Summer may be in full swing, but even on the laziest days of summer, you can’t take a break from sun vigilance. You might be getting sick of applying that sunscreen at this point — I know we’ve already gone through several tubes of it in our household already — and maybe your kids are putting up a fight about getting lathered up AGAIN. But today Jennifer Taylor, writer of MomTricks, shares seven simple reminders about the importance of sun safety. Jennifer can be found on Facebook or Twitter.
Did you know that even a single sunburn can significantly increase the risk of developing melanoma later in life? The summer sun can be harsh, and this is why it’s important to do everything possible to keep both you and your kids safe and avoid a nasty sunburn or heat exhaustion.
In order to make things easier for you, here are seven simple steps to keeping kids safe in the summer sun.
1. Get a proper sunscreen. You should look for a sunscreen that’s a physical sunscreen as opposed to a chemical sunscreen. The first and foremost reason for going with a physical sunscreen being that they’re generally more effective, but also they lack chemicals which can be irritating to a young child’s skin.
What’s also nice about physical sunscreens is that they’re effective immediately after being applied, whereas chemical sunscreens need time to become fully effective after being applied. This takes about 20 minutes or so, which can seem pretty long when kids want to get outside.
Look for one that’s labeled “broad spectrum” meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB sunlight. Most physical sunscreens will be broad spectrum.
You might be tempted to go for the highest SPF rating possible, but according to experts, an SPF of 30 blocks up to 95 percent of the sun’s rays. Remember to reapply sunscreen as recommended on the bottle — particularly when swimming and sweating.
2. Dress them up properly. You’ve probably heard that you should opt for lighter clothing as opposed to darker clothing when trying to stay cool in the summer heat. But did you know that lighter clothing is actually worse at protecting from sun rays? The fact is: when wet, light-colored clothing is almost as ineffective as having completely bare skin. Ideally, dress them in long-sleeved clothing and pants, glasses with UV protection to protect the eyes, and a wide-brimmed hat.
You might be tempted to get one of those cute little baseball caps, but their sun protection leaves something to be desired. Get a wide-brimmed hat, which does a much better job of protecting them from the sun’s harsh rays, not only in their eyes but on the rest of their head and face, too.
3. Avoid the sun if too young. If your child is less than 6 months old, it’s best to avoid the sun altogether if possible. The sun is particularly harsh between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so avoid being in direct sunlight during these hours. If possible, you should try to plan ahead to be out before or after the harshest time of the day. If you do have to go out in the sun during these hours, be sure to cover up well.
4. Double check any medications. If your child is on any medications, you should be aware that some of them can cause sensitivity to sunlight, resulting in severe sunburns quickly. Be sure to check with your doctor or the pharmacist to make sure that this won’t be an issue with any of the medications they might be on.
5. Bring your own shade. Going to spend a day at the beach? Bring a good umbrella, which is one of the best ways to protect from the sun! They can usually be easily stored in the car, so there’s no reason not to have one with you on a hot day. If you’re going out with a stroller, have the sun shade in use at all times. Many strollers come with them, but if yours doesn’t, you can find universal ones online and they’re not that expensive. Keep in mind that being in the shade doesn’t necessarily protect you from UV rays! It can sometimes give a false sense of security, because even though it seems like you’re out of the sun, in reality the light is still there, just reflected and scattered. Also, if you’re spending a day at the beach, remember that the sand reflects UV rays.
6. Keep them cool and hydrated. Not only is the direct sunlight a risk, but you should make sure to keep them cool and well-hydrated, too!
Bring juices or water along with you on outdoor excursions. An insulated lunch pail or cooler bag is perfect for this, and you can put little snacks and food along with it, too. If your child is still breastfeeding, breast milk is adequate to cool them. If you’re using a stroller, you can also get stroller fans that are battery-powered, and attach to the stroller to keep them cooled off. Some of these fans are better than others, so make sure to do your research first.
7. Watch the weather. Keep an eye on the ultra-violet (UV) index. A simple way to do so is by checking a site like weather.com for your area, which tells you the UV index of your area. A higher UV index is worse, and it ranges on a scale from 0-11+. In general, a UV index of 3 or more means you should take extra precaution when taking the kids outside. You should also keep an eye on the temperature and humidity. On a particularly hot and nasty day, it might be better to beat the heat by staying indoors and postponing the outdoor activities for another day.
Summer is my favorite time of the year, and maybe it’s just my imagination, but it seems like the sun is getting harsher and harsher over time. I had some bad sunburns when I was a kid, before we knew just how awful it was to get one even once. Nowadays, we know just how important it is to avoid them, and the fact is that it’s pretty simple to do so with a little precaution.
Do you have any more sun safety tips for the summer? Please leave a comment and let us know! —Jennifer