“Here comes the sun,
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right…” ~George Harrison, the Beatles
Spring is here and along with it comes the sun! It’s hard to believe that something that makes us feel so good can be harmful, but we know that without protection the sun can cause serious burns and even skin cancer.
Young children are more susceptible to injury from the sun because their skin is thinner than that of older children and adults. This means that young children burn more easily than older children and adults, and infants are even more vulnerable than young children. Contrary to popular belief, dark-skinned children can burn also; it may take a little longer than it does for fair-skinned children, but their skin is just as susceptible to damage from the sun.
The tricky thing about sunburn is that often you don’t know you have one until it’s too late. Even on cloudy days eighty percent of the sun’s harmful rays reach the ground through the clouds and wreak havoc on your skin.
So how do you protect yourself and your family from the sun?
Begin by applying a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Ask your doctor for sunscreen recommendations for children under two. The FDA has new sunscreen label requirements for 2012 that will make it easier to choose the right sunscreen for your family.
Once you’ve found the right sunscreen, apply it generously about half an hour before going outside, and reapply according to directions. Since the face, shoulders, back of knees, back of the legs, ears and nose are more likely to burn than other parts of the body, be sure to cover those areas liberally and frequently.
Covering up in lightweight clothing is another way to protect yourself and your child from the sun. Have your child wear a hat outdoors to protect his sensitive scalp, and be sure to cover bare feet. Speaking of bare feet, watch out for hot cement, sand and play equipment. A wide variety of sun protective clothing designed to keep you cool while protecting you from the sun is available for all ages and activities.
Avoid the sun between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM because that’s when the sun’s rays are most potent and harmful. Also keep in mind that certain drugs, including some antibiotics, increase sun sensitivity, making extra protection essential.
If you do end up with a sunburn, the first thing to do is treat it like any other burn and stop the burning. Cool wet compresses applied every 10 minutes, a cool shower, bath or dip in a cool pool can all help relieve the discomfort. Be sure to keep the burned skin out of the sun until it’s completely healed, then protect it when you do go back into the sun. Blistering, nausea, chills and fever are symptoms of a more serious burn; call your doctor immediately if any of these symptoms occur.
Now you know how to protect yourself and your family from the sun, go out and have some fun in the sun – safely!
Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan