Don’t Fry! Sun safety tips for the whole family
As the summer season approaches, and as we start to enjoy the great outdoors, we need to be reminded of sun safety for ourselves and for our family. It is no coincidence that several health observances in this month of May focus on how to protect ourselves from the sun:
- May is Ultraviolet Awareness Month sponsored by Prevent Blindness America
- May 4 was “Melanoma Monday” sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)
- This coming Friday, May 22, is the first ever “Don’t Fry Day”, jointly sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention (NCSCP).
I have compiled a couple of sun safety tips for you and your family:
Sun safety should be age appropriate
- Is it safe to use sunscreen for babies? Yes, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). For babies younger than 6 months, sunscreen should only be applied on small areas of the skin, e.g. face, back of the hands. However, the best way to protect your baby is avoiding direct exposure, using protective clothing and staying in the shade.
- For babies older than 6 months, sunscreen can be applied all over the body but be careful that it doesn’t get into the eyes.
- Older children and adults should apply sunscreen as well. The sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going out to give it time to be absorbed by the skin.
Choose the right sunscreen
The AAP recommends:
- Use a “broad spectrum” sunscreen with filters out both UV B and UV A radiation.
- A sunscreen with a minimum of 15 sun protection factor (SPF) is needed. The higher the SPF, the better is the protection.
- Check the labels for the new UV A rating star. One star is the lowest UV A protection while four stars is the highest protection available in OTC sunscreen products.
Choose the right sunglasses
- Wear sunglasses with at a minimum of 99% UV protection to block both UV A and UV B rays.
- Children’s sunglasses should be child-sized and fit properly. They should be made from unbreakable polycarbonate material to avoid injuries from breakage.
- Wrap-around sunglasses are highly recommended for everyone because they protect the eyes from up front, from the side, as well as provide protection for the skin around the eyes.
Choose the time and the place
- Avoid direct exposure to the midday sun – e.g. between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. – because this is when UV radiation is strongest.
- If you have to be out, then stay in the shade as much as possible.
- Use protective clothing, including clothes with tight weave and sun hats. For children, choose sun hats that cover the ears and the back of the neck.
- Check your UV index of your place of residence. The UV index can predict radiation levels depending on the weather. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes it easy for you with this online tool.
The NCSCP has a wealth of age-appropriate educational resources on sun safety, including short stories for children.
The AAP gives detailed tips on skin sun protection for children.
The AAD gives us some tips on simple self-examination for potentially dangerous skin moles that may lead to melanoma.