It’s that time of year -- when parents worry about how to protect little ones from the heat and sun. Summer is a joyous time to relish in the outdoors, but unless proper precautions are taken it can also be a very dangerous one. Children can suffer short and long term damage of sunburn and heat stroke. According to Baby Center, suffering from one sunburn raises the risk of melanoma and wrinkles later in life. That is a fact that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Some of the most important tips for sun safety include applying sunscreen, avoiding outside play during peak sun times, wearing protective clothing, and staying shaded—sometimes all of this is easier said than done.
Babies under six months of age are most vulnerable to the sun's harmful rays. When possible, try to keep newborns indoors and out of directly sunlight. Still, sometimes that's not entirely possible. Got to out outside with a little one in the blazing heat? Here's what you need to know.
Avoid the sun during peak times
The time when the sun is at its peak is between 10 AM and 4 PM. A good idea is to shorten the duration of time spent in the sun. To be the most safe, avoid the sun during that time. Sun rays can bounce off of water, snow, cement, and sand. Also, the sun’s rays can penetrate your skin even on overcast and even cool days. Sun rays don’t hide just because it’s cold outside!
Stay shaded or covered with proper attire
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Even if you avoid the sun and wear appropriate attire, know that sunscreen should always be used. Sunburns can happen even in shaded areas. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen because it is the best protection against both UVA and UVB rays. What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays? The UVA rays are known to cause damage deeper in the skin; whereas the UVB rays are more likely to cause sunburn and wrinkling.
Sunscreen is the best defense
When selecting a sunscreen you should look for products made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These ingredients will be in products typically labeled sunblock, which is drastically different than sunscreen. Sunblock begins to work immediately and sits on the top of your skin acting as a barrier. Sunscreen products typically need to be applied 15 to 30 minutes prior to exposure because they need to be absorbed to be effective. The composition of sunscreen is most often of chemicals and can cause irritation or allergic reactions. It is a good idea to conduct a patch test before full application. Don’t trust the labels when they say the product works up to eight hours; these claims are accurate if your child does not move or sweat in that time frame. Most products suggest reapplication every two hours to ensure adequate protection. You should also use at least a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 and no more than SPF 30. Higher SPF products typically have a higher dosage of chemicals without a higher amount of protection. It is important to always read active ingredients and product directions as this is the best way to understand how a potential product will work.
Sun safety is only one component to a healthy lifestyle. It is very important to protect your little one with proper sun safety to sustain their healthy skin for many years ahead. If you have direct questions or concerns about chemicals and sun protection, it is important to have a conversation with your pediatrician or medical provider.
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