1. Sunscreen -is our most important ally in protecting our skin from the dangerous sun damage if used correctly. However, government studies have raised concerns regarding ingredients found in the most common sunscreen lotion protection products. The most commonly used sun protection ingredients might be having a dangerous effect on our skin by causing an acceleration of skin damage leading to skin cancer. These harmful ingredients include Vitamin A ( retinyl Palmitate), and Oxybenzone. Recently a study showed that in addition to the dangers to the skin of these ingredients in sunscreen others including avobenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule and oxybenzone in the previous warning , have been found to be absorbed from the skin into the bloodstream in as little as 3 hours; reaching toxic levels lasting up to 3 days.
It is also not recommended to use sun protection products that include insect repellant. These are commonly found in the most marketed and widely accepted products available. Also Sprays, Powders, and any designation of a SPF above 50 are not recommended.
Creams and lotions are the most reliable and safest form to apply suntan protection
Ingredients to look for that are safe and valuable as sun protection include Zinc oxide and Titanium Dioxide,.Some of the products that have been rated the highest and are considered to be safe include Jason’s Natural Cosmetics, Organic Desert essence, California Baby, Badger, and All Terrain. Other factors to consider include water and sweat resistance. An SPF of 30+ is recommended. Anything above that is not considered reliable. My preferred product is “Cotz” sunscreen sensitive skin products particularly if you have sensitive skin or eczema.
2.Skin care in the heat -those with sensitive skin can get flushed and develop heat rashes – In the summer we need to take care of our children’s skin especially with the increased humidity and drying effect of swimming. Everyone should, especially anyone with eczema, use moisturizer 2 x a day, and apply a generous coating after rinsing off from the pool or beach as well as the shower. Sweating, particularly in areas of contact with surfaces like car seats, makes skin more irritated. It also may cause preservatives and detergents to leach out from clothing. Be especially vigilant with angles of the body like behind the knees and elbows. Try to wear looser fitting clothing made out of cotton and washed with gentle allergy free detergent like those you used for your baby.
3.Clothing- The best protection is by covering as much exposed skin from the sun as possible. Light weight, sun shielding clothing is recommended. In addition a hat and sunglasses are a must for everyone at all ages. Also a hat is important to protect your face and eyes from sun damage
4. Timing- Try to stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible, but if you do go in the sun go during the cooler part of the day; generally before 11 AM and after 4 PM. I try to not go out in direct sunlight before 7-7:30 AM and after 7 PM particularly in the summer months when the sun is the strongest
Additional Summer Sun precautions
1. Dehydration- happens a lot faster in the summer sun- for most of us dehydration sneaks up on us after being in constant heat without drinking liquids for extended periods of time. Always hydrate before, during, and after all summer activities. This is especially true when we or our children are swimming. It is easy to forget to drink enough when you are in the pool feeling comfortable and cool. Make sure you give your children plenty of fluids before swimming and take “water breaks” like you would if they were playing a sport. Early signs of dehydration- general fatigue and weakness , tired, headache, parched lips, thirsty, dry skin, skin flushing, chills, dark colored urine- Always keep water and electrolyte solution with you this time of year. Be sure to send an extra bottle of water with your child to school
2. Eye protection– parents should educate their children regarding sun dangers particularly as it intensifies in the summer. This includes wearing a hat and sunglasses- sunglasses should have a large lens or wrap around frames. They should block 100% of UV rays and absorb most of HEV rays. Make sure they are inspected and are impact resistant. ( Be careful with inexpensive party favor glasses that may break while your child is wearing them)
3. Surface danger-any surface that has been out in the summer sun for extended period of time could cause burns and skin damage.
a. Car surfaces are particularly susceptible since much of it is metal. From the door to the buckle on the seat belt, little hands can get burned easily. Be careful of things left in the car as well, like games and toys. Anything with metal components may burn your child when they go to play with it. Cover your car windows when you have to park your car directly in the sun.
b. Pool and beach- the area around the pool particularly the edge is very hot and can cause burns on little hands and feet when a small child is holding onto the side of a pool and do not realize they are getting burned while they are cooling off in the water. Of course the sand on the beach is hot, but so is anything you bring with you and leave out in the sun before your child plays with it from cups to toys.
c. Park and playground-benches, monkey bars and other park and sports equipment are always hot and can cause skin irritation and burns. Try to find parks with shade coverage unless you go in the early morning or late afternoon.
4.Unattended in car-Never leave children in the car unattended even for short periods of time. You will always underestimate the effect and may get delayed. Take the extra step- either spend time taking your child with you for the errand even if it is a brief outing. Plan ahead and think through your decision to bring your child with you in the first place.
Warren Krantz MD, HealthfulMD