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What do afternoon walks, playing in the backyard, and bike riding all have in common? Besides being summer activities kids love, they all expose children to the sun’s powerful – and potentially harmful – rays. Sunburns and other types of sun damage can happen any time kids are outside for prolonged periods. Practicing sun safety is as important as wearing a bike helmet – and just that easy, too.
While our bodies need sunlight for Vitamin D, which helps promote strong bones, too much of it can be harmful. Sunlight is made up of 3 kinds of ultraviolet rays – UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC rays can’t reach Earth, but UVA and UVB can. Too much exposure to them can lead to long-term health risks like skin cancer, eyesight problems, and more. Though their strength varies depending on where you live, UVA and UVB rays are always strongest during summer (between 10am and 4pm), so now’s the time to make sure your kids are properly protected.
Sunscreen is one of the best tools you have in your UV-fighting arsenal. A sunscreen’s SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is crucial. Higher SPFs mean stronger protection, so kids can play longer in the sun without getting burned. Children 6 months and older (and especially those with fair skin) should use at least SPF 30; check the UV index to see if you’ll need something even stronger. Apply liberally 30 minutes before heading out to ensure the sunscreen is fully absorbed, and don’t forget to reapply every 2 hours, or even sooner if your little ones are especially active. For kids with sensitive skin, look for formulas that contain titanium dioxide, a natural mineral compound.
Besides sunscreen, there are lots of other ways to ensure that outside play is as safe as it is fun. Sunglasses and hats are a great way to protect young eyes from damaging UV rays, so pick a pair with bright colors or fun characters from their favorite TV show. Some bathing suits have a UV lining to protect skin in and out of the water, and you can pair them with a cover-up for even greater protection. And don’t forget the shade. Taking a break under an umbrella or tree can help prevent a trip to the drugstore for aloe vera gel to treat sunburnt skin.
Summer is when children are most likely to be outside from sunup to sundown, so teaching them sun protection tactics is especially important now. It’s just another small step in making summer vacation as fun as possible.