It’s almost summer and time to think about protecting ourselves from too much sun exposure. We all need some sun exposure, it’s our primary source of vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones. Repeated unprotected sun exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, however, can cause skin damage, eye damage, and skin cancer. Most kids rack up a lot of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18, so it’s important that parents teach their children how to enjoy fun in the sun safely. Sunlight contains three types of ultraviolet rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC.
1. UVA rays cause skin aging and wrinkling and contribute to skin cancer, such as melanoma.
2. UVB rays are also dangerous, causing sunburns, cataracts (clouding of the eye lens), and effects on the immune system. They also contribute to skin cancer.
3. UVC rays are the most dangerous, but fortunately, these rays are blocked by the ozone layer and don’t reach the earth.
What’s especially important is to protect your family from exposure to UVA and UVB, the rays that cause skin damage. With the right precautions, kids can safely play in the sun and greatly reduce the chance of developing skin cancer. Here are the most effective strategies:
1. Avoid the Strongest Rays of the Day (Usually 10am until 4pm)
2. Cover Up (Light clothing, cover-ups, and hats)
3. Use Sunscreen Consistently (SPF30 or higher for anyone over 6 months)
4. Use Protective Eyewear (Sunglasses protect the cornea of the eye)
5. Double-Check Medications (Some increase sensitivity to UV rays)
If your child gets a sunburn, these tips may help:
1. Have your child take a cool (not cold) bath
2. To ease discomfort, apply pure aloe vera gel
3. Give your child an anti-inflammatory medication for pain, as needed (Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen)
4. Give extra fluids to prevent dehydration
If the sunburn is severe and blisters develop, call your doctor.
Consistently wearing sunscreen, using sunglasses, and limiting your time in the sun will not only reduce the risk of sun damage, but will help teach your kids preventative behaviors for good sun sense.
Article by Dagmar Paul, RN, MSN/District Nurse