By Greg Hanson
Parents today constantly face the challenge of pulling their children away from screens and encouraging them to get outside and get active instead. Summertime provides a perfect opportunity to send children outside, but in the haste, be sure to safeguard your children by ensuring that they are properly protected.
The harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun may cause problems for your children, both now and down the road. Too much sun can lead to sunburns, premature aging of the skin, skin cancer, heat stroke, and even death. Children are much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of the sun and heat than healthy adults. While encouraging your children to play outside, then, remember these four basic rules.
1. Apply sunscreen in advance.
Applying sunscreen while outside or on the way outside Is better than nothing, but ideally, sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before exposure. This allows time for the sunscreen to bind to the skin so it can provide maximum protection. Of course, this requires that you keep track of time and anticipate when the children will be heading outside.
Also, when choosing sunscreen, look for options that are SPF 30 or above. Lower SPFs will not provide the desired protection. Apply the sunscreen even in overcast conditions, as UV radiation can pass through clouds. Then reapply every two hours–more frequently if the children are swimming, changing clothes, or heavily perspiring. Remember, too, that sunscreen should not be used on children under the age of six months.
2. Keep children inside between 11 AM and 3 PM.
The UV index is at its highest during these peak hours of the day. If children must be outside, instruct them to stick to shaded areas or carry an umbrella.
3. Wear protective clothing.
Start with a brimmed hat and sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection. Long-sleeved shirts and pants can help protect against UV rays, too. Of course, children will resist wearing such warm clothing in the summer heat, so consider purchasing specially-designed sun-protective clothing instead. This lightweight clothing will filter out UV rays while allowing your children to stay cool.
4. Carry a water bottle.
In addition to sunburns and skin damage caused by the sun, dehydration is a major concern during the summer months. Children can easily become dehydrated, often without even being aware that it is happening, so encourage them to keep a water bottle on hand at all times and to drink from it regularly.
Your children can and should enjoy the summer months, but not at the expense of their safety. Take the precautions necessary to ensure your children can enjoy the great outdoors while still enjoying maximum protection from the harmful rays of the sun.