Hitting the Pool this Summer? Sun Safety Tips for Children
As you run down your checklist before taking the kids to the pool this summer, be sure to include sun safety preparation as one of the top items, because while a little sunburn or a nice tan may not seem like a big deal to you, it could have a lasting impact on your child’s health.
“Cumulative sun exposure leads to wrinkles, age spots, and increases the risk of skin cancer,” says Kelly Bennett, MD, a TriHealth pediatrician with Group Health-Mason. “Damage to your child's skin now could have long-lasting impacts on their health, which is why it is important to be sure they are protected.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, skin cancer is not only the most common form of cancer in the U.S., the number of new cases rises significantly every year.
Protection from Sun Exposure
The two types of sun rays that can injure the skin are ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA affects the deep layers of skin. UVB damages the outermost layers of the skin and causes sunburn.
“Protect your child from sun exposure by having them wear long sleeve swimsuits in addition to a hat and sunscreen. Use UV-blocking sunglasses when possible,” says Dr. Bennett.
The Food and Drug Administration offers the following guidelines on selecting sunscreen:
- Sunscreens labeled SPF 30 or higher that block both UVA and UVB. These products are labeled as broad spectrum.
- Those that are water resistant, even if your activities do not include swimming. This type of sunscreen stays on your skin longer when your skin gets wet.
- Avoid products that combine sunscreen and insect repellent. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied often. Insect repellent applied too often could be harmful.
- If your skin is sensitive to the chemicals in sunscreen products, choose a mineral sunscreen such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These are also best for most toddlers and children who may have more sensitive skin.
- Less expensive products that have the same ingredients work as well as expensive ones.
Tips for Sunscreen Usage for You and Your Children
“Sunscreen alone doesn’t give full protection, so you should limit sun exposure for your children during peak sunlight hours and look for options to protect them from the sun such as clothing and a shady spot if available,” says Dr. Bennett. She also offers these tips when applying sunscreen:
- Apply 30 minutes before going outdoors for best results. This allows time for the sunscreen to be absorbed into your skin.
- Apply a large amount to all exposed areas. This includes face, nose, ears, and shoulders. DO NOT forget the feet.
- Follow package instructions about how often to reapply. This is usually at least every 2 hours.
- Always reapply after swimming or sweating.
- Use a lip balm with sunscreen.
- For infants six months and younger, sun protective clothing and a hat are preferred methods for sun protection. When necessary, use sunscreen sparingly on exposed areas.