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Sun Safety for Children

Tales from the Safety Zone

The strong sun in Australia has caused such an alarming rate of skin cancer that the country mounted a national health campaign urging citizens to take steps to avoid sunburn. Its slogan is “Slip, Slop, Slap”—slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat. You might want to teach this funny little slogan to your kids.

Once your baby is past the 6-month mark, you can start using sunscreen. You'll want a broad-spectrum, waterproof lotion with an SPF of at least 15. If your child is fair-skinned or has freckles, an SPF of 30 is better because it offers more (although not twice as much) protection. Broad-spectrum means the sunscreen works on ultraviolet A (UV-A) and ultraviolet B (UV-B) rays. The shorter UV-B rays are what cause sunburn on the skin's surface. UV-A rays penetrate to deeper skin layers, causing skin to age. Both types contribute to skin cancer.

You don't need to buy a special “for kids” brand unless your child is sensitive to regular brands and needs a hypoallergenic formula.

It's best to apply sunscreen a half-hour before your children go outside, so it has time to be absorbed. Make sure it covers all exposed areas, including hands, feet, and the tops of the ears. Be careful around the eyes, avoiding the eyelids. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that, if your baby rubs sunscreen in her eyes, you wipe the hands and eyes with a damp cloth. If the sunscreen burns her eyes, the AAP suggests switching to a sunblock with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

Safety Savvy

Kids don't universally enjoy interrupting play to have sunscreen slathered on. If yours resist, you might try the kid-friendly lotions that come out of the bottle in bright colors that disappear once they are rubbed in. Some have kid-pleasing scents and animal-shaped bottles. You also can buy lotions that combine sunscreen and bug repellent to save time with a squirmy child.

Don't worry if your baby sticks her hand in her mouth after you've rubbed in the sunscreen. It won't hurt her, but, as with any over-the-counter medication, you should keep the bottle out of the reach of young children.

The biggest mistake people make with sunscreen is not using enough. It should be reapplied every two hours. Don't wait until your little one starts to look red, because sunburn may not appear until hours after the fact. If your child has been swimming, dry her off and then reapply the lotion. Put a roomy T-shirt or cover-up on her when she's not in the water. Kids who burn easily should wear a shirt even in the water.

Make sure other people who care for your child, such as baby-sitters or grandparents, also know the importance of sun protection. Keep them adequately supplied with sunscreen to put on your child.

Soothing a Sunburn

If a baby under age 1 gets a sunburn, you should call your pediatrician immediately because this can be an emergency. For a child older than age 1, call the pediatrician if there is blistering, pain, or fever.

Remedies for kids with sunburns include soaking in cool water and drinking lots of liquids to replace lost fluids. Don't use medicated lotions on your baby unless your doctor okays it. Older children can be treated with hydrocortisone cream and children's pain reliever. Don't let your child go out in the sun again until the burn has healed.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child Safety © 2000 by Miriam Bacher Settle, Ph.D., and Susan Crites Price. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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