Teaching Your Child About Sun SafetyJuly 03, 2012
Parents can teach their children many things, such as how to feed themselves, read a book or tie their own shoes. Mom and dad also can be great role models so kids will learn to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and always buckle up in the car. Another important lesson that parents can educate their children about is sun safety.
All children, regardless of skin color, need to be sun smart. But some need to take extra precautions, including those who have fair skin and blue or green eyes, have freckles and burn before tanning, spend a lot of time outside, have a family history of skin cancer, have certain diseases such as lupus, or take certain medications, including acne medicines, antibiotics or antihistamines.
Everyone needs some sun exposure because the sun is our main source of vitamin D that helps our bodies absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones. But too much sun can lead to premature aging of the skin, cataracts, a weakened immune system and skin cancer. Since an estimated 80 percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure comes before the age of 21, it is important to teach children how to protect their skin while having fun in the sun.
In just a few quick lessons children can learn good sun sense. Here’s how:
Lesson 1: Apply plenty of waterproof or water resistant sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside and then again every two hours. Make sure it is broad spectrum (protects against both ultraviolet (UV) A and UVB rays) and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to prevent both sunburn and tanning. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the ears, nose, lips and tops of feet.
Lesson 2: Cover up with protective clothing, such as a long-sleeve shirt, pants and a hat that shades the face, scalp, ears and neck. Most clothing only has a SPF of 5 to 9, so children still need sunscreen to prevent skin damage.
Lesson 3: Have children wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from UV rays. Choose sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible. Encourage kids to wear sunglasses by wearing them yourself, and let your child pick out a fun style they like.
Lesson 4: Try to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when rays are strongest. If children want to be outside, encourage them to seek shade when possible under a tree, umbrella or tent. Don’t forget that children can still get sunburn even if they are in the water or it is a cloudy day.
If your child gets sunburned, have them take a cool bath to alleviate heat and an anti-inflammatory medication to lessen pain. Do not give children aspirin or products containing aspirin. To relieve discomfort, apply an aloe vera gel to sunburned areas, or put on a topical moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin and treat itching.
For more information about sun safety, talk with your doctor or call 1-888-STCHRIS for a free referral to a pediatrician near you.