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Keeping your child safe from the sun’s harmful rays is important during the hot weather if you both want to enjoy the summer. This article looks at what to consider when using sunscreen and appropriate clothing to protect your child.

Keeping Your Child Safe in the Sun

Fifty percent of a person’s total lifetime sun exposure occurs in childhood, so it’s important to take precautions when your child is out and about this summer. Protecting your child against the sun’s harmful rays will not only protect him from sunburn but will reduce his chances of developing skin cancer later in life. Some steps are obvious and easy to take such as ensuring your child wears clothing and a hat for protection and keeping him out of the sun when its rays are at their strongest (between 10am and 4pm). One way to determine whether to seek shade is to use the shadow rule: if a person’s shadow is shorter than his actual height, then the intensity of the sun’s rays are likely to cause sunburn.

While these steps are simple and require no more than a commonsense approach to sun protection, when it comes to sunscreen, it’s perhaps not so easy. Many people believe that wearing sunscreen allows for an increase in the time they spend in the sun without risking sunburn. However, no sunscreen offers complete protection against the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays, and sunscreen should never be used to increase the time you can spend in intense sunlight; nor should it ever be used in place of protective clothing. Remember that babies under six months of age should be kept out of the sun at all times and clothing and shading used to protect them instead of sunscreen.

When selecting a sunscreen, dermatologists recommend a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of 15 or greater. While you may believe that the higher the SFP rating the more protection provided, some experts believe that the SPF rating should be capped at 30 as it provides no real protection beyond this figure. Therefore, if you buy a product designed specifically for children, you may want to focus more on whether it’s water resistant or hypo-allergenic and fragrance-free. Sunscreen that provides “broad spectrum” protection means it protects against both UVB rays and UVA rays (UVA rays are linked to problems such as skin rashes and adverse reactions to drugs). To be certain that your sunscreen does in fact provide broad spectrum protection look for ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Reputable brands offering children-friendly sunscreen include Banana Boat, Coppertone, and Neutrogena.

If you’d rather rely on clothing to protect your child, then tightly-woven fabrics in dark colors provide the best protection against the sun, although they’re probably not the most comfortable clothes to be worn on a hot day. Clothing such as cotton t-shirts provide relatively little protection as the sun’s rays are able to pass through the loops in the knit construction of the fabric. But that doesn’t mean your child has to suffer through the summer in dark, heavy clothing, as a number of companies now manufacture clothing that provides protection against the gun’s rays, with some products blocking out over 97.5 percent of all UVA and UVB radiation. This clothing, which is usually made from fabric with a tighter knit than that used to make conventional summer wear, carries a UPF rating (ultraviolet protection factor) similar to the SPF rating used in sunscreen. A UPF rating of between 40 and 50 is said to provide excellent UV protection.

Knowing that your child is protected against the sun, wherever he is and whatever he’s doing, will help you to enjoy a happy and carefree summer, which in turn will mean he does too.

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