How to Protect Kids from the Sun

Whether you are beachside, poolside or lakeside this summer, remember these basic sun safety tips:

Use “broad spectrum” sunscreen. On both sunny and cloudy days, use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens with physical blocks like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are both gentle and effective for sensitive areas such as the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears and the shoulders. Apply sunscreen 15–30 minutes before going into the sun to give it time to absorb into the skin. Don’t forget to protect ears, lips, feet, back of the neck and head if you or your child has very short hair. The sand reflects UV rays so be sure to use sunscreen even when your
child is sitting under a beach umbrella.

Limit time in the sun. Stay in the shade, or have fun indoors, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense.

Use extra protection for babies less than 6 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends protective clothing that covers the arms and legs, brimmed hats, and staying in the shade. If adequate clothing and shade aren’t available, use a minimal amount of sunscreen with
SPF 15 or higher on small areas, such as the face and back of the hands. To treat sunburn in infants, use cool compresses on the affected areas.

Dress yourself and your child in protective clothing. You can now find swim clothing that has UVA protection built in. Sunglasses and brimmed hats are also recommended. Look for glasses that protect from 97 percent to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB light, and clothing with a tight weave.

Reapply sunscreen often! At least every two hours, and more often if your child is swimming or sweating.

Set a good example. Practice sun protection yourself, and teach all members of your family how to protect themselves from the sun’s rays.

Treating sunburns

If your child gets a sunburn, here are some of the best ways to take care of your child’s tender, red skin:

Know the symptoms. These vary depending on the burn’s severity: redness, warm skin, blisters, chills, fever, headache and dehydration (dry mouth, lack of urination, loss of skin elasticity).

Cool it down. Have your child soak in a cool bath or put cool (not ice cold) compresses on the affected areas.

Be a painkiller. Give your child acetaminophen (children’s Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (children’s Motrin® or Advil®) for pain. Be sure to follow the directions on the container for dosage, and check with your child’s healthcare provider about what’s best, based on your child’s symptoms.

Aid with shade. Don’t let your child play in direct sunlight until the burn has healed.

Don’t pop. If blisters are present, don’t break them open. This exposes the tissues below the skin and can lead to infection.

Get help if necessary. Call your healthcare provider for advice or visit our urgent care facility if your child has:

  • Eye pain from looking at bright lights
  • Fever over 102° Fahrenheit
  • Infection in sunburned area
  • Oozing blisters
  • Signs of dehydration or heat stroke, including fainting, decreased urination (dry diapers in babies) or refusing fluids
  • Other illness symptoms

Next Steps