Fun in the Sun: Five Strategies for Protecting Skin From Ultraviolet Damage
Summer vacation is a time for outdoor activities and fun in the sun for most families. Children especially love playing outside and soaking up the sun during these warm summer days. Parents should be cautious, however, since the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause serious damage to unprotected skin and prolonged exposure can sometimes result in painful sunburns. In moderation, sunlight provides significant benefits including helping the body produce Vitamin D, an essential nutrient that improves absorption of calcium. Obtaining sufficient Vitamin D through diet alone can be difficult, so spending time outdoors is a good way to maintain adequate supplies of this critical nutrient in the diet. Depending on the age of the child, various degrees of protection are required when spending time in the sun. Here are some helpful guidelines to ensure that children are protected against excess ultraviolet rays when spending time in the sun.
Clothing Not Optional
For infants and toddlers, covering up exposed areas of skin is still the best and most effective way to protect against prolonged exposure to sun. Baby’s skin is delicate and can quickly become sunburned after only a short time in direct sunlight, so providing a layer of light clothing covering the arms, legs, and body and a hat or visor to shield baby’s face can ensure that skin is protected against sun damage. A portable sunshade can also be used to keep infants and toddlers out of direct sunlight.
Screen It Out
Sunscreen is one of the most important tools for protecting sensitive skin against sunburn and sun damage. Be sure to select a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30; 45 SPF is better, but may limit Vitamin D production due to its extreme effectiveness in preventing ultraviolet rays from affecting the skin. Avoid sunscreen lotions with heavy perfumes or colorants; these can irritate sensitive skin and provide no additional protection against the sun’s damaging rays.
The sun can also damage developing retinas and cause minor vision problems. The majority of sunglasses on the market offer protection against ultraviolet rays; this makes them an effective tool in guarding against sun damage to younger eyes. Sunglasses should fit the child properly, offer a high degree of ultraviolet ray protection, and should have lenses large enough to cover the entire eye area in order to produce the best protective results for children. By allowing the child to select his or her own sunglasses, parents can increase the chances that the child will keep them on while playing outside.
While no sunscreen is 100% waterproof, many offer protection for up to two hours in the water. This is especially useful for parents who participate in Mommy and Me or Daddy and Me swimming lessons with their infants. By applying waterproof sunscreen before the classes, parents can ensure that their child is protected against sun damage and sun damage throughout the scheduled water familiarization and beginning swimming activities.
Limit Midday Time Outside
The sun’s rays are fiercest from around noon until two or three in the afternoon. Children typically should not spend a great deal of time outside during this period because the likelihood of sunburn or other sun damage increases significantly at these times.
By carefully monitoring their children’s time outside and ensuring that they are well protected against the bulk of ultraviolet rays in sunlight, parents can decrease the chances that their children will experience sunburns and reduce the potential for later skin cancer due to overexposure to sunlight in early childhood. Parents who incorporate sunglasses, sunscreens, and cover-ups into their overall sun protection strategy can ensure their children enjoy fun in the sun without paying the price in sunburns and skin damage later in life.