Sun Safety: Stay safe in the sun this summer

Discovery Place Kids Huntersville

Few things are sweeter than summertime with kids… warm days by the pool or on Lake Norman making memories to last the seasons of a lifetime.

But before you step into the sun’s rays there’s a few things you can do that will set your children up for a healthy relationship with the sun that, believe it or not, they will thank you for (one day).

Hat trick

We know, we know, we know… who are these people suggesting a hat for a toddler? We can assure yes, we have met many a boss baby that are none-to-keen to be donned with a hat or shading device of any kind. But a hat is a real game changer when it comes to sun protection – and not just any hat will do.

Baseball hats or visors provide little protection for the ears and cheeks and especially the back of the neck.

Look for a wide-brim or ‘bucket-style’ hat. Extra bonus points if you get one with a safety neck strap that snaps and stays in place.

Another thing that may not be top of mind is that a wide brim hat also protects kids’ eyes from UV radiation and may limit the chances of ocular cancers in the future.

The best sunscreen

Choosing the right product for kids’ skin can be overwhelming - rather than worrying about brands there are certain ingredients you can look for when it comes to sunscreen.

Allison Hanley, PA-C at Lake Norman Dermatology in Cornelius recommends parents “Look for mineral sunscreens, these contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide with an SPF of 30 or higher".

But just as important as what’s in it, is when you apply it. There are two things: #1 make sure to apply a minimum of 20 minutes prior to hitting the shore or deck, and #2 reapply every two hours. And, just to make sure you read that – reapply every two hours – even if the label says every four.

Try little reminders to make it a habit for your kids. Like when you’re at the Museum in I CAN Move and before you jump on the boat or take a selfie in front of the Lake Norman backdrop remind your child to put on their sunscreen before saying cheeeeese.

Other top sunscreen tips: water resistant = good. Look for ‘broad spectrum’ – meaning it helps ward off both UVA and UVB rays.

Remember, just like milk, sunscreen expires and it will haunt your dreams forever if you use it past the expiration date. And, while we are making a milk comparison, it’s also best to store your sunscreen at the correct temperature; at minimum keep containers away from excessive heat.

Dress for the occasion, darlings!

The American Academy of Pediatrics states, “Sunscreens may be used on infants younger than six months on small areas of skin if adequate clothing and shade are not available.”

Long sleeve rash guard shirts are recommended and many brands incorporate sun protection into their clothes (and long sleeves often keep kids cooler.)

While it’s not an either/or situation, wearing sun smart clothing helps protect kids – especially babies’ sensitive skin. It is recommended that infants younger than 12 months use sunscreen and swimwear specifically created for babies – same goes for toddlers.

Also, get your kids some ‘sunnies’… sunglasses help reduce the risk of UV exposure and protect little ones’ delicate eyelids and skin surrounding their eyes. Plus, you know, what’s cuter than a baby in sunglasses?

Make it fun… matching family sunglasses, wide-brim hats in appealing colors, let kids pick out their rash guards with their favorite character or with an excessive amount of sparkle to make a mermaid jealous.

Just like in Neverland your shadow is your friend

Studies indicate that sun exposure in the first 10 years of life partially determine a child’s lifetime potential for skin cancer. So, in other words protecting kids from sunburn and long-term overexposure will reduce their risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

It’s tough to juggle nap time and chart the progress of the sun’s orbit, but between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. is when UV rays are most powerful… so think about teaching your kids that the longer their shadow (meaning the sun is not directly overhead) the better the time to play with pixie dust and Peter Pan outdoors.

You may also want to start checking not only the weather but also the UV levels for the day. And, remember even when you’re in the shade, like at the playground, UV rays can still reach you.

UV, me and D

At the Museum we know the power of play and that an engaged role model can yield powerful results.

If you apply sunscreen and seek shade, your kids are going to be much more interested in doing so too.

But you don’t want to be a vampire… there needs to be a balance, right? Too much UV exposure and we’re talking sunburns, eye damage and potential for skin cancer. But too little and your pediatrician will start throwing terms at you like ‘low vitamin D levels’.

It’s a really good conversation to have with your pediatrician because the average time of each person’s sun exposure to be beneficial is individual. It depends on your skin type, the time of year, where you are in the world and the UV levels.

Also, one other thing you may want to bring up with your pediatrician is medications as some medications may increase your child’s sensitivity to the sun.

Kids can role play in the Museum’s I CAN Be Healthy area in the doctor’s office, practicing visits or being the doctor. It’s a fun place to incorporate lessons about taking care of your skin and staying safe in the sun for years to come.

Rockingham Facade At Dusk
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  • Discovery Place Kids