As the weather heats up and summer vacations start to roll around, it’s important to take steps to avoid overexposure to the sun’s rays.
As summer kicks into high gear, there are plenty of opportunities to spend time outdoors soaking up the sun. But as much fun as it is to enjoy the sunny weather, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks involved with doing so.
Though sunlight is certainly a good thing — it helps plants grow and, by transmitting vitamin D, it helps people grow, too — it does come with some downsides. One of its main components is ultraviolet light, or as it is commonly called, “UV rays.” UV rays make our skin feel warm, but they can also cause sunburns.
Sunburns create a variety of short-term issues — they’re red, painful, and can peel or even blister — but their real danger is longer-term. Each time our skin burns, it increases our risk of developing skin cancer later in life — especially for young children. That’s why it’s important to take extra care with your kids during the sunniest months of the year.
How to Prevent Sunburn
The best way to avoid long-term sun damage is to simply avoid getting a sunburn in the first place. That said, there’s no reason for your child to avoid the sun completely; rather, some strategic planning and preparation can mitigate many of the risks associated with exposure to UV rays.
In most parts of the United States, the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It’s a good idea to plan your day with these times in mind — schedule swimming lessons and tennis matches in the morning or early evening and movie breaks and indoor naps during the middle of the day.
Our second tip for sun protection also requires you to keep an eye on the clock: reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, and even more frequently if your child has been swimming or sweating. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30, and apply it about 20 minutes before going out in the sun to give it time to soak in.
Of course, sunscreen isn’t the only way to block the sun’s rays. Sometimes, a wide-brimmed hat or a breathable long-sleeve shirt can provide even better protection — plus, these protective measures needn’t be reapplied. Choose whichever method of sun protection is best for you and your child.
Watch Out for Dehydration, Heatstroke, and Other Dangers
It’s important to note that sunburn isn’t the only danger associated with too much sun. Dehydration is also common during the summer months, especially when kids are sweating a lot. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water when they’re out in the sun.
You should also watch out for heat exhaustion. If your child suddenly stops sweating, has red skin, and is running a high temperature, this could be a sign of heat exhaustion, which requires immediate medical attention. You can prevent heat exhaustion by keeping your child hydrated and making them take regular breaks from physical activities to cool down.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to wear sunglasses during long summer days. They protect children’s developing eyes from too much sun exposure, which can lead to vision problems down the line.
If you have more questions about staying safe from the summer sun, or if your child has a sunburn or other heat-related condition, feel free to reach out to Kids’ Health. Our private pediatric practice located in Beverly, Massachusetts, is always ready to help your child achieve their best, no matter the weather.