Summer sun is finally here. Parents are advised before their children rush out the door to play, remember to protect their skin.
“With all the rain we’ve had, it’s so nice to finally see the sun,” said Jennifer Thrush, public information officer for the Union County Health Department. “But as parents, it’s important we don’t forget to protect our children’s fragile skin in our rush to enjoy the sunshine.”
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sun exposure early in life is a major contributing factor to developing skin cancer later in life. With about 23% of lifetime UV exposure occurring before the age of 18, this exposure can have far-reaching effects.
“Sun damage is cumulative, so sun exposure during childhood can contribute to skin cancer risk later in life,” said Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation.
Kids don’t have to be at the pool, beach, or on vacation to get too much sun. The sun’s UV rays can damage unprotected skin in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. That means if your child’s skin looks “a little pink” today, it may be burned tomorrow morning.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends parents start building healthy sun habits at an early age. To protect your child’s skin:
Seek shade. UV rays are strongest and most harmful during midday, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Enjoy some air conditioning or seek shade under a tree, an umbrella, or a pop-up tent.
Cover up. When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection.
A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one.
, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.
Get a hat. Hats that shade the face, scalp, ears, and neck are easy to use and give great protection. Use hats with a brim of at least four inches. Baseball caps are popular among kids, but they don’t protect their ears and neck. If your child chooses a cap, be sure to protect exposed areas with sunscreen.
Wear sunglasses. They protect your child’s eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
Apply sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with at least SPF 30 every time your child goes outside. For the best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. Don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet. Reapply every two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Take sunscreen with you to reapply during the day, especially after your child swims or exercises. This applies to waterproof and water-resistant products as well.
“Babies under six months of age need extra vigilance in protecting them from the sun. During this age, their sensitive skin is most vulnerable,” said Thrush.
For babies under six months of age, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends parents shield their baby from the sun rather than use sunscreen. Avoid direct sun exposure and seek shade when your infant is outdoors. Babies should wear brimmed hats and clothing that covers the arms and legs. Baby sunglasses are also recommended. Sunscreen should be started at six months or earlier if recommended by your pediatrician.
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