It's that time of year again. The Texas sun is shining down on us, and the heat is only going to increase in the coming months. Before we know it, the ground will be too hot for little bare feet and tiny noses will be turning red after a day at the pool. With Memorial Day weekend just around the corner, it's time to start preparing your family for long days in the sunshine.
Although everyone should be protecting their skin from harmful sun rays, children are especially vulnerable when it comes to sunburns. In fact, pediatricians recommend not exposing infants under six months old to direct sunlight if possible. Children have more sensitive skin, and they can burn much more quickly than adults. The younger they are, the faster (and more severely) they might burn.
Not only are the burns painful, but they're also dangerous and can cause long-term damage. Even just a handful of bad sunburns can increase your little one's chances of developing skin cancer when they're older. Now is the perfect time to start teaching your children about protection from burns and tans (after all, tanned skin is really just damaged skin). Here are a few steps you can take to help your children and prevent skin damage during outdoor summer activities.
Pick the Right Sunscreen and Reapply
Although this one seems like a no-brainer, recent studies have indicated that many parents are not using sunscreen (or enough of it) on their small children. At a minimum, slather some of the same sunscreens you use on the kids and remember to reapply after about two hours. The important thing is to be consistent: cover as much of their skin as you can and be strict about doing so often. You can also purchase sunscreens specifically designed for young children's sensitive skin. Don't bother purchasing any sunscreen that has less than SPF 15, and make sure it has UVA and UVB protection. Also, think ahead and try to apply sunscreen about half an hour before going into direct sunlight. It takes time for your skin to absorb the lotion or spray. Don't forget to cover places like ears, noses, and feet!
Utilize Hats and Shade
Any dermatologist will advise kids and adults to seek cover from the sun as much as possible. Obviously, this is (a) not very fun and (b) not always feasible. However, you can always make some effort. Encourage your kids to slap on a baseball cap or sunhat before heading outside. If you're sitting outdoors, try to pick a spot that offers at least minimal shade. Every effort steers your family towards healthier and less painful summer days.
This option is great for multiple reasons. First of all, your kid will actually have fun looking like mommy and daddy while they strut their new shades. Secondly, it will prevent their eyes from burning. Believe it or not, harmful UV rays can damage both your skin and your eyes. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause children's eyes to degenerate, and the skin around your eyes (which is nearly impossible to cover with sunscreen) can be at risk of skin cancer just like the rest of your body.
Cover As Much Skin As You Can
Even though the season of swimming trunks and bikinis is upon us, that doesn't always mean you have to bare a ton of skin to the elements. If you have young children, look into purchasing swim shirts and cover ups that will shelter their skin. Yes, I know, it gets hot here in Texas, but toddlers and infants should always have shirts and a hat on when in direct sunlight. You can find breathable materials that won't stifle them too much, and the protection the clothing offers is more than worth it.