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Summer Essentials: Sunscreen and Sun Safety

By June 26, 2024 No Comments

It’s summertime! Enjoy your time outside, but don’t forget to take precautions to keep yourself and your family safe in the sun and heat. 

For tips about preventing heat-related illness, preventing child deaths from hot cars, and protecting children from window falls, see Staying Safe During the Summer Heat.  A new edition to that blog this year is a resource specifically for pregnant women: Safe Pregnancies in Extreme Heat. 

Protecting your skin from sun 

Too much sun can cause skin damage and skin cancer. It is important to keep our skin healthy and protect it from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays in any weather, not just in summer. 

Stay in the shade 

  • When outside, find shade under a tree, an umbrella, or the stroller canopy. This is especially important for babies younger than 6 months. 

Wear sun-protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses 

  • Sun-protective clothing like lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants or skirts can provide protection from the sun’s UV rays.  If not practical, at least try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up, preferably of tightly woven fabric. Hats should have brims all the way around to shade the face, ears, and back of the neck, and should be made of a tightly woven fabrics. Sunglasses should block both UVA and UVB rays for the best protection. 

Use sunscreen 

Picking A Sunscreen
There are many sunscreens on the market. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) that rates how well they filter out UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. The American Academy of Dermatology1 has shared the 3 essentials to look for in a sunscreen. 

    • SPF 30 (or higher) 
    • Broad-spectrum protection (UVA/UVB) 
    • Water resistance  

A sunscreen that offers these 3 essentials can reduce the risk of: 

    • Skin cancer 
    • Sunburn 
    • Melasma

If possible, avoid sunscreens with the ingredient oxybenzone in children because of concerns about mild hormonal properties. For areas of the body particularly prone to sunburn, such as the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears, and shoulders, choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Applying Sunscreen
Here are some quick tips: 

    • Apply sunscreen at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. 
    • Make sure to use enough sunscreen to cover all exposed areas, including the face, ears, hands, back of knees, and feet.  Help is needed for hard-to-reach places like the back. 
    • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and especially after swimming or sweating.  
    • Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date is good for no more than 3 years, less if it has been exposed to high temperatures. 
    • Use sunscreen on cloudy days too, not just for sunny days. 

Recommendations for babies
The American Academy of Pediatrics² has the following recommendations for using sunscreen on babies: 

    • For babies younger than 6 months: Use sunscreen on small areas of the body, such as the face, if protective clothing and shade are not available. 
    • For babies older than 6 months: Apply sunscreen to all areas of the body, but be careful around the eyes. If your baby rubs sunscreen into their eyes, wipe their eyes and hands clean with a damp cloth. If the sunscreen irritates their skin, try a different brand or sunscreen with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. If your baby develops a rash, talk with their doctor. 

Sunscreen and Insect Repellent
If you are outdoors in areas that may have mosquitoes, you should also protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites. Mosquitoes can spread germs through their bites that can cause illness. When you need to use both sunscreen and bug spray, apply sunscreen first and allow the sunscreen to absorb before applying bug spray.  Follow product label instructions on how often to reapply the insect repellent and sunscreen.  For more information, see Preventing Mosquito Bites: EnglishSpanish

Limit time in the sun during the peak hours 

    • Plan activities for early morning, late afternoon, and evening to avoid being out when the sun rays are strongest (10 am – 4 pm) 

References

1 American Academy of Dermatology English
2 American Academy of Pediatrics English | Spanish  

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