Sunburn ....I mean Summer Memories: Tips for Playing it Safe in the Sun

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Sunrays tips for avoiding sunburnsThe Beach

My first 11 summers were spent in south central Texas. Much of that time was spent on the bright, hot, sandy beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, letting the waves crash into me and carry me back to shore again and again. I recall time after time of looking at myself in the mirror after spending a whole day on the beach; red as a lobster with skin as hot as a heater to the touch, yet shivering with chills from the burn.

I'm sure we always slathered sunscreen on when first arriving at the beach, but who knows what SPF it was or the ingredients in that white cream or how often we actually smeared it on after frolicking in the waves for endless hours.

A New Era

It was the 70s and 80s. There were no seatbelt laws or car seat laws. No one wore a bike helmet while riding around the neighborhood, and we certainly weren't concerned about the BPA lining the cans of green beans, pineapple or pop. Clearly, we were living on the edge. We now have a greater awareness of our health and the causes of certain diseases and take more preventative measures to avoid exposure to certain things; including the harmful UV rays of the sun.

Lately, there has been a big push to get our kids {and their parents} outside doing physical activity. In Minnesota, we must use the warm days of summer to our advantage and spend as much time outside as possible. Being outdoors is what summer was made for; swimming, gardening, riding bikes, playing at parks, walking around lakes, playing baseball, etc. So, the challenge becomes trying to be outside in the warm sun without getting too much sun and causing skin damage.

Tips for Lowering Risks of Sun Exposure

According to KidsHealth.com, "Most kids rack up between 50% and 80% of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18." So, it's important to plan ahead and be prepared when going outdoors.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides this list of fun in the sun safety tips:

  • Avoid summer sun exposure from 10 am to 4 pm. UV rays are strongest and most harmful during midday, so it's best to plan indoor activities then. If this is not possible, seek shade under a tree, an umbrella, or a pop-up tent. Use these options to prevent sunburn, not to seek relief after it's happened.
  • Wear clothing that covers your child's skin helps protect against UV rays. Although a long-sleeved shirt and long pants with a tight weave are best, they aren't always practical. A T-shirt, long shorts, or a beach cover-up are good choices, too—but it's wise to double up on protection by applying sunscreen or keeping your child in the shade when possible.
  • Wear hats that shade the face, scalp, ears, and neck are easy to use and give great protection. Baseball caps are popular among kids, but they don't protect their ears and neck. If your child chooses a cap, be sure to protect exposed areas with sunscreen.
  • Wear sunglasses that protect your child's eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
  • Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and UVA and UVB protection every time your child goes outside. For the best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. Don't forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet.
  • Skin that looks a little pink now will probably be burned later: "Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun's UV rays in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure."
  • A common misperception is that a suntan is alright. A suntan is damaged skin, just as a burn is damaged skin. Any color change in skin after being in the sun is indicates skin damage by UV rays.
  • Be sure to read and follow the directions on the sunscreen container. Also, be sure to keep a bottle with you in the car, in the beach bag, by the back door, etc.

Over the Top?

I remember reading an article in a parenting magazine years ago that mentioned a mom who was also a dermatologist. The article said she kept the sunscreen in the bathroom medicine cabinet. Each morning after her kids brushed their teeth, they applied sunscreen before heading outdoors. Excessive? Well, you be the judge.

The Importance of Vitamin D

In recent months there is the fact that many people are not getting enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D maintains normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorous and aids in the absorption of calcium. Recent studies suggest that Vitamin D even provides protection from osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cancer and some autoimmune diseases.

We naturally absorb Vitamin D through our skin when out in the sunlight. As little as 10 minutes of exposure to the sun per day can prevent deficiencies. It's thought that the increased use of sunscreen has led to this increase in Vitamin D deficiencies.

We have become very sun sensitive with sunscreen in our moisturizers, makeup and lip balm. Even some clothes are made to block the sun's rays from reaching the skin. The bottom line is that every person needs Vitamin D. Besides the sun, Vitamin D is found in fish, eggs, cod liver oil and fortified milk.

The Scoop

One must be careful to ensure he or she is getting appropriate amounts of Vitamin D whether from the sun, foods and/or through vitamin supplements, especially during the winter months.

Be safe! Enjoy the beautiful summer months on the beach, in the sand, at the pool or running through the sprinkler in the front yard. Over and out...

Anna

You might also like:

What’s Your SPF? The Dangers of Sunscreen

A Sunny Day: Things to be Thankful For Today

The Five Senses: Finding and Disclosing the Presence of Radon in Your Home

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