A short season to many, summer means a jam packed season of vacations, barbecues, water parks and plenty of time spent outside with loads of sun exposure. Enjoying the warm weather is important physically, socially and mentally after a long and brutally cold winter. However, parents must be very aware of the damages done by UVR rays. Harmful damage by UV radiance is extremely dangerous to children, especially those that are fair skinned, freckle or sunburn easily, or have a history of melanoma in their family. It comes as no surprise that lifelong protection from the sun should start at an early age. Here are a few tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics on how to protect your children from the harmful effects of sun exposure.
Babies under 6 months:
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible in this age group.
- Dress babies in lightweight long pants, long sleeved shirts and wide –brimmed hats that give ample coverage for the face and neck. Find shade under a tree, umbrella or the stroller canopy.
- When proper clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply sunscreen with at least SPF 15 sparingly to small areas e.g. face, neck, and back of hands with special care around the eye area.
- If they get sunburn, apply cool compresses to burnt areas.
- Make sure babies are drinking enough water to stay hydrated.
1 year old and up:
- The most effective line of defense against harmful UV ray exposure is covering up! Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill that faces forward, sunglasses that provide 97%-100% protection against UVA and UVB rays, and cotton clothing with a tight weave, or UV protective clothing. The less light that shines through the fabric, the better.
- Try to find shade when possible and limit sun exposure between the hours of 10 am to 4 pm, when UV rays are the strongest. Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or more on both sunny and cloudy days. Make sure you are applying enough (roughly one ounce per sitting for a young adult) and re-apply every 2 hours, or after excess sweating or coming out of the swimming pool.
- Exercise more caution in areas near water, snow, concrete or sand as they reflect UV rays and cause sunburn even faster.
- Sunscreen can offer protection from sunburn and some skin cancers, but only if used correctly. Always remember that sunscreen is used for sun protection and not as a reason to stay in the sun longer.
Choosing the right sunscreen:
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more. The higher the SPF, the more UVB protection the sunscreen has.
- Look for the label that says “broad spectrum”- which means it gives protection for both UVB and UVA rays.
- Look for the new UVA star rating system on the label with one star offering the lowest UVA protection and four star the highest protection.
- Choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium oxide on sensitive areas of the body. These products stay visible on the skin even after rubbing them in and some come in fun colors that kids will love.
- Some brands of sunscreen may burn baby’s eyes, so look for a baby-friendly one that may even have “safe around the eye area” listed on the packaging.
Warm, sunny days are here and the sun certainly feels good on our skin, especially after a long, cold winter. But just remember that what feels good can also harm you and your children. Protect your family this summer. My Pearl of Wisdom for today? “Block the sun and have loads of fun!”
The BabyLegs team is happy to share Pearls of Wisdom with our readers and this week, we’d like to add that our BabyCool! line of UVA/UVB protective warmers, made of breathable mesh fabric, is an excellent supplement to sunscreen and other protective sun apparel and accessories. The complete line of BabyCool! styles for both boys and girls can be viewed at www.babylegs.com.
All information contained in this blog and on our web site(s) should be independently verified by you by a medical professional of your own choosing and you should always conduct your own research and due diligence before making any decision related to the subject matter of this blog or our web site.
Dr. Pearl Cenon
A pediatrician in private practice in New Jersey for over 15 years, Dr. Cenon (we like to call her Dr. Pearl) also has two children of her own. Dr. Pearl’s husband, Kevin McDonough is also a pediatrician and they work together. She writes basic posts about topics that interest many parents, from skin care and nutrition to seasonal issues, such as allergies and colds. Her kind, approachable tone in each blog post will have you looking forward to the next one.