As summer nears, families will be spending more time outdoors. We’ll all benefit from the increased Vitamin D we’ll get from the sun, the improved mood we can get from being out in nature, and the fresh air (which is probably better air quality than we have indoors).
But sun safety is still important, especially for kids. Here are the top 5 ways to keep kids safe from too much sun.
Sunscreen is still the most convenient and reliable way to keep kids over 6 months safe from sun damage. Choose broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or above. Broad spectrum sunscreen protects from UVA and UVB rays.
Look for ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium oxide. These metals physically block the sun rather than relying on chemicals.
Put it on at least half an hour before going outside. And be sure to reapply every two hours. Reapply after water play, too, since it’s easy to wash sunscreen off while swimming or playing in the water.
Remember, everyone over 6 months needs sunscreen, whether they have darker or lighter skin. Even people who “don’t burn” can end up with sun damage.
Stay indoors or in the shade from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
You can provide your own shade by setting up a sun umbrella in the back yard or adding a sunshade to your child’s stroller. Choose a shady spot when you stake out a place in a park.
When it’s time to reapply sunscreen, take the opportunity to get kids into the shade and to give them water to drink. This habit can help keep kids from overheating or getting dehydrated.
Dress for the sun
Protective clothing is more available than it used to be. Not only are there modern fibers designed to limit UV ray exposure, but there’s a new way to measure the effectiveness of these fabrics. A UPF or Ultraviolet Protection Factor of 50+ designates clothing that provides very good protection from the sun’s harmful rays.
However, ordinary T-shirts and hats provide protection, too. Long sleeves and long pants in light fabric can offer protection. Just make you can’t see through the fabric. Fabric must be opaque to protect the wearer from UV rays. Wet fabric — wet enough to be see-through — doesn’t protect from sun. Carry along an extra shirt to change into.
Don’t forget a hat. A wide-brimmed hat in a solid fabric adds to the protection of your outfit significantly. Let your kids choose hats that suit their style, or put the whole family in matching bucket hats to keep it simple.
Baseball caps are a popular style of hat in Northwest Arkansas, but they provide very little sun protection. Don’t think of them as a sun hat.
Open-weave straw hats won’t do the trick, either, since the openings can easily let harmful rays through.
Mix it up
Don’t just pick one of these strategies. Use sunscreen and protective clothing along with sunglasses, hats, lip balm, and shady locations. Using all the strategies together will give you the best results.