Now that spring is here and summer is just around the corner, your children are likely to spend more time outside. With more time outdoors comes more time in the sun, and studies show a correlation between childhood sun exposure and the risk of developing skin cancer as an adult.  Here are some tips to keep your kids (and yourself) safe from harmful UV rays:

  • Wear protective clothing like lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, wide brimmed hats and sunglasses to provide an extra sun blocking layer
  • Avoid midday sun exposure
  • Apply sunscreen even when it’s cloudy
  • Don’t forget the ears and back of the neck

What Kind of Sunscreen Should I Buy?

There are many choices when it comes to buying the best type of sunscreen. The most protective kind of sunscreen is broad-spectrum sunscreen which will protect from both UVA and UVB rays.  Consider a physical sunscreen instead of a chemical sunscreen, which is broad-spectrum.  Physical sunscreen sits on the surface of the skin and reflects the sun’s rays, is great for sensitive skin, does not need to be reapplied for many hours unless wiped off, and is healthier as chemicals are not absorbed into the blood stream.  Physical sunscreens contain titanium and zinc oxide and have varying levels of fineness to them so that you aren’t left looking zinc white.  Many people prefer to use spray sunscreen because it’s quicker and easier to apply to a squirming child. While it’s effective, it only works where sprayed and can actually be harmful if inhaled.

What if My Child Gets a Sunburn?

When kids get sunburned, they usually have pain and a sensation of heat — symptoms that tend to get worse several hours after sun exposure. Some also get chills. Because the sun has dried their skin, it can become itchy and tight. Sunburned skin begins to peel about a week after the sunburn. Encourage your child not to scratch or peel off loose skin because skin underneath the sunburn is at risk for infection.
To treat a sunburn:

  • Have your child take a cool (not cold) bath, or gently apply cool, wet compresses to the skin to help ease pain and heat.
  • Apply pure aloe vera gel (available in most drugstores) to any sunburned areas.
  • Apply moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin and treat itching.
  • If the sunburn is severe and blisters develop, call your doctor. Tell your child not to scratch, pop, or squeeze the blisters, which can get infected and cause scarring.

Keep your child out of the sun until the sunburn is healed. Any further sun exposure will only make the burn worse and increase pain.