Summer Sun Safety

Did you know that just one severe sunburn doubles your child’s chances of getting melanoma later in life?  Sun protection is a serious issue; don’t let the sun damage your child’s delicate skin.

Always apply sunscreen 15 – 30 minutes before going outside.  Reapply every two hours or sooner if your child has been swimming. Choose a sun screen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30.  Pediatricians and dermatologists recommend you use a sun screen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These are the safest compounds on the market right now and are also less irritating to delicate skin. Also look for the words “broad spectrum,” which means it blocks both UVA and UVB sunlight. Spray on sunscreens are easy to apply but be sure to check the ingredients label. Shield your child’s face while spraying or have her hold her breath briefly so she doesn’t inhale the mist. Sunscreen sticks are good for faces because they are less likely to drip.

For kids, the most vulnerable areas are the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears, feet, shoulders, and scalp. In addition to sunscreens use protective clothing to protect these areas.  A hat with a brim that casts a shadow on the face and sunglasses are always a good idea; many people don’t realize you can get a sunburn on the head even if its covered with hair. Parents should model these protective behaviors. Dermatologist also recommend staying out of the sun between 10:00am to 4:00pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest.

Light weight t-shirts don’t offer much protection, if you can see through the material, the sun can get through and burn the skin.  Darker, tight woven clothing that covers all exposed skin is best. You can also buy clothing that is specially treated with chemicals that help block the sun’s rays. Kids swim shirts and rash guard shirts are available with a SPF of 30 or higher, however these items will begin to loose their protective strength after several washings , so check the labels. The Skin Cancer Foundation highly recommends SunGuard, a laundry additive containing called Tinosorb FD. Add it to your wash and your clothes come out with a SPF of 30, which lasts for 20 to 25 washings.

Believe it or not, too much sun can make a child or an adult quite ill.  Heat exhaustion or sun stroke can occur when someone gets overheated, dehydrated, weak and / or disoriented.  If your child feels or looks ill, spikes a fever, or has blisters it’s best to seek medical help or go to the nearest emergency room. If your child is complaining of pain from a sunburn, try these tips to make him feel better:

  •       Place cool compresses or a wet sheet  on sunburned areas
  •       Keep aloe gel in the fridge and apply it to affected areas
  •      Give  kids ibuprofen or acetaminophen; check with your pediatrician for the correct dosage.
  •      Give your child plenty of fluids
  •       Suggest they stay indoors or play in well shaded areas
  •       Do not use OTC topical anesthetics containing benzocaine on sunburned skin; these can often make the pain worse and some kids are allergic to it

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