What can you do to defeat dangerous summer sun?
The nice weather is here, and with that comes more time to spend outside. It is important to remember that all family members are at risk for injuries from the sun, but everyone can take steps to protect themselves.
Covering up and avoiding the peak hours of sun are the best ways to avoid injury from the sun.
- Wear a hat with a rim facing forward with at least a 3-inch brim. Get in the shade whenever possible and wear broad-spectrum sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Remember the peak hours of sunlight are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Try to avoid this window for exposed outdoor activities.
- Wear sunscreen when you are outside, every day, every time. Make it a rule for outside play and a habit, just like wearing a helmet while you are riding a bike.
Those less than 6 months of age, or immobile, should be kept in the shade with the help of an umbrella, or covered with a hat and longer clothing. Sunscreen isn’t harmful to babies, but shade is an easier option.
When buying sunscreen, look for a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Make sure that it is labeled as broad spectrum or specifically covers UVA and UVB rays. For sensitive areas, use zinc oxide cream, which is thick white or full of color that you see lifeguards wearing. This cream is also available in clear options.
Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours while in the sun and immediately after being out of the water, even if labled “waterproof.”
Spray sunscreen is my personal favorite, because my kids can be hard to corral and keep in one place. You can spray on your palms, and rub gently to a child’s forehead, cheeks and neck, and then spray the rest of their body and rub around. When using lotions, make sure you are getting good coverage and apply evenly. Put the zinc oxide cream on the nose and around the ears, the thicker the better.
If a sunburn causes blisters, fever, chills, headaches or other feelings of illness, it is best to see a physician. These symptoms can be a sign that something else, such as heat stroke, is going on.
More serious sunburns will be treated like regular burns, which risk infection, so it’s important to keep the wound clean and dry. Use antibiotic creams as directed by your doctor.
If you have any questions about sun safety, feel free to call your physician’s office at any time.
About the Author
Dr. Aaron Traeger is a pediatrician at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Medical Group. His philosophy of care focuses on providing an outstanding medical home that not only focuses on illness but also on child development and family interactions.