On Friday, May 25, 2012 thousands of people will be celebrating Don’t Fry Day, an event organized by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to promote sun safety awareness before families head outdoors for the Memorial Day weekend and begin the summer season of outdoor activities.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Occasional, severe sunburns in childhood are thought to pose one of the highest risk factors for developing skin cancer later in life.
While it’s good to get kids outdoors to enjoy the sun, boost their vitamin D levels and exercise off those sugary snacks, too much exposure to the sun can be harmful and you should take appropriate steps to protect them.
Below are some common sun safety tips for kids that were put together by the Environmental Working Group and other organizations such as the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection that are concerned with protecting children’s health.
One of the best ways to protect your kids from sunburn is to have them avoid the direct mid-day sun. When outdoors in the sun, have your kids wear hats, shirts and other protective clothing. Also, keep them in the shade whenever possible. If they are going to be in direct sunlight, make sure they are wearing a good sunscreen.
In general, choose a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15, but 30-50 is a better choice. Use a sunscreen that is water resistant and provides broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming and exercising.
Several environmental organizations are now making it easier for you to choose green and healthy sunscreen products. The Environmental Working Group has a list of green and healthy sunscreen products that you can view online here (http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/best-sunscreens/best-beach-sport-sunscreens/). Many of these products are sunscreens designed especially for kids. GoodGuide also offers a list of 177 green and healthy baby sunscreen products that you can view here (http://www.goodguide.com/categories/152657-baby-sunscreen##products). As an added perk, you can download a free app for your smartphone from GoodGuide that lets you scan the barcode of sunscreens and other products to find green, healthy and safe options while shopping in the store.
If you are worried about chemicals in the sunscreen irritating your child’s skin, try testing a small amount on the inside of your child’s wrist a few days before heading outdoors. If a rash develops, ask your child’s doctor to suggest a less irritating product.
Lastly, take special precautions with infants less than six months of age because their skin is not yet protected fully by melanin. Always try to keep infants out of direct sunlight by using protective clothing, a stroller canopy or an umbrella. According to the Environmental Working Group, many manufacturers advise against using sunscreens on infants and urge parents and caregivers to consult a doctor first, but they note that the American Academy of Pediatrics says that small amounts of sunscreen can be used on infants as a last resort when shade can’t be found. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection recommends that you closely follow the directions on the package for use of a sunscreen product on babies less than 6 months old.
Enjoy the holiday weekend everyone and please try to stay sun safe!
This guest post was written by Deanna Conners, an environmental scientist and freelance science writer who holds a PhD in Environmental Toxicology. Deanna is a frequent contributor to EarthSky (http://earthsky.org/). You can follow Deanna on Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/deconners) and Google+ (https://plus.google.com/106952974709619007593/about#105583708594417954308/about).
The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection do not endorse or recommend any commercial products or services.