By Kala R. Rorabaugh PharmD Pediatric Pharmacy Resident
Winter is finally over and it is time to go out to enjoy the sunshine! But before you reach for those flip flops and beach ball you should make sure you and your children are protected against the harmful rays of the sun
UV or ultraviolet rays are the harmful rays of light that cause skin irritations like sunburn and skin cancer. Fortunately, it is easy to protect yourself from these rays. Sunscreen is the easiest way to protect your skin. It is important to buy sunscreen that is at least SPF 30, but don’t be fooled! An SPF greater than 50 does not mean better protection, stick to sunscreens with an SPF of 30-50. Also make sure your sunscreen says “broad spectrum”, this means it protects against both UVA and UVB light. It is also useful to get water resistant sunscreen so skin is still protected in the pool, lake, or ocean. This information is usually available right on the front label of the sunscreen. Most adults need about one ounce of sunscreen to cover their exposed skin, make sure you are applying enough sunscreen on your kids. And don’t forget their face, neck, and ears! There is lip balm with SPF protection as well.
Sunscreen should be applied heavily approximately 15 minutes prior to sun exposure and repeated every 2 hours. Apply more often if the skin becomes wet such as in swimming, vigorous activity or excessive sweating.
Keep infants under 6 months out of direct sunlight. If shade is not an option, consult your doctor about using sunscreen. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using small amounts of zinc or titanium based sunscreen as a last resort for infants.
Sunglasses and hats are not just great fashion accessories! They’re also great ways to protect yourself from the sun. Sunglasses protect the UVA and UVB rays from damaging eyes. Hats help to protect any area shaded by the outline of the hat, for example a big sombrero will protect more than a baseball cap, but both are important for shielding your face from the sun!
When playing outside it is important to drink lot of water. Children can easily become dehydrated while playing in the hot sun, even while swimming! It is also important to avoid being out in the sun during the peak hours of sunlight, usually 10AM to 3PM, when the harmful rays are the most exposed. If you must be outside, try to stay in a shaded area.
Even on a cloudy day the dangerous rays can cause skin damage, so even if it doesn’t look sunny you should still use sunscreen, wear sunglasses and hats, drink plenty of water, and keep out of the sun. Practicing these sun safety tips can help you enjoy summer safely!