Fresh air and outdoor activities are part of a healthy lifestyle that all kids and families should enjoy. Finding ways to be physically active outside as a family creates lasting memories and helps children develop lifelong healthy habits. However, just a few serious sunburns can put children at risk for major health problems later in life. For that reason, it’s important to protect your children’s skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Too much sun exposure can cause painful sunburn, and over time, it can lead to skin cancer, cataracts, and other diseases.
Luckily, we can protect ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays. Help your children make wise decisions about sun safety by teaching them these protective measures:
- Always use sunscreen, even on cloudy days. UV rays from the sun do the damage, and clouds don’t block UV rays. All skin types need protection—darker skin will also burn; it just might take a little longer. Most people need to use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 to 30. It should be reapplied about every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating.
- Wear hats and other protective clothing when outdoors. Not exposing skin to the sun is the most practical way to avoid sunburn. Hats that shade the face, scalp, ears, and neck are easy to use and give great protection. If kids choose to wear a baseball cap, make sure to apply sunscreen to exposed areas. The same goes for the rest of the body. Skin covered up by a long-sleeved shirt and long pants will be protected, but if that’s not practical, keep sunscreen on all exposed body parts.
- Get some sunglasses. Help your kids pick out some sunglasses that they will like to wear. UV light can cause cataracts later in life, so look for sunglasses that block UV rays.
- Spend time in the shade. Staying in the shade protects us from the sun. Make sure kids know to take breaks in the shade of a tree or other. If you’re planning a family outing to an area without shade, bring your own, such as a large umbrella or a pop-up tent.
- Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The sun’s rays are strongest and most harmful during midday. During that time, be extra mindful about seeking shade and using sunscreen.
By protecting yourselves from the sun’s harmful rays, your family will avoid painful sunburns and other problems. That way everyone can have even more fun in the sun!
For ways to talk to your kids about sun safety, visit Kid’s Health “How to Be Safe When You’re in the Sun.”