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Tips to Protect Your Kids’ Skin This Summer
Sweet summertime...The kids are out of school, the weather is warm, and it’s the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors. From picnics and barbeques to time at the pool, lake, or beach, family fun in the summer equates to time in the sun. Be sure your kids’ skin is protected.
As much as everyone loves a “healthy” tan, the truth of the matter is even one blistering overexposure doubles the chance of developing melanoma later in life. Sun damage also can lead to excessive wrinkles and other cancers in adulthood. While all ages are susceptible to sun damage, children’s skin is much more sensitive and prone to burning. Even that so called healthy tan represents damage to the cellular structure of the skin. UVA and UVB rays are the culprits, but with proper proactive steps, your children can enjoy their time in the sun with little negative impact.
The first line of defense is sunscreen. It should be applied 15 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapplied throughout the day. The key is understanding the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and how it works with your child’s skin type. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a broad spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15, although 30 is preferred. Essentially, if your child’s skin starts to pinken in 10 minutes, multiply that by the SPF number to see how long the sunscreen will protect them from burning. For example, if you use an SPF of 15, your child should be able to be in the sun for approximately 150 minutes, or 2 ½ hours, before reapplying. However, if they will be swimming or sweating a lot, you’ll likely need to reapply every 40-80 minutes. A waterproof sunscreen is highly recommended, and make sure it is a broad spectrum sunscreen to block both UVA and UVB rays. It doesn’t matter if you use lotion, spray, gel, or stick form. With the proper SPF and regular application, they are all effective and provide adequate sun protection.
Someo children will naturally need a higher SPF because of their skin’s genetic makeup. Children with very fair hair and skin, those with lots of freckles or moles (or whose parents have many), and anyone with a family history of skin cancer need to be extra careful with sun exposure. It’s recommended to use a higher SPF, reapply more frequently, and wear a hat and sunglasses. These children, as well as babies under 6 months old, should consider wearing clothing made with SPF protection in the fabric and staying in the shade as much as possible. Newborn skin is highly sensitive and can absorb unwanted chemicals from sunscreen products. They should not be applied until baby is more than six months old, and even then should be tested in a small area before applying everywhere. Additionally, try to plan outdoor activities before 10 am or after 4pm to avoid the sun’s strongest and most damaging rays.
In addition to sun protection, be sure to protect your child’s skin against bug bites, poison ivy, and other irritants. Increased time outside means increased exposure to mosquitoes, ticks, bees, and other potential dangers. Not only can these pests lead to itchy bites and painful stings, they can carry diseases, too. Be sure to use insect repellents to ward of ticks and mosquitos. Read the labels to see if they contain DEET and be very careful to avoid the eyes, face, and hands when applying. Avoid using sweet smelling soaps or perfumes that can attract bees and wasps, and dress them in lightweight, long sleeve shirts, and pants whenever possible. This helps provide a trifecta of protection against sun, bugs, and poison ivy.
With so many opportunities for fun in the sun, everyone tends to spend more time outside in the summer. Enjoying the fresh air and getting healthy doses of Vitamin D are good for the mind, body, and soul. However, the sun is very powerful, and children are blessed with beautiful flawless skin that needs to be protected from every exposure of its threatening rays. With proper sun and skin protection, your kids can play outside without worry of sunburn, sun damage, or premature aging.