There’s nothing quite like sunny summer days in Oregon. People are drawn outdoors, often for hours at a time. However, too much sun exposure can lead to painful burns and an increased risk of skin cancer.
“Everybody can get skin cancer, so it’s absolutely important that kids and adults use sunscreen in the summer,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw. “Make putting it on part of your morning routine.”
Why is sunscreen so important?
The sun gives off two types of UV radiation that damages cells in our bodies. UVA rays play a big role in prematurely aging our skin, while UVB rays lead to burns. The amount of UVA radiation remains consistent throughout the year, but UVB varies depending on the season, and it’s most intense during the summer.
Dr. Bradshaw recommends choosing a “broad spectrum” sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Broad spectrum protects against both UVA and UVB rays and SPF 30 or higher means it will repel more than 97 percent of the rays that burn.
“My favorite sunscreens, as a pediatrician, are the creamy ones because they go on better,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “The sprays often don’t go directly on the kid, or they don’t go on evenly and it’s hard to see that.”
Be sure to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, especially if your children are perspiring or have been in the water.
Additional sun protection tips
Wear sun-protective clothing when possible, including a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses. And be sure to monitor the time your family spends in the sun, especially children under six months old.
“Babies can easily overheat, so it’s better to keep them in the shade, as much as possible. And, really, that’s my recommendation for kids and adults of all ages,” says Dr. Bradshaw.
The sun’s rays are at their strongest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., so avoid sun exposure during those peak hours. While clouds do reduce some of the sun’s UV rays, they don’t block all of them, so be aware that you can still get sunburned on overcast days. Also, reflective surfaces, like water, intensify UVB rays and their effects on the skin.
Soothing a sunburn
If your child does get sunburned, aloe gel or moisturizing creams may provide comfort, along with cool baths or cool, wet compresses.
“Giving older children Advil or Motrin, as directed, or Tylenol to younger kids, can be helpful for pain and discomfort,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “If the burn blisters, it’s recommended that you see your doctor.”
Be prepared for sunny days
To make sure you always have sunscreen on hand, keep it in your vehicle’s glove compartment or first-aid kit. Be sure to monitor the expiration date. Once sunscreen has expired, the ingredients may be less effective.