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Summer Sun Safety for Kids

Sun protectionWith summer rapidly approaching, everyone is thinking about fun under the sun. Whether it’s a trip to the beach, getting ready for camp, or simply playing in the backyard or park, everyone needs to know how to protect their family from the sun. The simplest solution—staying inside—has obvious drawbacks, but you should do all you can to limit exposure to harmful sunlight. Here are some helpful tips for safe summer fun:

Try to be indoors or in shaded areas between 10am-4pm, when the sun’s UV rays are strongest.

Use sunscreen. Remember, you can get sunburn even on cloudy days. Use enough to cover all exposed areas, especially the face, nose, ears, feet, hands, and even backs of the knees—and rub it in well. Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outdoors.  This allows it time to absorb into the top layers of the skin. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours, as well as after swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel. Also, while we are focused on the summer, be aware that one can get sunburn even in winter.

What is SPF? A sunscreen’s efficacy is measured by its sun protection factor, or SPF. SPF is not an amount of protection, but instead indicates how long it will take for UVB rays to redden skin when using a sunscreen, compared to how long skin would take to redden without any protection. For example, if it takes 10 minutes for skin to redden on its own, it will take 15x longer with a sunscreen of SPF 15 applied.  An SPF 15 sunscreen screens 93 percent of the sun’s UVB rays; SPF 30 protects against 97 percent; and SPF 50, 98 percent. But regardless of an SPF number, sunscreen needs to be reapplied often.

How to choose? The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) recommend that all sunscreen you use should provide broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, have an SPF of 30 or higher, and be water resistant.

Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight and under shade. If an infant is out in the sun and protective clothing and shade are not available, use sunscreen on small areas of the body, such as the face.  For babies older than 6 months, apply sunscreen to all areas of the body, but be careful around the eyes.

When possible, dress yourself and your children in cool, dark colored, and loose clothing that covers as much of the body as possible.  Good examples include lightweight cotton pants, long-sleeved shirts, and broad brimmed hats. Select clothes made with a tight weave; they protect better than clothes with a looser weave. If you’re not sure how tight a fabric’s weave is, hold it up to see how much light shines through. The less light, the better. Or you can look for protective clothing labeled with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). The higher the UPF number the better. For a good comparison, a white cotton t-shirt has a UPF rating of 6.

Look for child-sized sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection.

If all your protection efforts fail and your child gets sunburn: most sunburns are mild, but ALL are real burns, if only superficial. Cool compresses, pain relief medication, rehydration (with water or 100% fruit juice), and staying out of the sun are usually all that is needed for care of 1st degree burns. Severe sunburns are classified as 2nd degree, and can be accompanied by severe blistering and pain. Any child who develops fever and severe blistering or cracking of the skin should call their pediatrician and/or seek immediate medical attention.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

David Shipman, MD, is a pediatrician and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Medical Center. He sees patients at NYU Langone at Trinity.

 

3 Essential Sun Safety Tips for Kids

Sun protection
Now that spring is here and summer is around the corner, it’s time for kids to spend more time outdoors and enjoy the warmer weather. As we finally shed heavy winter coats and scarves, it’s also time for parents to think about sun safety, and how to best protect children’s skin from sun damage, because we know that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can lead to skin cancer later in life. In fact, there is no such thing as a “healthy tan,” and a history of sunburn increases one’s risk of skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, will cause 10,000 deaths this year.

There’s no need to hide your children indoors during the day like vampires. You can take your family on vacation, go to the beach, and enjoy all kinds of healthy outdoor activities. The important thing is to have an overall sun protection plan in place. More than just sunscreen, a total sun protection program includes the following three strategies:

1. Avoid the midday sun. Because harmful UV rays are at their strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, plan outdoor activities, such as bike riding or playtime in the park, earlier or later in the day when the sun is not right overhead. Of course, you can’t always control the timing of outdoor activities (for example, your neighbor’s noon-time barbecue), so when your kids do need to be outside during the sun’s peak, seek a shady spot or put up an umbrella to shield them from the sun.

2. Wear protective clothing. Generally, the tighter the weave and darker the color, the more protection clothing will provide. However, it’s most important to find clothing children like and will actually wear. The chest and shoulders are particularly vulnerable to sun exposure, so even kids who are wearing sunscreen should cover those areas. For trips to the beach or pool, special swim shirts now come in all different styles and price points. Don’t forget to protect the face and ears with a wide-brimmed hat, and eyes with sunglasses.

3. Use sunscreen. There are two types of ultraviolet radiation that can damage the skin. UVB rays cause sunburn, and UVA rays cause tanning and premature skin aging.

It’s important to choose a sunscreen labeled “Broad Spectrum,” which will protect against both kinds of rays. Here are some additional tips for effective sunscreen use:

– Choose sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher (SPF indicates the level of protection against UVB rays only).
– For babies and children with sensitive skin, use sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as its active ingredients. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical filters that provide good broad-spectrum coverage and can be less irritating than chemical ingredients, such as oxybenzone or avobenzone.
– Use “water resistant” sunscreen for swimming or activities that will cause heavy sweating.
– Apply sunscreen before going outdoors.
– Be generous! For adults, dermatologists recommend using enough to fill a shot glass—about 1 ounce. Use a proportional amount for kids.
– Cover all exposed skin.
– Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or as soon as kids get out of the water, towel off, or sweat heavily.
– If it’s hard for little ones to sit still while you rub in sunscreen lotion, try a spray sunscreen instead, which can be applied more quickly; just be sure you don’t spray it into their faces. A sunscreen stick may also be more convenient for kids.
– To help sunscreen apply more easily, pick a product with a smell and texture you think your child might like.

Staying out of the sun during peak hours, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreen as part of an overall sun protection strategy will not only help your kids enjoy the outdoors safely today, but also will help protect their health in the future—and maybe even save their lives.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Jennifer A. Stein, MD, PhDis the director of the transplant dermatology unit and the associate director of the pigmented lesion service of The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center. Dr. Stein has a particular interest in atypical moles and early detection of melanoma. Her research focuses on early detection and treatment of melanomas of special sites, such as the hands and feet and the face. Dr. Stein holds the academic appointment of assistant professor in the Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone. She earned both her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from NYU School of Medicine and completed her residency at NYU Langone. A Board-certified dermatologist, She has authored or co-authored over 40 published studies on skin cancer and other dermatologic conditions.