Summer is almost here–and while the presence of warm sunshine and longer daylight hours makes us smile, we also need to be reminded it’s especially important this time of year to protect babies’ and young children’s skin (as well as our own) from the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Using sunscreen can help to ward off not only sunburn in the immediate sense, but wrinkling, age spots, and skin cancer in later years.
Did you know that over 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year? Repeated sun burning of the skin makes a person’s skin more susceptible to skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatologists recommends, therefore, that everyone should be aware of what damage exposure to the sun can do. We are never too old or too young to begin to use sunscreen!
Exposure to the sun’s rays can occur when children are playing in the sun, even through window glass and sheer fabrics, so putting a brimmed hat or ball cap on your child’s head and sunscreen on areas not covered by hair or clothing, such as tops of ears, nose, back of neck, arms, hands, tops of feet, etc., is a very good way to protect your child from the damage sun can do now and in later years.
Sunscreen (also known as sunblock and sunblocker) may be purchased as an ointment, cream, lotion, gel, spray, or wax stick at your local pharmacy, grocery, or department store. Ask your pharmacist for the best one for your child’s particular kind of skin. A baby’s skin definitely requires protection. An older child with skin that tans easily may require less protection than a baby, but sunscreen is important, nevertheless. When placed on the skin, sunscreen helps screen out ultraviolet rays of the sun. Sunscreen comes in a variety of protection levels called “SPF” for Sun Protection Factor. The higher the SPF number, the greater the protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Sunscreen should be placed on a child’s skin at least 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which screens out most of the sun’s UVB rays.
If you take your child to the beach, be aware that there is a double threat from the sun’s reflection off the water and the sand–in much the same way that snow reflects the sun’s rays. So it’s important to be very careful with your child’s skin, use sunscreen, dress them in protective clothing, make sure they have water to drink, take a sun umbrella, and make sure to include time playing or resting in the shade.
The sun’s rays are the most powerful (and damaging to skin) from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Even on a cloudy day, a child can get a bad sunburn, so make sure to use sunscreen every day! If a child gets a bad sunburn–or there is redness, pain, swelling, or blistering of the skin and/or fever, call your doctor or take your child to the emergency room as soon as possible.
Learn and know the symptoms of heat cramps, heat stress, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. If, after an extended time in the sun, your child feels weak, is disoriented or is experiencing nausea, cramps, dizziness, vomiting, or fainting, take your child to the emergency room immediately! In the meantime, enjoy the sunshine safely and in measured quantities.