Summer is here. If you haven’t already…It’s time to dust off those pool noodles, sand toys, and kites, and have some fun in the sun!
Kids need healthy time outdoors, but it’s also important to protect their skin. It only takes one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence to almost double a person’s chance of developing deadly melanoma. Whether they are in the pool, at the beach, playing sports or just exploring, here are our top dermatologist-recommended tips for keeping kids safe in the sun.
At the top of the list, definitely, is sunscreen. Make sunscreen a part of the daily routine, covering exposed skin at least 15 minutes before going outside. No matter what their skin tone, children should be protected with an SPF of 30 or higher that is labeled broad-spectrum (meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays). If water play is on the agenda, use a water-resistant product (many mineral-based sunscreens work great). Apply generously and re-apply every two hours (read our tips for applying sunscreen). Don’t forget often-overlooked areas like the top of the feet, ears, and lips!
Time it right.
The sun is strongest from 10am to 4pm. To reduce the risk of burning, try to arrange outdoor time outside of this window. If kids are going to be out in the sun in the middle of the day, make sure they have sunscreen on. This applies even to days that are cool, cloudy or overcast. UV rays can penetrate cloud cover, surprising you and your child with an unexpected sunburn.
Putting a T-shirt or rashguard on a child is a great way to protect large areas of skin and keep them from getting burned. You can even invest in special UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing that is designed to block UV rays. Lastly, make sure kids have a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses to protect their eyes.
It’s important to have some kind of shelter from the sun. An umbrella, pop-up tent or canopy work if there is no natural or man-made shelter. Babies have thinner skin and an immature melanin response, so they burn very easily. The best way to protect babies is to keep them in the shade and dress them in protective clothing and a hat if they must be exposed to the sun. The American Academy of Dermatology states that babies younger than six months can be protected with a small amount of SPF 30 sunscreen (preferably a mineral-based brand containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) on just the areas that will be exposed.
Some medicines make skin more sensitive to UV rays, including certain antibiotics and acne medications. Kids will need extra sun protection while they are taking these drugs.
Sunburn dos and don’ts
If your child gets sunburned and is uncomfortable, Do put him or her in a cool (not cold) bath or apply cool, wet compresses to the skin. Do apply pure aloe vera gel to the burned skin. If your child is in pain, Do give them an appropriate dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Do see a doctor for sunburns that are severe or that blister.
Don’t use petroleum-based products, which trap heat and sweat. Don’t use products with benzocaine, which can cause skin irritation or allergic reaction. Don’t let your child peel sunburned skin or pop blisters as this raises the risk of infection. Don’t let your child back into the sun until the sunburn has healed.