Sun! Sun! Sun!
Updated: May 23, 2018
Summer is on it’s way, and this is a good time to start thinking about how to protect yourself and your family from the sun’s harmful rays.
Sun, in small quantities, is healthy. When our skin is exposed to sun, we make vitamin D, which helps with bone growth, and it also supports our immune and nervous systems. Sensible sun exposure for most people is about 10-15 minutes 2-3 times per week. Vitamin D breaks down quickly, so it needs to be replenished often.
If Vitamin D is so great, why do I and my children need to cover up and use sunscreen?
The ultraviolet rays (UV) can cause eye damage (photokeratitis, photoconjunctivitis, cataracts, cancer of the eye), immune system suppression, skin damage (wrinkles), and skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma).
How do sunburns happen?
The sun’s light consists of invisible UV rays. When these rays hit our skin, they cause tanning, burning, and other damage.
UVA rays: These cause skin aging and wrinkling, which can contribute to skin cancer, like melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. UVA rays pass easily through the ozone layer, so they comprise the majority of rays.
UVB rays: These cause the actual skin burns, cataracts, and can affect the immune system. They also contribute to skin cancer, and melanoma is thought to be associated with severe UVB sunburns before age 20.
Melanin, a chemical found in the skin, protects the skin from UV rays. A sunburn occurs when the amount of UV rays is greater than what can be protected by the melanin. The risk of damage increases with the amount and intensity of exposure. A tan is a sign of skin damage and does not help protect the skin.
Look for “Broad Spectrum” sunscreens which block both UVA and UVB rays.
Use broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF (sun protective factor) between 15-50. To date, studies have not found additional protection for higher SPF. Most people are fine to use 15 or 30 SPF.
Avoid the ingredient oxybenzone because of concerns about its mild hormonal properties. However, if this is the only one available, this is better than no sunscreen.
For those areas that get exposed the most (nose, cheeks, tops of ears, shoulders, etc.), use a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These will stay visible even after rubbing them in and block the rays from reaching the skin.
Apply 15-30 minutes prior to going outside to allow enough time to absorb.
Don’t forget to use sunscreen on cloudy days!
Apply every 2 hours and after swimming.
Here are some quick tips:
For infants less than 6 months of age, keep them out of direct sunlight. If protective clothing or shade is not available, small areas of exposed skin can be covered by sunscreen.
For infants 6 months and older, apply sunscreen to all body parts, but take care around the eyes. If she/he rubs sunscreen into their eyes, wipe eyes and hands with a damp cloth.
Try to dress everyone in cool, comfortable clothing that covers the body, like lightweight cotton pants, long-sleeved cotton shirts, and hats with a tight weave. You can also get clothing that protect against UV rays. Look for UPF (Ultraviolet Protective Factor) on clothing labels.
Wear hats with a broad enough rim to cover face, ears, and the neck.
Limit outdoor activities between 10:00am and 4:00pm, when UV rays are the strongest.
Wear sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection- they make them for children as well!
Oh, no! My child has a sunburn! How do I treat it?
Remove your child from the sun immediately and keep them out of direct sunlight until the sunburn has healed.
Keep your child well hydrated, giving extra fluids for the next 2-3 days.
Give him/her a cool bath or shower. Alternatively, you can apply cool compresses as often as needed.
Treat their pain with Tylenol/Acetaminophen or Motrin/Ibuprofen for children 6 months or older.
Apply pure aloe vera gel or moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin.
If your child has developed blisters, call our office for an appointment. Do not treat them yourself!