By: Caroline MacElroy, RN, MSN, CPNP-PC
The warm, spring weather makes everyone want to enjoy the outdoors. The first sunburn of the season usually occurs in the month of March or April. Listed below are some easy steps to protect you and your child from sunburns and prevent skin cancer later in life.
When choosing the correct sunscreen look for one that says broad-spectrum on the label. Broad spectrum means it will screen out UVB and UVA rays. Use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. This means at least 97% of the UVB rays will be filtered. There is a new UVA star rating system on the label. One star is low UVA protection, two is medium protection, three is high protection, and four is the highest protection available over-the-counter. Using a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is best for sensitive areas of the body such as the face and ears. Avoid the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone because of its mild hormonal properties.
When applying sunscreen use enough to cover all exposed areas and rub it in well. Apply sunscreen 15–30 minutes before going outdoors. The sunscreen needs to have time to absorb into the skin. Use sunscreen any time you spend time outside. You can get sunburn on cloudy days because up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate the clouds. UV rays can reflect from water, sand, snow, and concrete. Reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes and after swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel.
Keep infants younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight by finding shade under an umbrella, or stroller canopy. For infants older than 6 months apply sunscreen to all areas of the body being careful around the eyes. Wear hats to protect your face from direct sunlight and 99% UV protection sunglasses for your eyes. Limit sun exposure between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm when UV rays are strongest. Remember, sunscreen should be used for sun protection, not as a reason to stay in the sun longer.