids’ entire bodies from sunlight, but wearing them is an important step -- and the bigger and wider, the better. In addition to donning hats, your kids should also put on UV-protective sunglasses, as sunlight can do a number on the eyes and lead to permanent damage. And lastly, invest in some protective clothing for your kids, too. Wearing long-sleeves in the summer isn’t always the most comfortable activity, but tightly-woven fabric does offer some level of UV protection.
Protecting your children from sunburn and skin cancer should of course be a top priority this season -- but the summer heat can be dangerous in other ways, too. Kids and adults alike can quickly become dehydrated when spending time in the sun. So, be prepared and bring plenty of water for you and your kids if you plan on staying outdoors for a while.
This summer, make sure you and your kids stay smart and safe in the sun. If you have more questions or concerns regarding sun safety and how to protect your kids’ skin this season, the experts at Premier Dermatology Partners can help.
To learn more about our providers and all the services we offer, contact us today.