Odds are that this summer, more than ever, your kids are going to be wound up and itching to be outside as much as possible. Keeping them safe from sunburn and sun damage is not difficult, but it takes vigilance.
The sun is closest to the northern hemisphere during these summer months. Harmful ultraviolet radiation in sunlight can damage skin in a matter of minutes, sensitive skin especially. Kids have more sensitive skin than adults, and it can burn in as little as 15 minutes with no protection. UV light damages skin cells, leading to a tan if it doesn’t outright burn. A suntan is your skin’s reaction to damage, so even if it’s not burnt, it’s damaged. In response to damage, skin’s first line of defense is to create more melanin. Melanin is responsible for skin’s pigmentation. Sunburns and short-term sun damage are one thing. Caring for a little one with a sunburn, no matter how severe, is a unique challenge, but if you’re careful, you can avoid it outright. Damage sustained in childhood can contribute to skin cancer later in life, especially if your child doesn’t take care of their skin with age as well.
There are a few steps to take to protect your kids from sun damage so you can rest easy at the pool, the beach, or the backyard. The first and most critical line of defense against sun damage is sunscreen. There are two different types of sunscreen: chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreen uses substances that absorb UV light and keep it from getting to the skin, while physical sunscreen blocks and reflects ultraviolet radiation. Both are effective at keeping skin safe from the sun, but they each have their perks. Most people with sensitive skin use physical sunscreen, so children’s sunscreen is often physical. Most sunscreens will say whether they’re physical or chemical, but you can often tell by the ingredients if the label doesn’t tell you. Products with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are physical sunscreens. Opt for sunscreen designed for children that has an SPF of 30 or more. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if your kids are sweating or in the water frequently. Even waterproof or sweat- proof products will wear off in water within two hours.
Sunscreen is a great start, but you’ll need to do more to make sure your kids are as protected as possible. Avoid exposure to sun during the peak hours of sunlight, which range from noon through the afternoon. This is when the light is at its most intense, and sun damage is most likely. With that being said, it can happen year-round and even out of direct sunlight your kids can still be sunburnt by reflective surfaces like sand or glass. Seek shade as much as possible, for yourself and your family. Opt for areas with trees or other sources of natural shade. At the beach or in the park, sun umbrellas can provide an excellent source of protection.
Pay attention to how you clothe your children. Large sun hats can protect their faces and necks from sun damage. Long sleeves and pants (if it’s cool enough) offer extra protection. It’s important to note, however, that UV light can still penetrate fabric and damage skin. Opt for clothing that has a UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor. These sun-safe clothes are designed to be light and breathable, but still offer protection from the worst of the sun’s rays. Sunglasses can also protect eyes, as sun can damage your child’s eyes, whether reflected or directly exposed.
If you’re looking to keep your childrens’ skin safe from sun damage, take note! If you’re curious about any of the topics discussed, reach out to the experts at Northeast Dermatology Associates.
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