“We all love the sun; it’s warm and it’s fun playing outside. But exposure to ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B (UVA and UVB), the two most harmful UV rays, can lead to skin cancer. Even a little sunburn can lead to an increased chance of skin cancer,” said Rochelle Boote, MD, who specializes in pediatrics at Avera Medical Group 69th & Cliff.
Children are especially prone to sun damage. “Kids’ skin is more sensitive, and their skin is more susceptible to sunburns because it is thinner than adult skin,” Boote said.
Follow these tips to protect your kids’ skin as they’re outside this summer:
1. Cover up. Keep kids covered as best as possible when they’re out in the sun. Longer sleeves; a hat and sunglasses to protect the eyes; thin, longer pants; and tennis shoes and socks can all help provide protection from UV rays. Swim shirts also are a good option for UV protection.
2. Keep kids out of the prime sunlight. Seek shade or find indoor activities during midday. Avoid the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the time for the highest sun exposure with UVA and UVB rays.
3. Apply sunscreen. Sunscreen is everyone’s best friend. Use sunscreen with at least an SPF 15. The product should note that it provides broad spectrum protection.
The key for sunscreen use isn’t necessarily a higher SPF — research doesn’t show that an SPF 50 offers additional protection — but to consistently use sunscreen and make sure you use enough. Be sure to cover easy-to-miss places like the tops of ears and feet. Put sunscreen on 15 minutes before going outside to let it absorb into the skin, and reapply every two hours when outside. After swimming, reapply sunscreen, even if it’s waterproof. When using a spray, remember to rub it in so it’s not just one line on the skin.
4. Treat a sunburn: If you do need to treat a sunburn, there are a few things you can do. “Make sure the kids aren’t dehydrated, and use aloe or some cool water to soothe the skin. For children older than 6 months, Tylenol or Ibuprofen can provide relief. Use Tylenol for children younger than 6 months,” Boote said. If kids do go outside, cover up the area that has burned.
5. Protect your child against insect bites: When spending time outdoors camping, hiking or doing other activities, take steps to prevent bites from ticks and mosquitoes. Insect repellants can help protect your child. Look for a DEET concentration of less than 30 percent, and be sure to follow the application directions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends applying just enough repellant to cover kids’ clothing and exposed skin; do not apply repellant to children younger than two months. Other ways to protect your child against insect bites include dressing your child in long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, socks and closed-toe shoes. Also be sure to check their skin after they’re done playing outdoors.