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Summer Sun Protection for Kids

Brush up on your knowledge of sunscreen and sun protection for infants through middle school-aged kids.

Cover Up Head to Toe

Sunscreen is only part of sun safety. Paulson recommends staying inside from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest.

Clothing can also help. "The best sun protection is something that completely blocks the sun from getting to the skin, which is clothing if you're not inside a building," Paulson says.

But forget about tossing on a flimsy, white tee. A white T-shirt has limited protective value. If you can see through the tee, the sun can shine through and burn the skin. Dark, tight-woven clothing that covers all exposed skin is best.

You can also buy clothing that is specially treated with chemicals that help protect against ultraviolet sunlight. Cambio recommends sun-protective clothing, such as a kid's swim shirt or rash guard shirt, with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 30 or higher. The clothing loses its UPF strength after several washings, so check the labels for care instructions.

Don't want to buy new clothes? The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends SunGuard, a laundry additive that contains a sunscreen called Tinosorb FD. Toss it in the wash, and your clothes instantly get a UPF of 30. The protection lasts about 20 washings.

Wear a Hat

Have your child take a tip from Barney and wear a silly hat outside. Take your child hat shopping, but be sure to purchase a hat with a wide brim that casts a shadow on the face. Too old for Barney? Look for a favorite sports team or school logo.

Sunglasses are another outdoors must-have. They are an important part of sun protection and recommended for kids of all ages. Make sure they filter both UVB and UVA rays.

Two-year-old Anna Cheever never goes outside without her sunglasses and hat. She's worn a hat since birth, and nowadays will remind her mom if she forgets.

"I want it to be second nature for her to put on a hat and sunscreen every time she goes outside,"  her mother Kara Cheever says. "I hope that she continues to follow the good sun care habits that we practice together."

Being a role model is vital to helping your kids establish healthy sun habits. If they see you skipping the sunscreen, working on a tan, or forgoing a hat, chances are they will do so too.

Soothing a Sunburn

If your child gets sunburn and is active and playful and does not have any blisters, here's how you can make him feel better.

  • Place a cool compress on the sunburn.
  • Apply aloe gel to the burned skin. Try placing the aloe in the fridge for a few minutes first before using.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your doctor for the correct dose.
  • Give your child plenty of fluids.

Do not use over-the-counter pain relieving products containing benzocaine on sun-burned skin. (These are called topical anesthetics.) They can often make the pain worse, and some people are allergic to the ingredient.

If your child feels or looks ill, spikes a fever, or has blisters, get medical help.

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Reviewed on December 02, 2012

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