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Sun Safety Tips

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light through natural and artificial sources is linked to the development of skin cancer later in life.

Although melanoma comprises only 3% of all skin cancers, it causes 80% of skin cancer fatalities.

The American Cancer Society predicts that in 2007, there will be 59,940 new melanoma cases with 8,110 deaths.

People at highest risk have light skin and eyes, and sunburn easily. Although melanoma primarily affects older white men, it can also occur in teenagers and young adults.

Based on all of this information, it is important to stress Sun Safety Tips for our kids, so here you go:

  • The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to minimize children’s time in the sun during those hours.
  • The sun’s damaging UV rays can bounce back from sand, snow or concrete; so be particularly careful of these areas.
  • Most of the sun’s rays can come through the clouds on an overcast day; so use sun protection even on cloudy days.
  • Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. Move your baby to the shade under a tree, umbrella or stroller canopy.
  • Dress babies in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs, and use brimmed hats.
  • When choosing a sunscreen, look for the words “broad-spectrum” on the label – it means that the sunscreen will screen out both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays.
  • Choose a water-resistant or waterproof sunscreen and reapply every two hours.
  • Use a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
  • The SPF number tells you how much longer you can stay in the sun without burning if you apply the sunscreen, which acts as a “block” to the sun’s rays.
  • For example, if your child would burn after 20 minutes of sun exposure, applying a sunscreen with an SPF of 45 gives him or her 45 times the protection.
  • Apply carefully around the eyes, avoiding eyelids.
  • Zinc oxide, a very effective sunblock, can be used as extra protection on the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears and on the shoulders.
  • Rub sunscreen in well, making sure to cover all exposed areas, especially the face, nose, ears, feet and hands, and even the backs of the knees.
  • Put on sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors — it needs time to work on the skin.
  • Sunglasses with UV protection are also a good idea for protecting your child’s eyes.
  • Select clothes made of tightly woven fabrics. Cotton clothing is both cool and protective.

What can I do for my child if they get a sunburn?

If your child does get a sunburn, the following tips may help you make them more comfortable:

  • Keep your child in the shade until the sunburn is healed. Any additional sun exposure will only increase the severity of the burn and increase pain.
  • Have your child take a cool (not cold) bath, or gently apply cool, wet compresses to the skin to help alleviate pain and heat.
  • Apply pure aloe vera gel (available in most pharmacies) to any sunburned areas. It’s excellent for relieving sunburn pain and helping skin heal quicker.
  • Give your child a pain reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen and spray on over-the-counter “after-sun” pain relievers. (Do not, however, give aspirin to children)
  • Apply topical moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin and help reduce swelling.
  • For the most severely burned areas, apply a thin layer of 1% hydrocortisone cream. (Do not use petroleum-based products, because they prevent excess heat and sweat from escaping.
  • Also, avoid first-aid products that contain benzocaine, which may cause skin irritation or allergy.)
  • If the sunburn is severe and blisters develop, call your doctor. Until you can see your child’s doctor, tell your child not to scratch, pop, or squeeze the blisters, which can become easily infected and can result in scarring.