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  • Abigail Stalnaker

Dap it, spread it, reapply it!

Heading outside? It’s crucial to protect your child's tender skin from the sun’s intense rays. Before you step out the door, slather on the sunscreen and check out these additional sun safety tips:

Every child needs sun protection! The lighter someone's natural skin color, the less melanin it has to absorb UV rays and protect itself. The darker a person's natural skin color, the more melanin it has...but ALL kids (and people) need protection from UV rays. Any tanning or burning causes skin damage. Even the smallest members of your family need to wear sunscreen. The American Academy of Pediatrics states babies less than six months old can have sunscreen on small areas of their bodies if they are going to be outside (for example, their face or the back of their hands). At this age though, the best recommendation is to stay out of the sun when possible.

Time flies when you're having fun! Being outside for long periods of time can put your skin in danger. Also keep in mind, being outside around water or snow help the sun's rays reflect -- making it easier for you to burn. Limit outdoor playtime between 10a.m. and 4p.m. if possible. Avoid unnecessary exposure when the sun's rays are at their strongest. Even on cloudy or cooler days, ultraviolet (UV) rays remain strong. Shady spots can be just as tricky because of reflected light. If your child is playing outdoors during these hours, make sure to apply sufficient amounts of sunscreen. Sunscreen can come in gels, sprays, lotions, or even wipes. Sunscreen helps to reduce damage that can occur from UV radiation; however, it does NOT eliminate the damage. Generously apply sunscreen 30 minutes before your child goes out in the sun and choose a sunscreen with SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 30 or higher. Scented and colorful sunscreens appeal to some kids and make it easier to see which areas have been covered well. Don't forget nose, ears, hands, feet, shoulders, and behind the neck. Lips can also burn, so apply a lip balm with SPF protection. Reapply sunscreen every two to three hours, or after sweating or swimming.

Take cover! Wearing protective clothing and hats is one of the most important ways of warding off UV damage. Did you know that light-colored clothing transmits just as much sunlight as bare skin when it's wet? Keep your kids covered with dark colors, long sleeves, and pants whenever possible. Don't forget the accessories! Sunglasses with UV protection to guard against burned corneas and hats to prevent sunburned scalps and faces. Protective clothing, hats with brims, and sunglasses are just as important for babies.

"Mama called the doctor and the doctor said..." Keep watch on medications. Some medications increase the skin's sensitivity to the sun, so make sure to ask your doctor whether your child may be at risk. Prescription antibiotics and acne medications are the most notorious culprits, but when in doubt, ask. Set a good example for your kids. If your child sees you following sun-safety rules, he'll be more likely to follow suit. Skin protection is important for every member of the family, so team up with your children to stay protected when venturing out in the sun. Too much sun can hurt, so being aware of your child's natural skin tone and how it changes after sun exposure is important.

Turning pink? Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes, yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. So, if your child’s skin looks “a little pink” today, it may be burned tomorrow morning.

Tanning? There’s no other way to say it—tanning your skin is damaging your skin. Any change in the color of your child’s skin after time outside—whether sunburn or suntan—indicates damage from UV rays.

Cool and cloudy? Children still need protection. UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage. Clouds do not block UV rays, they filter them -- and sometimes only slightly. Remember to plan ahead, keep sun protection handy in your car, purse or child’s backpack/pool bag. It’s never too early or too late to start protecting yourself and your loved ones from the sun.

Sayonara sunburn! The best way to treat too much sun is to have your child take a cool bath or use cool compresses on the sunburned area. Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen for discomfort and fever (as directed). Apply a topical moisturizer, aloe gel, hydrocortisone cream, or a topical pain reliever to sunburned skin.

Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that 80% of lifetime sun exposure occurs during childhood -- and that one blistering sunburn can double the risk of getting melanoma later in life. Take care of yourself and your family!

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