Sun Safety

The weather is warming up and the sun’s rays are getting stronger. With the right precautions, children can safely play in the sun. Here are the most effective strategies:

Always use sunscreen

Apply sunscreen about 15 to 30 minutes before kids go outside so that a good layer of protection can form. Don’t forget about lips, hands, ears, feet, shoulders, and behind the neck. Lift up bathing suit straps and apply sunscreen underneath them (in case the straps shift as a child moves). Re-apply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

Use Protective Eyewear for children

Sun exposure damages the eyes as well as the skin. Even 1 day in the sun can result in a burned cornea (the outermost, clear membrane layer of the eye). Cumulative exposure can lead to cataracts (clouding of the eye lens, which leads to blurred vision) later in life. The best way to protect eyes is to wear sunglasses.

Not all sunglasses provide the same level of ultraviolet protection; darkened plastic or glass lenses without special UV filters just trick the eyes into a false sense of safety. Purchase sunglasses with labels ensuring that they provide 100% UV protection.

Avoid the Strongest Rays of the Day

First, seek shade when the sun is at its highest overhead and therefore strongest (usually 10 a.m. until 4 p.m). If children must be in the sun between these hours, be sure to apply and reapply protective sunscreen — even if they’re just playing in the backyard. Most sun damage occurs as a result of incidental exposure during day-to-day activities, not at the beach.

Even on cloudy, cool, or overcast days, UV rays travel through the clouds and reflect off sand, water, and even concrete. Clouds and pollution don’t filter out UV rays, and they can give a false sense of protection. This “invisible sun” can cause unexpected sunburn and skin damage. Often, children are unaware that they’re developing a sunburn on cooler or windy days because the temperature or breeze keeps skin feeling cool on the surface.

Cover Up

One of the best ways to protect your family from the sun is to wear proper protective sun hats such as bucket hats and legionnaire hats that shade the whole face and neck (not caps). Cover up and shield skin from UV rays by ensuring that clothes will screen out harmful UV rays by placing your hand inside the garments and making sure you can’t see it through them.

Because infants have thinner skin and underdeveloped melanin, their skin burns more easily than that of older children. But sunscreen should not be applied to babies under 6 months of age, so they absolutely must be kept out of the sun whenever possible. If your infant must be in the sun, dress him or her in clothing that covers the body, including hats with wide brims to shadow the face. Use an umbrella to create shade.

Even older children need to escape the sun. For all-day outdoor affairs, bring along a wide umbrella or a pop-up tent to play in. If it’s not too hot outside and won’t make children even more uncomfortable, have them wear light long-sleeved shirts and/or long pants.