Sun Safety Tips

I’m willing to place bets that many of you spent time at a pool this weekend. Even if you didn’t, if you had the kids outside, they needed sunscreen.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has offered some tips on protecting your children from the sun:

Follow these simple rules to protect your family from sunburns now and from skin cancer later in life:

  • Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight. Find shade under a tree, umbrella, or the stroller canopy.
  • When possible, dress yourself and your kids in cool, comfortable clothing that covers the body, like lightweight cotton pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats.  
  • Select clothes made with a tight weave – they protect better than clothes with a looser weave. If you’re not sure how tight a fabric’s weave is, hold it up to see how much light shines through. The less light, the better.
  • Wear a hat or cap with a brim that faces forward to shield the face.
  • Limit your sun exposure between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, when UV rays are strongest.
  • Wear sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection (look for child-sized sunglasses with UV protection for your child).
  • Use sunscreen.
  • Set a good example. You can be the best teacher by practicing sun protection yourself. Teach all members of your family how to protect their skin and eyes. 

How to Pick Sunscreen

  • Use a sunscreen that says “broad-spectrum” on the label – that means it will screen out both UVB and UVA rays.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. The higher the SPF, the more UVB protection the sunscreen has.
  • Look for the new UVA “star” rating system on the label.
    • One star is low UVA protection.  
    • Two stars is medium protection.
    • Three stars is high protection.  
    • Four stars is the highest UVA protection available in an over-the-counter sunscreen product.
  • For sensitive areas of the body, such as the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears, and the shoulders, choose a sunscreen or sunblock with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. While these products usually stay visible on the skin even after you rub them in, some now come in fun colors that kids enjoy.  

Sunscreen for Babies

  • For Babies younger than 6 months. Use sunscreen on small areas of the body, such as the face and the backs of the hands, if protective clothing and shade are not available.
  • For babies older than 6 months. Apply to all areas of the body, but be careful around the eyes. If your baby rubs sunscreen into her eyes, wipe the eyes and hands clean with a damp cloth. If the sunscreen irritates her skin, try a different brand or try a sunscreen stick or sunscreen or sunblock with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. If a rash develops, talk with your child’s doctor.

I burn easily. Instead of getting my Greek father’s olive complexion, I got my Irish-German Mom’s super fair skin. I wear sunscreen on my exposed parts all year round, but I up the SPF in the summer. I’ve learned that a bottle of sunscreen should not last you through the summer season. You’re not using enough if that’s the case. You should apply a generous amount to all exposed areas, which means that you will probably go through 2-3 bottles this summer, for each of your family members.

There are some recommendations that are debatable among doctors. Most medical professionals (The AAP included) recommend putting on sunscreen 30 minutes BEFORE going out in the sun, so your skin absorbs the protection. However, I heard Dr. Oz recommend 15 minutes of sunscreen-free sun time before applying sunscreen to get some vitamin D. I love Dr. Oz, but I don’t think that’s a good idea. But, like I said, I burn easily. You should talk to you pediatrician or dermatologist to see what he/she recommends.

Another thing to think about is chemicals in the sunscreen, especially if you’re putting it on children. There is some concern about vitamin A and oxybenzone in sunscreens. We wrote about it here last year and included a local dermatologists opinion on it.

So there you have it. The most important thing to remember is protect your family’s skin!

What sunscreen do you use on your children? What’s your favorite brand for yourself?

(Photo: Flickr)

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