Family Sun Safety

Posted by Paulina Chu on

Fun in the sun

Summer is a time for kids to enjoy the great outdoors and soak up some vitamin D from the sun.  Nothing beats the sight of happy little kids running around, swimming, and enjoying an ice cream in the Summer sun!  However, with the increasing risk of skin cancer and other harmful effects of UV rays, sun protection has become more important than ever.  We all know the basics of sun protection for ourselves, but when it comes to taking care of delicate baby skin it never hurts to look beyond the obvious.

Parent and kid on the beach

Use Sunscreen

Of course, sunscreen is the most important tool for protecting your child’s skin from the harmful effects of the sun.  Before I became a parent, sunscreen was just something you need to slather on when you are about to fry yourself by the beach, and you can forget about it for the rest of the day once you have put it on in the morning!  Now that I am a mom and am super aware of how sensitive a baby’s skin is, I need to learn more about it before putting it on our kids.  Apart from applying the sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and reapplying often or after swimming or sweating,  we should also find out if the sunscreen we chose is suitable for babies younger than 6 months old.  Or, what is the expiration date of the bottle I bought last Summer, and can I still use it this year?

Applying Sunscreen on the baby

Avoid prolonged exposure

Apart from dressing the little ones in lightweight, long-sleeved protective shirts and pants that cover as much skin as possible, complete with brimmed hats to protect the head and neck, we should also avoid exposing them to the strong summer sun for long periods at a time.  There are some very cool outdoor toys and tents precisely to help entice the children to play in the shade, being outdoors doesn’t need to mean being in the sun all day!  Another great way to switch around your schedule and visit the pool or beach towards the late afternoon, both to avoid long sun exposure and the crowd.  This mom has gotten this “Backward Beach” schedule working wonderfully for her family. 

Don’t get fooled by a cloudy day

Nothing is more deceiving than a cloudy day when it comes to sunburns!  UV light can still get through the cloud and you only realize you have been burned when it is too late!  So, keep applying sunscreen or wear protective clothes on a cloudy day if you plan to stay outdoors with the kids for a long period.  In the unfortunate case that your little one is suffering from sunburn, get them indoors as soon as possible and cool down their skin by running cool or room temperature over the burned area.  Here are some useful tips on what to do and what not to do in case of sunburn.  

Tent and wagon on the beach

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Children are particularly vulnerable to sunstroke because they may not be able to recognize the early signs of heat exhaustion and may not take the necessary steps to cool down.  Encourage your child to drink water before, during, and after outdoor activities and throughout the day. Dehydration can increase the risk of sunstroke and other heat-related illnesses.  We should also be aware of the symptoms of sunstroke (which can include fatigue, weakness, headache, dizziness, nausea, and muscle cramps) and look out for them so we can intervene as early as possible.  Always bring along some sports drinks with electrolytes to replenish what the children have lost through excessive sweating.  If possible, bring your drinks in a cooler with ice packs in it so that in case of heat stroke, you can also use the ice packs to help cool your child down by applying them on their neck or armpits.  If your child's symptoms don't improve or if they develop more serious symptoms such as confusion, seizures, or loss of consciousness, seek medical help immediately. 

Girl with sun drawn on her back

Be a good role model

Children learn by example, so make sure you’re setting a good example by practicing sun safety yourself. Wear sunscreen, protective clothing, and hats, and seek shade when possible. Encourage your child to do the same.

Enjoy the sun and Stay Sparky!

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