In the summer, Georgia temperatures rise and the sun glares, but it’s still possible to have fun all season long.

Wear sunscreen daily.

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays happen daily during any outdoor activity. UV rays are harmful all year long, and even on an overcast or cool summer day, you should practice sun safety.

“Per the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 80% of sun damage happens before age 18. For us moms and dads, sunscreen helps prevent against wrinkles, premature aging and skin cancers, which approximately one-fifth of people will get within their lifetime,” says Dr. Sarah Lazarus, a Children’s Emergency Medicine Physician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “For the little ones – older than 6 months of age – applying sunscreen helps protect against painful burns and potential skin cancer, including potentially-fatal melanoma.”

Swimming, boating, skiing and hiking increases sunburn risk, as the sun’s rays reflect off water, sand and snow, and at higher altitudes, UV radiation also increases.

No matter your skin color, everyone is at risk for UV-related health problems, including skin cancer, eye cancer or cataracts. Check out Black Girl Sunscreen for products made specifically for people of color to protect their skin.

Understand SPF.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of how much solar energy is required to produce sunburn on protected skin. A higher SPF value means increased sunburn protection.

“Unfortunately, SPF is not related to the amount of time required to get burnt,” Lazarus says. “Therefore, layering two products does not give you more time in the sun without burning. Also, the amount of time you can be outside without burning is related to the time of day as well.”

Find the right sunscreen.

“There is a lot of debate about the ‘best sunscreen’ for your kiddo,” Lazarus says. “Personally, I am a fan of anything with zinc oxide. It’s a mineral sunscreen that is hard to apply but stays well and is the only sunscreen that has been FDA studied on infants under 6 months of age.”

If you have sensitive skin, you may want to try the sunscreen you buy for your children. “Many of the sunscreens for kiddos have less added ingredients and scents,” Lazarus says.

When shopping, choose a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, “broad-spectrum” to protect kids from both ultraviolet A and B rays and “water-resistant.” Skip the spray bottle, as aerosol sprays can be inhaled, alcohol ingredients are flammable, and it’s difficult to apply spray sunscreen evenly.

Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outside and evenly cover all areas of exposed skin. Reapply every two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.

What’s the difference between chemical and mineral?

Chemical and mineral sunscreens shield your skin in different ways. “Mineral sunscreens sit on the top of the skin to block UV rays, like a shield, whereas chemical sunscreens bind with UV rays, like a sponge. Despite small amounts of chemical sunscreens being absorbed into the skin, there is no current evidence either sunscreen is unsafe,” Lazarus says.

Chemical sunscreens are quick and easy to apply, and unlike mineral sunscreens, they don’t leave a white film on the skin; however, they may cause skin reactions in certain people. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are common ingredients in mineral sunscreens and are generally recognized as safe and effective by the FDA.

Mineral sunscreens are ideal for children, people with sensitive skin and people with melasma. Unlike chemical sunscreens, they offer immediate protection. Since it sits on the top of the skin, it may contribute to acne, and it is also harder to apply, leaves a white film on the skin and needs to be applied more frequently than a chemical sunscreen.

Wear the right items.

“Lightweight and light-colored clothing will help prevent your child from sun exposure, but also, make your life easier, so you don’t have to chase a squirmy toddler to apply sunscreen every hour,” Lazarus says. “Ideally, pick clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor. Hats should have a large brim that covers the face, and sunglasses should also be UV-protective.”

Stay out of the sun.

As much as possible, limit the time you are outside between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. when the rays are the strongest.

Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight. Keep in mind babies don’t sweat, but to cool them off, consider purchasing a handheld fan with an attached water bottle to spray mist.

“Fans can also be really helpful for keeping air circular and moving,” says Dr. Ashley Brouillette, a Pediatric Sports Medicine Primary Care Physician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “For all kids, you want to make sure to have access to shade and hydration. You don’t want to be in an environment that’s going to cause rapid sweating, because you don’t want to lose moisture.”

Drink water.

“Get your kids used to drinking water,” Brouillette says. “Leave a big pitcher of water in the refrigerator, so they are used to taking that out as something to drink. Give them their own bottle or cup they’re excited to drink out of. You can also try different flavored waters, but make sure they’re not super sugary. If they’re older, you can incentivize and make it a reward system: they can’t go out and play until they drink water. For little ones, make sure they get in the habit of drinking water early. If kids grow up not drinking water, it can be a hard habit to get into. The body and hormones are sensitive to carbs and sugar, and if you get used to them, it changes what your body expects in a physiological way.”

Don’t wait until your child is thirsty to encourage them to hydrate. Serve water 30 minutes before an activity. Kids who weigh less than 90 pounds should aim for five ounces of water every 20 minutes, and those who weigh more than 90 pounds should aim for eight ounces every 20 minutes.

Don’t give babies water.

Ages 6 months and younger get their hydration from breast milk and/or infant formula and should not be offered water, which is too much work on your baby’s kidneys. If you’re breastfeeding, make sure to drink plenty of water.

“Making sure that you are keeping babies cool and they’re not losing too much heat is going to be important,” Brouillette says. “Make sure you are feeding and hydrating at age-appropriate times.”

Serve sports drinks only in certain situations.

Sometimes, sports drinks and energy drinks are terms used interchangeably, but these drinks are not the same.

“If your exercise is longer than an hour, you should add something with some electrolytes, whether that’s a POWERADE, Pedialyte or Gatorade,” Brouillette says. “When you’re sweating, you’re losing salt and water. Especially if your child is a salty sweater – there is white trim around the sweat stain on the shirt – it is even more important to make sure you’re replacing salts in some way. Because these drinks have a lot of calories and sugar, they should not be a primary source of hydration.”

You can also serve foods containing carbohydrates and electrolytes, such as milk, a seed or nut butter sandwich, a banana or nuts and crackers.

Children should not drink energy drinks. “In general, we recommend against caffeine under the age of 12 and limited between the ages of 12-15,” Brouillette says.

Know the signs of health issues.

Young children are more likely than adults to suffer from heat-related health issues, like heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion need immediate medical attention.

Signs of a heat-related problem:

  • Cramps
  • High body temperature
  • Red, hot, dry skin (not sweating)
  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Paleness

Signs of dehydration:

  • Low energy levels
  • Less frequent urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Lack of tears when crying
  • Loose stool or decreased bowel movements
  • Extreme fussiness
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Sunken eyes
  • Cool, discolored hands and feet
  • Wrinkled skin

Practice what you preach.

Kids are more likely to take part in healthy, safe habits if they see adults doing it, too. Make sure you wear protective clothing and regularly use sunscreen, and make it a habit to drink water together.

This article was originally published in our June 2023 issue.

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