Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Skip Navigation LinksBoys Town Pediatrics > Knowledge Center > Health Articles > Sun Awareness and Protection for Your Family

Sun Awareness and Protection for Your Family

By Vicki Herrman, M.D.

During the summer, families enjoy more time outside relaxing on vacations or enjoying activities like picnics, sport events, parks and amusement rides. While some sun helps with vitamin D absorption, repeated and unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are harmful. Boys Town Pediatrics provides sun awareness guidelines to protect your family from the sun.

Sun Ray Facts

The sun radiates light, consisting of invisible rays that break through the Earth’s ozone layer and reach our skin. The UVA/UVB rays can cause premature skin, sunburns and cataracts; affect the immune system and contribute to skin cancers like melanoma. With melanoma rates among adolescents currently on the rise, research shows the increase is related to the amount of UV exposure children experience during childhood. In the United States alone, melanoma has more than doubled in the past four decades.

Unprotected sun exposure is even more dangerous for kids with moles, very fair skin and hair and a family history of skin-related problems. Take the necessary sun exposure precautions below to protect your family. Whenever possible, try to avoid:

  • Harmful ray times between 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to help protect and preserve skin health and longevity.
  • Overcast weather rays because even on cloudy or overcast days, UV rays travel through clouds and reflect off sand, water and concrete. Often kids are unaware of sunburns on cooler or windy days because the temperature or breeze keeps the skin feeling cool.
  • Tanning beds because they produce both UVA/UVB rays that produce a sunburn or tan. Many people think tanning before vacations can help with reducing sunburns, but in reality, it only increases the risk of melanoma.

Proper Clothing and Cover

  • Shielding the skin from direct sun exposure helps by blocking harmful UV rays. Dress children for outdoor affairs with different light layers of loose clothing. Bring an umbrella or tent and call ahead to see if rentals or other sun protective gear are available.
  • Because infants have thinner skin and will burn more easily, stay in the shade as much as possible and out of direct sunlight. Use an umbrella and wear protective clothing like wide brimmed hats and sunglasses.

Use Sunscreen Consistently

  • Choosing a Sunscreen. Select an SPF of 30 or higher that protects against UVA/UVB rays, usually with the ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide or labeled as a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Select a lip balm with SPF 30 to also protect the lips. Sunscreen is okay to use on children 6 months or older.
  • How to Apply. Apply at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outside and apply generously to all parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, especially the face, neck, ears, hands, feet and shoulders. Re-apply every two to three hours or as needed. Water-resistant sunscreen is available and will help when constant perspiring occurs or if you are playing in the water.
  • Check Expiration. Throw out old sunscreens because ingredients are less effective. Avoid using products that combine sunscreen other products like insect repellent because sunscreen must be regularly reapplied while the other product may not need reapplying. Sunscreens with PABA can sometimes cause skin allergies and certain medications may cause skin to become more sensitive to sunlight. Talk to your physician for more information.
  • Sunburn Treatment. A sunburn can be painful with a sensation of burning or chills. It can cause peeling and itchy skin. Encourage your child not to scratch or peel off loose skin because skin underneath the sunburn is vulnerable to infection. If your child does get a sunburn, do the following:
    • Take a cool bath and gently apply a cool cloth to the skin to help alleviate pain and heat.
    • Apply aloe vera gel to sunburned areas.
    • Apply a moisturizing cream to rehydrate the skin and treat itching. For more serious sunburns, apply a thin layer of 1% hydrocortisone cream.
    • Keep your child out of the sun until the sunburn is healed. Any further sun exposure will only make the burn worse and increase pain.
    • Anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen can ease the pain and itching.
    • Do not use petroleum-based products because they prevent excess heat and sweat from escaping. Also avoid first-aid products that contain benzocaine, which may cause a skin irritation or allergy.
  • Eye Protection. Just as the sun can damage skin, it can also damage the eyes. Purchase sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection because darkened tints do not all have a UV filter. Providing sunglasses early in childhood will encourage the healthy habit.

Stress the importance of sun safety with your family. Take the necessary precautions before heading out and enjoy your vacation and recreation time knowing you have the knowledge to protect your family’s time in the sun!