Sun-Proofing Your Children

According to recent research, everyone should use sunscreen whenever going outdoors for more than 30 minutes, even when skies are gray, especially in the summertime.

As much as possible, keep children out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. If older children must be outside, use a sunscreen, dress them for maximum sun protection, keep them in the shade as much as possible and protect their eyes with sunglasses.

Choosing a Sunscreen - When looking for appropriate sun protection, make sure your sunscreen provides UVA and UVB protection; is waterproof or water-resistant if your children are going to be in the water; is non-comedogenic (won't clog pores) if your child has acne; has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 (those with very fair skin need a higher SPF); and carries The Skin Cancer Foundation seal of approval.

If your child has sensitive skin, note that several ingredients in sunscreens can cause skin irritation or allergic reaction. First, test a product by applying a small amount to a limited area of skin. If your child develops a rash or itching, call your doctor and get recommendations for sunscreens containing different ingredients.

Using Sunscreen Correctly - Apply protection about 30 minutes before going outdoors so that your child's skin can fully absorb it. Use between a half ounce and one ounce per application, depending on your child's size. Rub it over your child's whole body to get the sunscreen's full protection. If your child is in the water, reapply (even waterproof sunscreens) every two hours. If your child is not swimming, reapply every three to four hours. The only substances that block out the sun are opaque products, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are often applied to noses and lips.

Sun Protection for Babies
Until recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended not using sunscreen on infants under the age of 6 months. This recommendation was not based on evidence that the use of sunscreen is harmful, but rather on the fact that its use had not been proven to be harmless.

The AAP still recommends avoiding excessive sun exposure - by staying out of the mid-day sun and dressing infants in lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts - as the best protection against sunburn. But the AAP now states that it may be safe to apply very small amounts of sunscreen to small areas of an infant's face and the back of the hands when adequate clothing and shade are not available.

In addition to possible sunburn, infants and children may be at increased risk for eye injury from the sun. The AAP says children, including infants, should wear hats with a brim and sunglasses designed to block at least 99 percent of the sun's rays.

Do Children Need Sunglasses?

Research shows that excessive exposure to UV rays, especially from light reflected off sand, snow or pavement, can cause a painful type of corneal sunburn. The cumulative damage of repeated UV exposure also may contribute to chronic eye disease.

Fortunately, most children don't spend all day in the bright sun and they naturally protect their eyes from high light levels by squinting. However, eye protection is particularly important for children who spend all day on the water or at the beach, where there is intense glare.

Prevent Blindness America offers these tips to protect children from UV rays:

  • Buy sunglasses that block the maximum amount (99 to 100 percent) of both types of UV-A and UV-B rays, fit closely to the face and have larger lenses for more coverage.
  • In addition to sunglasses, wear a hat to reduce overall exposure to UV rays.
  • Don't look directly at the sun.
  • Limit the amount of time spent outside during the peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).

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