Summer has officially arrived and with this return of warmth comes additional considerations for parents as you plan summer outdoor activities. Your children will likely be more exposed to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays as they go outdoors and spend more time in the sun. Our pediatric team at Premier Medical Group wants to equip you with the sun safety knowledge you’ll need to help you protect your children from the sun this summer so you can worry less and enjoy the summer season more.
Stock up on sunscreen
Did you know that one instance of severe sunburn during childhood can double an individual’s risk of developing skin cancer*? That’s why our pediatricians recommend you stock up on sunscreen this summer, and not only practice using sunscreen during summer months but year round.
- What type of sunscreen to purchase
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new regulations for sunscreen labeling recommend you use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. For best results, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that both adults and children outdoors use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher during physical activity. The sunscreen should also offer broad-spectrum protection (meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays which result in skin aging and skin burning, respectively) and be water-resistant. Sunscreen which contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide also helps to protect sensitive skin.
- Sunscreen is for everyone
Many perceive that sun rays are more dangerous for individuals with sensitive skin or those with a paler skin tone. However, sunscreen is for everyone, regardless of the skin tone of your child or whether you have a history of skin cancer in your family.
Everyone, including people of color, need to wear sunscreen every day according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Though the extra melanin in darker skin provides some protection against UV rays (up to SPF of 13), even darker skins can burn if exposed to UV rays and as research highlights, skin cancer is often discovered at a later stage in people of color and is therefore usually more fatal.
Take a proactive approach by using sunscreen often since sunburns can occur a few hours before becoming visible or apparent.
- When and how often to apply sunscreen
To maintain sun safety, apply sunscreen on your child 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply 30 minutes after exposure occurs. Continue reapplying every one to two hours during sun exposure or sooner if your child has been sweating or swimming.
- Signs of sunburn to look out for
For mild sunburn, the signs may include redness, discomfort and itchiness. Severe sunburn, however, results in skin redness and blistering, pain, swelling, headaches, nausea, fever, chills, and dizziness.
Keep your kids hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is a must for good health; but it’s also a standard that when applied helps kids gain added protection from the sun. After all, dry skin burns easier and it can take only about 15 minutes of exposure for sunburns to occur.
- How much water should your child drink
Based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are no specific recommendations for how much plain water individuals, including children, should drink each day. However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children ages 1-3 years need approximately 4 cups of beverages per day, including water or milk. 4-8 year olds need 5 cups of fluids while older children need 7-8 cups of fluids to stay hydrated.
A good benchmark, particularly on hot days, is to encourage children to drink cups of water (that’s 8 oz cups) that correspond with their age. For example, a child that’s 5 years old can drink 5 cups of water per day or 40 ounces of water. Of course, you may lessen this depending on how much fluid-rich foods or beverages your child consumes during the hot summer days ahead.
- How often should they drink water when out in the sun
Children need more water when they are out in the sun or exercising. Increase their sun safety, and help prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion, by ensuring your children drink water before, during and after physical activity, whether or not they say they are thirsty.
- What to do if you child doesn’t like to drink water
Encouraging your child to drink more water can be a challenge. But there are creative approaches you can take that’ll motivate your kids to drink more of this sun-protecting and life-saving fluid. Jazz up your water by adding fruits and more! Also offer fruits and vegetables with high water content such as watermelon, berries, cucumber or celery.
- Signs of dehydration to look out for
Thirst is a sign of dehydration. Since children may not even recognize that they’re thirsty until they’re already dehydrated, be extra vigilant as you look for other signs of dehydration such as infrequent, dark colored urine; dry lips, tongue, mouth or throat; dizziness or light-headedness; nausea or a headache.
Wear lightweight and sun protective clothing
In addition to ensuring your children wear sunscreen and stay hydrated, parents can protect their children from UV rays with sun protective clothing. Sun protection clothing is designed to prevent the skin from absorbing the UV rays which burn and age the skin.
Since UV rays can pass through regular clothing and damage the skin, these protective clothing work by blocking the sun rays and are distinguished from regular garments based on their “ultraviolet protection factor” (UPF), which signifies how much UV rays the clothing can block. For example, a swimwear that has an UPF factor of 80 can block up to 80% of UV rays.
- Does sun protective clothing work in water?
Sun protection or UPV clothes work in water but their protective capacity is cut in about half when wet. You’ll need to keep this in mind when your children are outdoors in water during the summer. That’s why it’s best to also use sunscreen every 1-2 hours while your child is outdoors, whether or not they are wearing sun protective clothing.
- Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses
For added protection, be sure to use hats and sunglasses which protect your child’s face, especially the sensitive skin around the eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
- Let shade be your friend
When possible, encourage your children to play in the shade and plan outdoor activities during times when sun is less direct, for instance before 10am and after 4pm.
Sun safety habits can benefit you and your family year round. This summer is the perfect opportunity to make sun safety a part of your daily routine. Also, remember that skin protection is for every skin tone and that you teach best by doing – so wear your sunscreen too!
Book Physicals Early!
As you make plans to ensure summer safety for your children, don’t forget to book your child’s physicals for sports and summer camps. Request a copy of their vaccination record and make sure all their recommended vaccinations are up to date.
Stay safe and have a happy and healthy summer!
*Lew RA, Sober AJ, Cook N, et al. Sun exposure habits in patients with cutaneous melanoma: a case study. J Dermatol Surg Onc 1983; 12:981-6.