By Claudine Mendoza, M.D.
The sun is shining, the weather is getting warmer, and summer is drawing near. Get ready to put on those swimsuits, sunglasses, and sunscreen and head to the pool, lake, or the beach. But before you go, here are some tips on sun safety to keep handy.
A “broad spectrum” sunscreen is the best way to protect your skin against ultraviolet rays. Prolonged sun exposure without protection causes skin damage and skin cancers, so it is very important to protect yourself and your children. Always apply sunscreen on yourself and your little ones when you are exposed to the sun, even on overcast days. Sunscreen bottles labeled “broad spectrum” protects your skin from both harmful ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) rays. Make sure you choose a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30 and apply it at least 15 minutes prior to sun exposure. Remember to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, each time you get out of the water, or if you or your kids have been sweating. Also, choose a sunscreen that is PABA-free to avoid skin allergies. Sunscreen is not recommended for children less than 6 months of age so keep children 6 months and younger out of direct sunlight. Their skin is thinner and thus more prone to sunburns. Try to minimize sun exposure from the hours of 11am – 4pm when the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
You can protect your kids with clothes that block them from the sun. Make sure they are made of a tight weave so that less light can penetrate through it. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you can’t see your hand if you place it inside your clothes.
Hats are not only a cute accessory but also a good way to protect children from the sun. Make sure the hat covers your child’s face.
Sunglasses are also a must for optimal sun protection. Choose sunglasses that are labeled with 100% UV protection for you and your little ones.
You can also use umbrellas or tents to cover your children from the sun.
What if my child gets sunburn?
Not all sunburns need medical attention. If your child gets sunburn, these are some steps you can take to help him:
Apply cool, wet compresses to skin, which will help dissipate heat and reduce pain.
Apply aloe vera to the skin as well as moisturizing cream.
If the skin starts to peel, make sure the skin stays clean and pat down the skin rather than rub it dry.
You can also give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief. If itching occurs, you can give your child Benadryl.
If the skin starts to blister, seek help at your pediatrician’s office.
Summer is a perfect time for families to spend together under the sun, but make sure you and your family are protected against the sun’s rays. Teach your children the importance of protecting their skin against the sun and set a good example for them by wearing your sunscreen and protective clothing. With these tips, your family will now be ready to have some fun in the sun!
Claudine Mendoza MD is a pediatrician at Good Night Pediatrics which provides all-night urgent care for children every night of the year from 5p.m. to 5a.m.