Smart Sun Safety

Tips for keeping kids safe in the summer sun



Avoiding summer sun exposure is virtually impossible. Because sun is the top source of vitamin D, which helps bodies build strong bones and absorb calcium, avoiding the sun may seem undesirable. It doesn’t take much time in the sun for people to receive the vitamin D they need. In fact, most kids get the majority of their lifetime sun exposure before the age of 18. Unfortunately, exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays also can cause skin damage, skin cancer and eye damage. If skin changes color at all—brown or pink—UV rays actually have damaged it (CDC.gov). Here are a few simple tips for keeping your kids safe in the sun.

Apply sunscreen. Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater every time you and your child go outdoors. For best results, apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outdoors and reapply every few hours (CDC.gov). Most sun damage occurs because of accidental exposure during day-to-day activities in which sunscreen is forgotten or not reapplied. 

Seek shade. UV rays are the strongest during the middle of the day, and indoors is the safest place to be then. If that is not possible, taking relief in the shade of a tree, umbrella or pop-up tent is helpful.     

Wear sunglasses. Sun damages the eyes as well as the skin. As little as one day in the sun can cause the cornea (the outer membrane of the eye) to burn, and long-term exposure can lead to cataracts (clouding of the eye lens and blurred vision). The best way to protect the eyes is to wear sunglasses. Convincing kids to wear sunglasses can be difficult, but allowing your child to pick out the style (character, color, etc.) may improve attitudes about keeping shades on.                                                                

Stay hydrated. Spending a lot of time in the sun can keep us hot and sweating, and if we are not careful, we can become dehydrated. Drinking plenty of water or sports drinks can combat this to keep us hydrated.

No matter how good your intentions are, sometimes your child may get a little more color from the sun than intended. If this happens, have your child take a cool (not cold) bath to alleviate the pain and heat, then apply aloe vera lotion to the sunburned areas. Anti-inflammatory medication (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) also may ease the pain. If the burn is severe or blisters develop, call your doctor for further instruction. Don’t let one day of too much fun in the sun ruin future days of fun! Take care and enjoy the sun all summer long!

    Jessica Heine is a labor and delivery nurse. She lives in Olathe with her family.

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