Sun Safety for Kids
In the past, sun exposure was thought to be a healthy benefit of outdoor activity. Modern scientific information, however, has shown many unhealthy effects of sun exposure, such as skin cancer.
What kind of damage does sun exposure cause?
Part of the sun’s energy that reaches earth is composed of rays of invisible ultraviolet (UV) light. When ultraviolet light rays (UVA and UVB) enter the skin, they damage the skin cells, causing visible and invisible injuries.
Sunburn is the most visible type of damage, which appears just a few hours after sun exposure. In many people, this type of damage also causes tanning of the skin. Freckles, which occur in people with fair skin, are usually due to sun exposure. Freckles are nearly always a sign that sun damage has occurred.
Ultraviolet light rays also cause invisible damage to skin cells. Some of the injury is repaired, but some of the cell damage adds up year after year. After 20-30 years or more, the built-up damage appears as wrinkles, age spots and even skin cancer. Although window glass blocks UVB light, UVA rays are able to penetrate glass.
When should sun protection begin?
Sun protection should begin at infancy and continue throughout life. It is estimated that we get about 80% of our total lifetime sun exposure in the first 18 years of life. Therefore, sun prevention in childhood is very important to prevent skin cancer later in life.
How can I protect my children from the sun?
Teach your children to follow the ABCs for fun in the sun.
- A = AWAY. Stay away from the sun in the middle of the day. (10am-4pm)
- B = BLOCK. Always use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
- C = COVER UP. Cover as much skin as possible when in the sun. Wear a t-shirt and a hat.
- S = SPEAK OUT. Talk with family and friends about sun protection.
What should be avoided?
Stay away from the midday sun and its intense rays. Schedule play times and outdoor activities before 10am and after 4pm (Daylight Savings Time: 9am to 3pm). The sun’s energy is greatest when it travels through less atmosphere at midday. Sun exposure is more intense closer to the equator, in the mountains and in the summer. The sun’s damaging effects are increased by reflection from water, white sand and snow.
Avoid long periods of direct sun exposure. Sit or play in the shade, especially when your shadow is shorter than you are tall. Avoid sunburn. Be aware of the length of time you are in the sun. It may take only 15 minutes of midday summer sun to burn a fair-skinned person.
How can sun damage be blocked?
Block sun damage by applying a broad-spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreen lotion, gel or sunstick with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days. If swimming or participating in intense physical activity, sunscreen may need to be applied more often.
Choose a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher. The protective ability of sunscreen is rated by sun protection factor (SPF); the higher the SPF, the stronger the protection. SPF numbers indicate the length of time one can spend in the sun without risk of burning.
When using an SPF 30 sunscreen, a fair-skinned person who normally sunburns in 20 minutes of midday sun exposure may tolerate 15 x 20 minutes (300 minutes) without burning. Apply as much sunscreen as you would a lotion for dry skin. Spread it evenly over all exposed skin, including ears and lips, but avoid the eyelids. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply after swimming or excessive sweating.
Invisible sunscreens work by trapping the ultraviolet energy and preventing that energy from damaging the skin. Visible, opaque white or colored sunblock creams prevent all light from entering the skin. They often contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (chemical-free sunscreens). They are useful for high-risk areas such as the nose, lips and shoulders.
Infants under six months old should be kept out of direct sun and covered by protective clothing. Apply sunscreen beginning at six months. Children under six months old should not have prolonged sun exposure, but if this cannot be prevented, sunscreen should be used. Check out our advanced products that can keep your skin vibrant and protected.
How can clothing be used for sun protection?
Cover your skin with a hat and light-colored clothing when outdoors. Don’t play or work outside without a shirt. Wear a t-shirt while swimming and a hat after swimming. In addition to filtering the sun’s damaging rays, tightly woven clothing reflects heat and helps keep you cool. Sunglasses that block ultraviolet rays protect the eyes and eyelids.
What else can be done?
Speak out about sun protection now. Do your part to protect others from sun damage. Show your family how to apply a sunscreen by spreading it evenly over your skin. Remember to keep babies out of the sun and use an umbrella over the stroller.
Talk to the coach, camp counselor, scout leader, gym teacher and others about the ABCs for fun in the sun. Ask them to help you with the simple changes that can prevent sun damage. Start preventing sun damage in childhood now.