Remember how much you marveled at your baby’s smooth skin? Don’t let the sun destroy that beautiful canvas. Ultraviolet sunlight damages the skin and can lead to wrinkles and cancers later on. There is no such thing as a healthy tan; a tan is a sign of sun damage.
ALWAYS put sunscreen on your child before going outside. Make a fun game out of it. Teach your child to spell BEENS to help you remember to cover often-forgotten spots: Back of knees, Ears, Eye area, Neck, and Scalp.
Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. Then reapply every 2 hours, or sooner if your child has been swimming. Water-resistant sunscreen wears off — check the label to see how soon you’ll need to reapply- usually about every 30 minutes.
Choose a Child-Friendly Sunscreen
Can’t decide which sunscreen is best for your child?
No. 1 tip: Choose a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide because the compounds are less irritating than others and do not get absorbed into the skin.
There is some concern that other sunscreen ingredients, particularly oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate (a form of Vitamin A), may cause harm. However, both chemicals are FDA approved for use in sunscreens.
- Opt for a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
- Make sure it’s labeled “broad spectrum,” which means it blocks both UVA and UVB sunlight.
- Let your child choose a colored or scented sunscreen.
- Sunscreen sticks are best for the face because they are less likely to drip.
- Spray-on sunscreens for kids are best because they are easy to apply. Cover your child’s face while spraying, or have him make a funny face or hold his breath for five seconds.
Cover Up Head to Toe
Sunscreen is only part of sun safety. Experts recommend staying inside from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
Clothing can also help. The best sun protection is something that completely blocks the sun from getting to the skin, which is clothing if you’re not inside a building,
But forget about tossing on a flimsy, white tee. A white T-shirt has limited protective value. If you can see through the tee, the sun can shine through and burn the skin. Dark, tight-woven clothing that covers all exposed skin is best.
You can also buy clothing that is specially treated with chemicals that help protect against ultraviolet sunlight. Sun-protective clothing, such as a kid’s swim shirt or rash guard shirt, with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 30 or higher is the best solution. The clothing loses its UPF strength after several washes, so check the labels for care instructions.
Don’t want to buy new clothes? The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends SunGuard, a laundry additive that contains a sunscreen called Tinosorb FD. Toss it in the wash, and your clothes instantly get a UPF of 30. The protection lasts about 20 washings
Wear a Hat
Have your child take a tip from Barney and wear a hat outside. Take your child hat shopping, but be sure to purchase a hat with a wide brim that casts a shadow on the face. Too old for Barney? Look for a favorite sports team or school logo.
Sunglasses are another outdoors must-have. They are an important part of sun protection and recommended for kids of all ages. Make sure they filter both UVB and UVA rays.
Being a role model is vital to helping your kids establish healthy sun habits. If they see you skipping the sunscreen, working on a tan, or forgoing a hat, chances are they will do so too.
Soothing a Sunburn
If your child gets sunburn and is active and playful and does not have any blisters, here’s how you can make him feel better.
- Place a cool compress on the sunburn.
- Apply aloe gel to the burned skin. Try placing the aloe in the fridge for a few minutes first before using.
- Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor for the correct dose.
- Give your child plenty of fluids.
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