Children enjoy summer and playing in the sun, but unfortunately UV rays are most dangerous this time of year. According to the CDC, a history of one or more sunburns in childhood or adolescence has been found to increase the risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. More than half of a person’s lifetime UV exposure typically occurs during childhood and adolescence.
Sun exposure also damages the eyes. Even one day in the sun can lead to a burned cornea (the outermost, clear membrane layer of the eye). Cumulative sun exposure can lead to cataracts — clouding of the eye lens which can affect vision.
The most important way of protecting your child from the sun is to avoid sun exposure when the sun is most dangerous which is from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.. Even on cloudy days UV rays travel off sand, water and concrete. You also can prevent sun exposure by seeking shade under a tree or an umbrella.
Cover up your child with protective clothing and a hat. Ensure that clothes will screen out harmful UV rays by placing your hand inside the garments and making sure you can’t see through them. Hats that shade the face, scalp and neck are preferred to give protection from the sun.
Sunglasses can make a fashion statement but also can protect your child’s eyes from a burned cornea now or cataracts later in life. Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100 percent of UV rays as possible.
When purchasing sunscreen, buy sunscreen that is broad spectrum, protecting against all UV rays. The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) should be 15 or higher. Sunscreen should be applied at least 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. Don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips and the top of the feet which often go unprotected. To get the level of SPF promised on the label, you need to slap on enough for your skin to stay damp for a minute or two.
Don’t rely on sunscreen labels that advertise sweatproof, waterproof and all day protection since all sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours. And remember, certain medications such as antibiotics, antibiotics and ibuprofen can make your child’s skin more sensitive to sun exposure, so be extra protective at these times.