Taking care of your skin in the summer can be tricky. Between sunburns, heat rash, insect bites and sneaky skin infections, the sun and heat of the season, along with summer activities, can bring along a unique set of challenges.

For individuals with spina bifida, there may be unique factors to pay special attention to. If you are planning to be beachside, poolside or lakeside this summer, or just heading out for a day at the park or any other outdoor activities, remember these basic tips to protect your child’s skin:

Use “broad spectrum” sunscreen. On both sunny and cloudy days, use sunscreen with SPF 30 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. Keep your child in the shade as much as possible, 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 30 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% to 100% of both UVA and UVB light, and clothing with a tight weave.

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

Wear protective footwear. Your child should wear protective footwear like swim shoes or aqua socks when swimming to prevent skin trauma from rough surfaces. Your child may have limited sensation in their feet, so it is important to always wear shoes when playing outside.

Avoid hot surfaces! Check the temperature of playground equipment, blacktop, decks and car seat buckles before allowing your child to sit or play to avoid burns.

Keep skin dry. Keep your child’s skin as dry as possible as moisture can cause skin irritation and breakdown. Wear socks underneath braces and change them frequently. Use moisture-wicking clothes and change any clothes that are damp to avoid sores.

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