It’s summertime! That means your children are going to be spending more time outdoors. And while you want them to be out in the fresh air and sunshine you also want to keep them safe from sunburn and the harmful rays of the sun no matter what their age.
We all know that sunscreen is a must! Today’s guidelines recommend applying sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going outside and reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours (more often if your child is sweating) and when getting out of the water. But, there is more to keeping your children safe than just applying sunscreen.
The following tips can help make sure your children stay safe but still enjoy their time outdoors:
Tips for babies and young children:
- Babies under 6 months old should stay out of direct sunlight. If you are outdoors, find a shady area. If that’s impossible use an umbrella or a stroller canopy to keep them shielded from the sun. If you are planning a long day in the sun, look for a sun-tent with built in UV protection.
- Use sunscreen on a daily basis and make sure you are choosing the right sunscreen. Choose one specifically made for babies’ sensitive skin and use sparingly. Professor Ian Olver, the CEO of Cancer Council Australia states, “There’s no evidence that using sunscreen on babies is harmful, however, we recommend infants are kept out of the sun…then sunscreen need only be used occasionally on very small areas of the skin.”  See: Choosing the Best Sunscreen
- Remember that the sun’s rays bounces off of surfaces such as cement, water and sand. Don’t assume that your baby is protected just because he isn’t in direct sunlight, check out the environment to make sure the sun’s rays won’t be bouncing off nearby surfaces.
- Look for UV protection clothing, such as shirts and swimsuits.
- Keep a hat on your baby, especially if he or she still doesn’t have any hair.
Tips for older children:
- Talk to your children about sun safety. There are some websites that make talking to your children a fun activity:
- Sun Safe Play Everyday (A YouTube video)
- Have your children dress in lightweight (cotton is a good choice) clothing with a tight weave that covers their shoulders, backs, arms and legs.
- Use rash guard clothing. A rash guard is an athletic shirt make of spandex, nylon or polyester that can be worn in the water and protects your child from the sun while allowing him or her to swim. The material helps your child stay cooler than other types of clothing.
- Use wide brimmed hats to keep their face shielded from the sun.
- Look for child size sunglasses with UV protection. Wrap around sunglasses provide the best protection.
- Make sure you are using enough sunscreen. Most people don’t apply enough. Recommendations for adults are: ½ teaspoon for face, neck and ears, 1 teaspoon for each arm and leg, 1 teaspoon for the front torso and 1 teaspoon for the back torso. Children need about ½ of this amount.
- If your child is going to over-night or day camp, make sure the counselors are reapplying sunscreen on a regular basis and that there are shady areas for your children to play. Talk with the camp to make sure sun exposure is limited during the hottest part of the day.
- Don’t forget your child’s lips. Add a lip balm with sunscreen to your summer essentials.
- Check with your pharmacist if your child is on any medication. Some medications increase sun sensitivity and require special protection.
- Remember that the sun’s harmful rays are around even on cloudy days. Make sunscreen part of your child’s daily regimen.
No matter what your child’s age, make sure you set a good example by using sunscreen and practicing sun safety on a daily basis. When your child sees you taking steps to protect you, and every member of your family, he will accept it as “just what you do” when going outdoors. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states. “Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. So, if your child’s skin looks ‘a little pink’ today, it may be burned tomorrow morning. To prevent further burning, get your child out of the sun.” 
 “Keeping Your Child Sun Safe This Summer,” 2012, Dec 5, Rebecca Felsenthal Stewart, Practical Parenting
 “Protecting Children from the Sun,” Updated 2013, April 23, Staff Writer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Published On: June 12, 2013