Safe Fun in the Sun: Keep Your Kids Protected from Sunburns
Kids who like being outside get that all-important physical activity, plenty of fresh air, and sunshine. But sunshine isn’t all vitamin D. Too much of it can lead to burns – and may have long-term consequences on your child’s skin. Here are some ideas to help you protect your kids from too much sun while still letting them have a good time outside.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Sunscreen
Sunscreen is the best way to keep your kids safe from too much sun. Here are some points to keep in mind about purchasing and using an over the counter sunscreen product:
- Be sure to go with an SPF of around 30. Sunscreens with a higher SPFs don’t actually provide much more protection. On the other hand, lower SPF’s give only partial or inadequate coverage.
- Choose a sunscreen that is PABA-free. PABA, short for para-aminobenzoic acid, was an ingredient in many early sunscreens made in the 1970’s. Today however, it is not so widely used due to the fact that it can cause rashes. Even so, look for the PABA-free label to be sure.
- Many dermatologists prefer sunscreens made of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which deflect sun rays rather than those absorbs them.
- Look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ to block out both UVA and UVB rays.
- Avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone (which can disrupt the hormone system) and retinyl palmitate (which may actually trigger skin damage on sun-exposed skin).
- Pick your sunscreen carefully if your child has sensitive skin. Some sunscreens have artificial fragrances or dyes that can cause allergic reactions in sensitive children. Read the labels carefully. If you are really concerned, consider a visit to your local health food store to see what all-natural sunscreens are available.
- Apply the sunscreen to your child’s exposed skin in a thin layer and massage until it is absorbed. Do not apply it too close to the eyes, as this can cause irritation and pain.
- Remember that one application will not last you the whole day! It is best to reapply sunscreen around every 2 hours to make sure you are getting enough protection.
Regular clothing doesn’t always protect against sun exposure. Kids can get burned even through their clothes, particularly if they’re made of are very light-weight cotton – or if that cotton gets wet and sticks to their skin. However, the good news is that you can buy clothing that has UVA/UVB protection built right in. While this shouldn’t replace sunscreen, it does give your kids an extra layer of protection when they’re outside. It is also a great second line of defense if you forget to reapply sunscreen as often as needed.
As an added bonus, many of these sun-proof clothes are made from materials that are light, breathable, and comfortable in even very hot weather. They can be pricey, but they are well worth it if your family spends a lot of time in the sun.
Special Considerations at the Pool or Beach
Does your little one practically live at the beach or the pool during the summer? Be prepared: Buy waterproof sunscreen and make sure to reapply it more frequently than you normally would to ensure that they have adequate protection. Kids are particularly vulnerable in the water. Not only does the water wash off the protection, but also remember that they’re being exposed to direct sunlight as well as the light reflecting off the water and the sand.
To Cap It all Off...
Your kids might protest, but hats really are a great way to give them sun protection. Whether the hat is made from straw or cloth, be sure to get one with a wide brim that will truly block out the sun. The brim should go all the way around the hat– kids might think that the baseball cap is cool, but it will not protect their ears or the back of their necks, two areas that are particularly vulnerable to sunburn.
Hats can be a tough sell, so try to find some that are fun or funky!. You can make it into an event: Take a trip with them to an outdoor clothing store and allow them to pick from a selection of sun hats. If they are making the selection themselves, they’ll be more likely to actually wear it.
If a Burn Does Happen…
Accidents happen. Despite all your precautions, sometimes your kids can come in with a sunburn. If this happens, apply cool (but not cold) water or have them take a soak in an old-fashioned oatmeal bath. Then dry them off gently and apply aloe gel to the affected area. You can use gel directly from the plant itself or buy a commercial mixture instead. Aloe gels typically have a topical analgesic added to take away some of the pain.
If you don’t have aloe, witch hazel extract (especially if refrigerated) is also a great topical treatment to soothe the pain, swelling, and redness of a burn.
Once the initial stage of the burn is over, you can apply a fragrance-free lotion to their skin to help prevent peeling later on. If the burn is particularly painful, it might also be a good idea to let kids sleep with just a sheet for a few nights, as the pressure of a blanket might be too much for them. Also keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of an infection, which can sometimes happen with a burn.
What are your tips to keep kids safe from sunburns? Are you obsessive with the sunscreen or think a bit of sun on the skin is a-okay?
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