No matter where you live or travel, sun exposure is part of your life. Medical studies show that too much sun can be dangerous, even deadly. Children are more susceptible than adults to the unhealthy effects of too much sunshine. How can you protect your family? Can your kids use the same sunblock that you use?
The simple answer to the question is ‘yes’ – with some special guidelines.
Recent testing of adults in several countries has shown high concentrations of many chemicals in their bloodstreams. Several of these chemicals are known carcinogens. We absolutely MUST reduce the chemical exposure of our children.
*Non-Chemical Sun Protection
Although in the strictest sense, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide preparations are actually sunblocks, manufacturers often use the terms ‘sunblock’ and ‘sunscreen’ interchangeably. As a consumer, you must read labels to ensure that you get what you pay for.
Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sun products provide a chemical-free way to protect your children. Nowadays, there are easy-to-apply lotions and creams. Kids don’t have to look like ghosts on the beach because their skin has been protected by a zinc oxide sunblock. Added bonuses: these non-chemical products are less likely to cause skin irritations or allergic reactions – and they start to work immediately (no waiting period necessary).
*Start at Birth and Continue
Babies have extremely sensitive skin. Sun protection must begin from birth and continue throughout the life of your child. Whenever you go outdoors, ensure that most of the baby’s skin is covered. Use stroller hoods, umbrellas, blankets, towels, or clothing for shade. Exposed areas should always be protected by a good UVA/UVB-blocking sunscreen with an SPF of 15-30. Avoid the outdoors during hours of peak sun concentration – between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
*Skin Cancer is Only One of the Problems
Skin cancer is a well-known result of too much sun exposure. However, many other conditions result from soaking up the sun. Skin aging and wrinkles are the least of the undesirable side effects. Some people develop actinic keratosis – an ugly skin condition with raised red growths that may precede skin cancer. (Search ‘Google Images’ for ‘actinic keratosis’ to see what this horrible condition looks like.)
Eyesight may be damaged, resulting in cataracts or other eye conditions. One’s immune system may be compromised, culminating in a constant barrage of colds, flu, and other viral or bacterial infections of the body.
*Water Magnifies the Sun
Not only does water dilute sunscreen or wash it off the body, it acts like a magnifying glass on the skin’s surface. Swimming may be fun – but the sun glancing off the waves and back into the eyes can cause temporary or permanent vision problems. When you are at the beach, insist that your children wear sunglasses, sun hats, and beach cover-ups. If it’s too warm for cover-ups, make sure that every inch of skin is protected by sunblock – and reapply frequently (especially when they exit the water). Sun can even make its way through clothing!
*Are Sprays Better than Lotions?
The ingredients are always the primary consideration when purchasing sun protection. After that decision has been made, choose whatever works best for your kids. Be sure to pay extra attention to sensitive areas like the nose, ears, and previously unexposed skin.
*Be Wary When Changing Brands
Try a new sun product on a small area of sensitive skin to see if it causes a rash. A small patch on an inside upper arm works well. If no rash develops, you can usually assume that it is safe to apply to the rest of your child’s body.
*Don’t Trust Cloud Cover
A cloudy sky does not mean that it’s safe to spend hours outdoors without sun protection. UVA and UVB rays bounce around in the air from water molecule to water molecule until they penetrate the cloud cover. The concentration of sunlight is reduced – but the harmful rays are still there.
*The Sun Doesn’t Care About the Equal Rights Amendment
Fair skinned, blonde girls are more likely to suffer from the ill effects of sun exposure than are darker skinned or black boys. Parents of all children should be vigilant, however. Even dark-skinned children will be adversely affected by good ol’ Sol.
*Global Warming Increases the Risk
Unless everyone develops (and sticks to) a rigid sun protection program, global warming (accompanied by lighter clothing) will cause more sun damage every year.
Don’t allow yourself or your children to become statistics!