It’s already the middle of summer and for many areas around the country, prolonged sun exposure has become a way for many families to enjoy the season, whether it’s going for a long bike ride, enjoying time on the water, or simply exploring bugs in the backyard. Sun safety is often attributed to the first two of those activities, or for trips to theme parks or birthday parties under a pavilion. What about the times we want to take the dogs on a walk? Or, for experiments in the garden, or even to go on a bike ride?
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Learning proper sun safety should not be used as a scare tactic, rather a way to provide children with the knowledge and tools they need in order to take care of their skin’s health throughout their lives. Just as it is important to teach our children to brush their teeth, drink water, and stay active, it is important to teach them that their skin will be their lifetime companion, and the earlier they can learn to care for their skin, the better.
Here are 3 ways to help empower your children to be aware of and proactive about sun safety:
1. Choose Your Favorite Sun Safety Gear
Sun safety doesn’t just mean sunscreen, although that should definitely be at the top of your list. Sun safety can be fun, and may vary from family to family based on needs. Older, more active children may be perfectly happy with a UV blocking swim shirt, a hat, and their favorite pair of sunglasses, but younger children may need more options.
Versatile sun shelters, like the Sunkitö from BBLÜV, offer shade and a cool breeze for little ones, and a welcomed respite from summer’s harshest rays. Since traveling with children often means your hands are filled beyond capacity, these shelters come in a small, lightweight bag that you, or one of your older children, can easily sling on their shoulder and set up in a flash.
If carrying yet another item for your family’s day of fun-in-the-sun sounds like the end of a good time, then there are several options for head coverings and sunglasses for children and adults alike! Major considerations for head coverings involve the SPF of the material (yes, even materials have SPF grades!) and how long your child will actually be able to wear the hat (Will they need a strap to keep their hat on? Will a simple cap be fine?)
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As for sunglasses, it is important for children to wear protective sun safety clothing and eye wear, especially when the sun is most harsh between the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. The sun’s harmful rays are Ultra Violet B Rays, which are strongest at this time. The closer to the equator, the stronger the sun. So, if you plan to visit Key West or the Bahamas this year, spruce up your sun safety wardrobe before hitting the beach!
Making sun safety a priority in every day living, and not just special trips to the beach or a theme park, will help children adopt this habit and integrate it into their daily living, as well.
2. Sunscreen: The Ultimate Sun Safety Tool
When it comes to choosing a sunscreen, there are considerations to take. For instance, which rays should I block? How much sunscreen should I use? What benefits do different sunscreens offer? The good news is that the Academy of American Dermatology has provided a helpful visual so we can better understand what we need from a good sunscreen. The general consensus is that a quality sunscreen will have 3 things:
- The Words “Broad Spectrum”
When choosing a sunscreen, the label needs to say “Broad Spectrum.” This means that your chosen sunscreen will protect the skin from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, both of which can cause skin cancer. If your sunscreen selection does not have those words on it, put it back.
- SPF 30 Or Higher
The SPF can mean many things to many people, but if you really want your sunscreen to work for you, choose SPF 30 or above. This number indicates how well a sunscreen protects you from sunburn.
- Water Resistant
I hate to be the one to tell you, but no sunscreen is 100% water proof, and every sunscreen needs to be reapplied after toweling off or excessive sweating. While sunscreens can be “water resistant” (for 40 minutes) or “very water resistant” (for 80 minutes), sunscreens are not waterproof or sweat-proof and need to be reapplied.
Adults and children both need to wear SPF daily, but children’s skin is much more delicate and they need it even more. Think of it as an extra step after brushing and flossing. By applying sunscreen as part of your morning ritual, and encouraging the entire family to participate, your family’s skin will be at the front of their minds and protected by your diligence.
3. Stay Hydrated
When considering sun safety, hydration may not be the first thing you think of. Staying hydrated, especially in the heat of summer, helps to regulate your body’s temperature and keep you cool. Including sports drinks in your cooler can also replenish electrolytes lost during activity.
Keeping hydrated can also keep you on top of your sunscreen and sun protection game. If a family member or friend grabs a water or a sports drink once an hour, keeping the sunscreen close to the cooler can be a helpful reminder that it’s time to re-apply! Remember, even the best sunscreens are only water resistant up to 80 minutes. Encourage your family to sit in the shade, slowly sip a cool beverage, and then re-apply their sunscreen before returning to their summer shenanigans.
Create a habit for sun safety in your home. Habits become rituals, and rituals become ingrained in our day to day lives. Helping our families to learn basic sun safety means that they are able to take responsibility for their own health, and that reality will benefit their lives through adulthood.
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