For many, fond childhood memories involve a little sunshine—whether by the pool or at the beach. While children of all ages tend to race out the door on the first day of summer, it’s important to exercise caution underneath the sun’s rays. Here’s how:
There are two types of sun rays: Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB). While UVB rays are commonly known for being the most dangerous to skin, UVA rays can be equally as damaging. According to Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., director of Mohs and Dermatologic Surgery at Continuum Health Partners in New York City, “Both suntans and sunburns are signs that skin cells have been damaged by radiation from the sun.”
When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, the SPF, or sun protective factor, indicates how effective the sunscreen is at preventing sunburn. The type of sunscreen you use is less important than the UVA and UVB protection it provides. Whether you’re using a cream, gel, lotion, or spray, you’ll want to be sure you’re using a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen with SPF 15 (which blocks 93 percent of UVB rays) or higher on all exposed areas, every two hours. Finding a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen is crucial when it comes to protecting against both UVA and UVB rays. If your child is going to be in or around water, it’s recommended you search for a “water-resistant” sunscreen, as well.
If a baby is under 6 months of age, only use sunscreens with zinc oxide as the active ingredient on small areas of the body, as absolutely necessary. Babies’ skin is extra sensitive and can easily absorb chemicals. With all small children, however, the primary means of protection should be shade and clothing.
Stay in the Shade
Get out of the sun between the hours of 10AM and 2PM (or 4PM, if you’re being extra cautious) to avoid the most intense UVB rays. If you can’t avoid the sun, be sure children are covered with hats, sunglasses, proper clothing and drink plenty of water. Proper clothing has UV protection of at least 30 UPF and is tightly woven, meaning you can’t see through it easily. When possible, use a stroller with a canopy, dress babies in wide-brimmed hats or bonnets to cover their faces. Be sure to also exercise caution on overcast days; up to 80 percent of UV rays can penetrate clouds and reflect off surfaces such as concrete, water, and sand.
Contact a pediatrician about a sunburn if the child is under the age of one, or if they have accompanying blisters, severe pain, or a fever. While cool baths, moist compresses, and Ibuprofen can help reduce pain, itchiness, and swelling; you’ll want to keep the child out of the sun until the sunburn clears.
There’s lots of fun to be had away from the sun if you’re in the Portland area as well for those scorching summer days. Take your children to an evening of arts and crafts at The Craft Factory or hit up one of the 40 bowling lanes at KingPins.
Still have questions? NWPC is here to help. With resources, tools, and expert advice, let us help with any questions you may have.