Summer time is defined by kids as freedom, fun and no homework, but as parents it is sometimes cause for extra concern. The days of running free, catching fireflies and swimming can also be filled with some parental anxiety over ticks, accidents and water safety and sun exposure.
Spending time outdoors is a right in summertime, but we all know that sunexposure can be hazardous to our skin. Children are very sensitive to the sun and because a sunburn in childhood increases later skin cancer risk it is most important to apply sunscreen to our children starting at 6months of age. Prior to 6 months we recommend that babies wear light clothing, hats with brims, sunglasses and are properly shielded from sunexposure with umbrellas and the like. Do this especially on the beach, at a pool or near any reflective surface. When applying sunblock on a child older than 6months do it without clothes on, apply a thick layer rubbed into skin and reapply every 2 hours while in the sun or after a vigourous or prolonged swim or sweat. If sunexposure is unavoidable in a baby younger than 6months applying a light layer of sunblock of SPF 15 is allowed on small areas that are sun exposed (hands, feet, etc). Be sure to bathe baby afterwards. Remember that to be truly effective sunblock may take up to 30minutes to work, so apply before going out.
What to use as sunscreen. Ideally we need to block 2 kinds of ultraviolet bands to prevent sunburn and sun damage to skin. Those are UVA and UVB rays. Zinc oxide is an ideal sunblock for this purpose but can be cumbersome to use. So it can be used as an add on to the nose, cheeks, ears and shoulders. Apply any sunblock that has an SPF of 15 or greater and apply as stated above. There are so many types of sunblock on the market just be sure that it says blocks UVA, UVB rays, water and sweat resistant and does not contain oxybenzone (this may have hormonal properties). Most now contain titanium dixodie which is not absorbed through the skin and acts as a natural reflective material for UV rays.
Try as we may occasionally sunburn occurs. Keep your child well hydrated, apply a thick layer of moisturizer, aloe and other over the counter remedies with aloe and cooling properties are available. Cool compresses, cool baths and oral pain medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen also help. If any fever, blistering or pain occur see your doctor immediately as a sunburn is like any other burn and may need further treatment.
So enjoy your summer, be safe and savour the memories!