Most people absorb the majority of their lifetime sun exposure before they reach the age of 20. Therefore, smart sun protection at an early age will provide lifelong benefits. Although sunlight helps the body to form vitamin D, it only takes a few minutes of sun a day to accomplish this. Anything more is unnecessary – and harmful.
Travel involves sun exposure – no matter what the season. Many people like to spend considerable time outdoors while they are on vacation.You are probably aware that excessive sun exposure can cause skin aging and cancer. Over-exposure for children is even more devastating.
Can you use adult sunscreen on a child? The answer is a qualified ‘yes’.
Sunscreen contains chemicals.
Recent studies have found disturbing concentrations of chemicals in the bloodstreams of adults. Everyone should be concerned about this phenomenon and start prophylactic measures as soon as their children are born. There are non-chemical sunscreens on the market containing titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. Modern preparations are easy to apply. An added plus: they are less likely to cause allergic skin reactions. These sunblocks sit on the skin’s surface and provide a physical sun barrier. They also act immediately – while chemical preparations may require advance application of up to an hour before you can allow your child outside.
It is never too early to begin.
If you take your baby outdoors, use physical barriers such as umbrellas or blankets to keep the sun away from your little one’s sensitive skin. If sun exposure cannot be avoided, keep it to a minimum and try to go out when the sun’s rays are weakest – before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m. Cover as much of the baby’s skin as possible with clothing. Make sure that all exposed areas are protected by sunscreen with an SPF of 15 – 30 and broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection.
Skin aging and cancer are not the only dangers.
Sun exposure can cause many conditions. Eyes may be at risk for cataracts and other types of damage. Skin may develop actinic keratosis – red, rough textured growths that can be precursors to skin cancer. The immune system may be suppressed, making an individual susceptible to viral and bacterial infections. There may be adverse reactions to some medications. Obviously, the sun is like many other things in our lives. A little bit is good – but too much can cause overwhelming problems.
Water exacerbates sunburn.
Water reflects sun into the eyes. It washes sunscreen off the skin. Tiny moisture beads act like little magnifying glasses – increasing the effects of the sun. Whenever your kids are around water, insist that they wear hats and good quality sunglasses. Every time they go swimming, reapply their sunscreen as soon as they leave the water. Water resistant sunscreen will help provide some sun relief even while they are splashing and swimming. Kids sweat – just like adults – and a water resistant or waterproof preparation will stay on better while they are running around and playing.
Should you use lotion, cream, or spray?
What you use is a matter of convenience. The ingredients are the most important consideration. After you have read the label to make sure that the sunscreen or sunblock contains what you are looking for, purchase what works best for your particular situation. Whatever you choose, apply it liberally – especially to sensitive areas like the nose and ears.
Apply cautiously when you try a new sunscreen brand.
Kids are generally more susceptible to rashes than adults. If you change brands, apply to only a small area of your child’s skin at first – somewhere where the skin is not usually exposed to sunlight (like the inside of an upper arm). After you are sure that no irritation or rash will develop, apply at will.
Cloudy days are dangerous, too.
Clouds signal ‘no need for sunscreen’ – right? WRONG! Although clouds do dilute the concentration of sunlight, there is still a danger of sunburn. Sun rays bounce from water droplet to water droplet in the clouds, eventually making it through to the sky below – and your child’s skin. Be as vigilant on cloudy days as you are when the sun is shining.
The sun is racist.
Fair-skinnedare far more likely to experience adverse side effects from sun exposure than darker or black-skinned kids. However, children with darker complexions are not immune to sun damage. Their parents should also employ good protective measures.
The earth is getting warmer every year – and the sun is more likely than ever to cause damage as people dress their kids in lighter clothing. Be vigilant – and help your kids to live long, healthy lives.