The weather is warming up, the days are longer and there's more time to be outside doing fun things! But if you and your little one are going to be out in the sun you need to stay sun safe.
Tips to keep you child safe in the sun
- Encourage playing in the shade for example, under trees especially between 10am and 4pm, when the sun is at its strongest.
- Keep babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight, especially around midday.
- Cover exposed parts of your little one's skin with sunscreen, even on cloudy or overcast days. Use one that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above and is effective against UVA and UVB. Don't forget to apply it to their shoulders, nose, ears, cheeks, the tops of feet and the backs of knees when they're playing, as these are the most common areas for sunburn. Reapply often throughout the day - least every 2 hours.
- Cover up your child in loose cotton clothes - such as an oversized T-shirt with sleeves - that you can't see your hand through. You may still get burned through more sheer fabrics.
- Make sure your child wears a hat, ideally a floppy hat with a wide brim that shades their face and neck. A baseball cap leaves unprotected ears and the back of the neck exposed to the dangers of burning.
- Reapply sunscreen more often if children have been swimming or sweating a lot, even if the sunscreen is waterproof. And remember that you can get sunburned more quickly when you're paddling, swimming or boating because the reflection from the water intensifies the sun's rays. Reapply after towelling.
Sun Care 101: The Basics of Sun Safety for Kids
Just one blistering sunburn in childhood can double your little one's lifetime risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Young, sensitive skin is especially vulnerable to damaging rays, so protect your child by being sun-care savvy.
What's the difference between UVA and UVB? Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays make the skin tan; ultraviolet B (UVB) rays cause skin to burn. But don't be fooled: A tan isn't healthier. "Both suntans and sunburns are signs that skin cells have been damaged by radiation from the sun," says Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., director of Mohs and Dermatologic Surgery at Continuum Health Partners in New York City. UVB used to get all of the blame for causing skin cancer, but new research shows UVA is equally damaging. This is particularly worrisome since UVA rays are 30 to 50 times more prevalent, and they penetrate deeper into skin cells.
What does SPF stand for? Is a higher number more effective? An SPF, or sun protection factor, indicates a sunscreen's effectiveness at preventing sunburn. "If your child's skin reddens in 10 minutes without sunscreen, SPF 15 multiplies that time (10 minutes) by 15, meaning she'd be protected from sunburn for approximately 150 minutes or 2 1/2 hours. Of course, this depends on an adequate application of sunscreen and is based on SPF calculations with artificial instead of natural sunlight. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using sunscreens with at least an SPF of 15*, which blocks 93 percent of UVB rays. Higher SPFs provide even greater protection, but only to a certain point: SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of UVB and SPF 50+ (the maximum SPF you'll find) blocks 98 percent.
What should I look for in a sunscreen? Are sunscreen sticks and sprays as effective as lotions? As long as you're using a sunscreen with SPF 15* or higher that's broad-spectrum (meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays), it doesn't matter whether you use a lotion, cream, gel, stick, or spray. Some young children are sensitive to certain sunscreen ingredients. To test for reactions, apply a small dab on the inside of your child's upper arm and check the area in 24 hours for signs of redness or rash. Sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are often less irritating because the ingredients aren't absorbed into skin.
At what age is it safe to put sunscreen on a baby? Your baby's skin is sensitive and can easily absorb too many chemicals, so only use sun creams with zinc oxide as the active ingredient, and use on small areas of baby's body. Use clothing plus shade as the primary method of protection. Provide additional protection by keeping her out of the sun as much as possible: take walks before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., when UVB rays aren't as intense; use a stroller canopy; dress her in lightweight clothing that covers her arms and legs; and choose a wide-brimmed hat or bonnet that covers her face, ears, and neck.
How much sunscreen should I use on my child? How often should I reapply it? The Skin Cancer Foundation (skincancer.org) recommends that adults use at least an ounce (that's a shot glass) of sunscreen, but there's no set amount for growing children. The important thing is to cover all exposed areas (especially easily overlooked places like ears, tops of feet, backs of knees, and hands) 30 minutes before your child heads outside so her skin has time to absorb it. Reapply at least every two hours, more frequently if she's swimming, playing in water, or sweating.
*SPF gives an indication of how much longer it will take for your skin to burn with sun cream compared with bare skin over the whole day. However, studies suggest that most people won't achieve the specified SPF due to poor application. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 35ml for the total body that's around seven teaspoons: one for the face/head and neck, one for each arm and each leg, and one each for your front and your back. The average amount of sunscreen we typically apply is about half of what we ideally need to. Not applying enough sun cream reduces the level of protection we're receiving. According to the WHO, applying a smaller quantity of sun cream leads to a disproportionate reduction in protection if the quantity applied is reduced by half, protection may fall by as much as two thirds. Therefore, using an SPF 30 or higher is a safer option. (which.co.uk/reviews/sun-creams/article/spf-uva-uvb-sun-creams-explained)
Does my child really need to wear sunscreen in the winter or on overcast days? Up to 80 percent of UV rays penetrate clouds and reflect off sand, water, snow, and even concrete. "Kids actually may be more exposed to UV rays on cool days because they stay outside longer," Dr. Mariwalla says. Basic sun protection tips -- clothing that covers arms and legs, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen -- still apply.
Will my child get enough vitamin D if she's always wearing sunscreen? Your child needs vitamin D to help his body absorb calcium and build strong bones, and sunshine is a great source. Studies suggest that some infants and children don't get enough vitamin D (perhaps due to increased sunscreen use).
My family has dark skin. Do we need to worry about sun protection? "It's a fallacy that people with dark skin are immune to skin cancer," Dr. Mariwalla says. Although skin cancer affects between 1 and 4 percent of African Americans, Latinos, and Asians, it's often deadlier because it goes undetected longer (and rates among Asians are rising). In dark skin, cancer can also lurk in areas that aren't exposed to the sun, like the palms of hands, soles of feet, and mucous membranes.
Besides sunscreen, what else can I do to protect my family? Keep your child out of the sun between 10am and 4pm, when UVB rays are most intense. Dress him in clothing that have a UV protection of at least SPF 30 or that have a tight weave (you shouldn't be able to see easily through it) and make sure he wears a wide-brimmed hat that protect his face, ears, and neck. Seek shade as much as possible. www.parents.com/kids/safety/outdoor/sun-care-basics/
If you are planning on using a paddling pool this summer, avoid plastic toys with holes, as they can turn into a bacteria bomb: https://blog.ulula.co.uk/2016/07/18/dont-drop-a-bacteria-bomb-in-your-childs-bathtub/