Summertime presents children, parents, and educators alike with endless opportunities to combine an active lifestyle with an appreciation for all that nature has to offer. But it's important to remember that prolonged sun exposure without the right safeguards is not healthy for grown ups or for children.
Did you know that, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, children who get just one blistering sunburn during childhood are at double the risk for developing melanoma (skin cancer) later in life?
Luckily, protecting children from the sun doesn’t have to mean cutting back on the fun. Here are several easy sun safety tips for maximizing children’s exposure to the outdoors while minimizing the potentially harmful effects of the sun and heat of summer. And remember that children will adopt these actions as habits if they regularly see adults being sun smart too.
1. Steadfast Sunscreen Application
Using sunscreen is a relatively inexpensive and simple way to protect against the harmful rays of the sun. It takes time for sunscreen to be absorbed by the skin, so sunscreen should be applied 15 to 20 minutes before going outside, and don't forget to reapply frequently—at least every two hours, and more often if you're swimming or sweating.
2. Habitual Hydration
Even if your outdoor activities involve water play, it’s often easy to forget that our bodies need water on the inside, too. Children are especially susceptible to heat-related illness, so keeping hydrated over the course of the day is especially important for them. Replenishing active bodies with plenty of water helps children get the most out of their time outdoors. In similar stride, keeping a diet rich in fruits and vegetables supplements hydration and aids in combating harmful effects of the sun.
3. Bug and Sun Defense
Children aren't the only ones making the most of the outdoors in the summer. Mosquitoes, flies, and other pesky insects might have you reaching for the insect repellent. Many people don't know, though, that insect repellants may reduce SPF effectiveness by up to one-third. If you use the two together, it may be necessary to use a higher SPF.
4. Telling Time
Did you know Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost city in the United States, experiences entire days of light–about 84 consecutive days of light–between the months of May and August? Luckily, the majority of the world need only worry about half this amount of daylight. More than just the amount of daylight, however, it is important to pay attention to certain times of day when the sun is at its brightest and strongest. This occurs between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. During these times you may want to increase sunscreen application, or, in many cases, seek shade. It's especially important for infants under six months to stay in the shade during these hours because their new skin is not ready for sun exposure yet.
5. Shirts, Hats, Glasses…Action!
Loosely fitted clothing adds an extra layer of protection, and hats are incredibly helpful, as they protect areas that sunscreen cannot. Hats also offer a mobile source of shade. In some countries, hats are required for children in childcare settings, and are used as commonly as parents use seatbelts or helmets to protect children. Sunglasses are another important defense against the sun; they not only protect your eyes against harmful UV rays, but they also protect another area that's not covered by sunscreen, but is susceptible to sun damage: eyelids.
Do you have tips for how you keep children safe in the sun at home or at school? Share them in the comments below!
About the Author: Kendrick Lewis is a Natural Start Intern through the Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service.