Sun Safety for Kids
by Sherry Kyle
Skin cancer is on the rise. The American Cancer Society estimates there were over 87,000 new melanomas diagnosed last year. Did you know melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer? Even though skin cancer can take decades to develop, the precautions parents take today can protect their children in the future.
It’s a well-known fact that the intensity of the sun’s rays are strongest during the summer. Even when it is cloudy outside and the temperature is cool, you and your family still need protection. Clouds do not block the ultraviolet (UV) rays, only filter them. And if you are located in an area with higher altitude, you can be exposed to more damaging rays.
Are you planning a tropical summer vacation? Remember the UV rays will be strongest near the equator. But kids don’t have to be at the beach, pool or on vacation to need protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Any time children are outdoors, they need protection from the sun.
Here are eight helpful tips to keep kids safe:
Stay in the shade during the sun’s peak hours. UV rays are the strongest and most harmful midday, so play indoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If that’s not possible, find shade under a tree, a covered patio or an umbrella. Finding shade can also cool you down, which is an extra bonus on those hot days.
Cover with clothes with a high UPF (ultraviolet protection factor). A UPF of 50 means 1/50th of the UV rays that hit the fabric will pass through to your child’s skin. But not all clothes are given a UPF rating. In that case, consider long-sleeved shirts and pants or clothes made from tightly woven fabric for ultimate protection. Dark colors may offer more protection than lighter colors, and a dry T-shirt offers more protection than a wet one.
Keep heads covered. Sunhats that shade ears, neck, scalp and face give the most protection. The best sunhats have a strap to hold them in place, a must-have for those windy days at the beach. A baseball hat is better than no protection, but it doesn’t cover ears and necks. Make sure you apply sunscreen to the exposed areas.
Apply sunscreen every time your kids go outdoors. For the best protection, use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 (UVA and UVB) thirty minutes before going in the sun. Areas that are frequently missed are ears, lips, noses and the tops of feet. Reapply the sunscreen throughout the day, especially after swimming or exercising. And if you have a baby under six months old, your best defense against sunburn is to keep your child indoors or in the shade.
Protect their eyes. UV rays can lead to cataracts later in life, so protect your children’s eyes by having them wear sunglasses. The best type of sunglasses wraps around and blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Ask your ophthalmologist what he or she recommends.
Stay indoors if needed. Is your child on medication that makes the skin more sensitive to UV rays? Usually the doctor or pharmacist will warn you if this is an issue. For your kid’s safety, abide by the warning and listen to directions.
Limit sun exposure. Don’t wait until your child turns pink to go indoors. It can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect from the sun. Tanned skin, or any color change of your child’s skin after being in the sun, indicates damage from UV rays.
Don’t forget the car windows! Your kids can be exposed to harmful rays while riding in the car. If you have a newer model, the windows may be treated to protect against UV rays, otherwise check with your local DMV office to ask about tinting regulations. There are also sunshades on the market that suction directly on the windows to keep your kids safe from the sun.
If your child gets a sunburn:
Apply cool (not cold) compresses to the burned skin to ease pain and heat. Better yet, have your child soak in a cool bath.
Put aloe vera gel on the sunburned areas for temporary relief.
Give your child anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease the pain.
Over the course of the next week, continue to apply moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin.
If the sunburn is severe and blisters form, consult your doctor.
The best thing you can do for your child is to model sun safety for yourself. Always use sunscreen, wear sunglasses and limit your time in the sun. Skin cancer is a preventable disease. You don’t want any members of your family to be a statistic. So cover up and enjoy your time in the sun!
We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below or like us on your Facebook page. Be sure to check back each month for more articles and products available at your local Christian bookstore.