It’s that time of year when you begin to worry about how to protect your little ones from the heat and sun! Summer is a joyous time to relish in the outdoors, but unless proper precautions are taken it can also be a very dangerous time. Children can suffer short and long term damage of sunburn and heat stroke. According to Baby Center, suffering from one sunburn raises the risk of melanoma and wrinkles later in life. That is a statistic that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Some of the most important tips for sun safety include wearing your sunscreen, avoid playing outside during peak sun times, wear protective clothing, and stay shaded—sometimes easier said than done. Pediatric Dermatologist, Patricia Treadwell, was interviewed in a Baby Center article and she recommends any baby under six months of age should stay out of the sun completely. This is a suggestion that sometimes can’t be avoided. Consider some tips for keeping your little one safe and secure from the harmful sun rays.
Avoid the sun during peak times
The time when the sun is at its peak is between 10 AM and 4 PM. A good idea is to shorten the duration of time spent in the sun. To be the most safe, avoid the sun during that time. Sun rays can bounce off of water, snow, cement, and sand. Also, the sun’s rays can penetrate your skin even on overcast and even cool days. Sun rays don’t hide just because it’s cold outside!
Stay shaded or covered with proper attire
There are many ways to stay shaded. Keep your little one under a baby stroller canopy, nestled under a shaded tree, or use an umbrella. There are specially designed products that repel harmful rays and are similar to the effects of sunscreen. You can often find UVA/UVB block products in the form of umbrellas, sunglasses, swimsuits, or other attire. Consider fabric stability when deciding clothing to wear. It is important to choose tightly woven fabrics for the best protection. You can test the weave of your fabric by holding it up to the light. If you can see through it; it is not tightly woven.
Sunscreen is the best defense
Even if you avoid the sun and wear appropriate attire, know that sunscreen should always be used. Sunburns can happen even in shaded areas. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen because it is the best protection against both UVA and UVB rays. What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays? The UVA rays are known to cause damage deeper in the skin; whereas the UVB rays are more likely to cause sunburn and wrinkling.
When selecting a sunscreen you should look for products made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These ingredients will be in products typically labeled sunblock, which is drastically different than sunscreen. Sunblock begins to work immediately and sits on the top of your skin acting as a barrier. Sunscreen products typically need to be applied 15 to 30 minutes prior to exposure because they need to be absorbed to be effective. The composition of sunscreen is most often of chemicals and can cause irritation or allergic reactions. It is a good idea to conduct a patch test before full application. Don’t trust the labels when they say the product works up to eight hours; these claims are accurate if your child does not move or sweat in that time frame. Most products suggest reapplication every two hours to ensure adequate protection. You should also use at least a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 and no more than SPF 30. Treadwell suggests the higher the SPF rating the higher dosage of chemicals without a higher amount of protection. It is important to always read active ingredients and product directions as this is the best way to understand how a potential product will work.
Sun safety is only one component to a healthy lifestyle. It is very important to protect your little one with proper sun safety to sustain their healthy skin for many years ahead. If you have direct questions or concerns about chemicals and sun protection, it is important to have a conversation with your pediatrician or medical provider