It’s snowing in parts of New York this week, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thinking about sun safety. That’s why we’re bringing you this important message from our guest blogger, Jennifer Landis, editor at Mindfulness Mama, about the importance of year-round sun safety.
Getting Real with Jennifer Landis
You probably haven’t thought much about the sun lately. Spring is coming, but it is still so cold and snowy in many parts of the country. However, spring break is on the way for many, and you may have noticed sunscreen, tanning oil and beachwear on display in the stores.
It seems the only time you think about using sunscreen is when you go to the beach or know you are spending the day outdoors. But you have likely come home red-faced in March or burnt in October, surprised by the power of the sun’s rays. The truth is the sun damages your skin year round. It’s important that you practice sun safety for you and your family twelve months per year.
The Sun’s Always Shining
You probably laughed at your mother or grandparent who warned about getting sunburned on cloudy days. Ridiculous, right? If you were sunburned this way, you don’t need an explanation.
But almost 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays get through the clouds and can damage your skin. That’s why you always want to treat each day as if the sun is shining — because it is, even when you can’t see it.
Winter is no escape either. Snow reflects the sun’s rays which can multiply the amount of exposure. If you are on a ski trip, you are at a higher altitude and closer to the damaging ultraviolet rays. Cover up, wear sunglasses and use sunscreen on bare skin whenever you are engaged in winter activities like snowshoeing, sledding or ice fishing.
Set an Example for Your Children
Get in the habit of lathering your kids up with sunscreen before they run off to play. Make sure sunscreen is in your bag along with the diapers, snacks and water bottles. Children are often so eager to play that it’s easy to forget the important step of protecting them from the sun.
Yes, kids need vitamin D, which comes from the sun. But the amount they need is acquired long before they would get tanned or burned skin. Putting on sunscreen may prevent some absorption of vitamin D, but not enough to forgo the use of sunscreen.
Playgrounds, although havens for endless fun, can be dangerous places for sun exposure. Playgrounds are open areas with few trees and lots of playground equipment. Some structures are elevated and put your child even closer to the sun.
Another concern is that play structures can get quite hot from the sun’s rays. Dark metal absorbs and retains heat and can burn your child’s skin. Fiberglass and plastic aren’t as bad, but they can get hot too.
After putting sunscreen on your child, do a quick feel test on the slides, merry-go-rounds and play structures to make sure they won’t get burned. Teach your child to do the same.
Make sure to set a good example by taking the same precautions for yourself. Your children should see you using sunscreen and announce you are putting it on. That will silence future complaints.
Don’t forget the most vulnerable areas when applying sunscreen to yourself or your children. Ears, noses and cheeks always get burned. Avoid the eyes but get as much of the face as you can. Use sunscreen sticks when spraying is impractical. It’s a good idea to have several types of sunscreen at your disposal. Check and refresh often.
Take regular breaks to drink water, refresh sunscreen and have healthy snacks. Pack orange slices, grapes and granola bars for a quick energy boost. Children aren’t always aware of how dehydrated and tired they are.
Prevent Damage Before It Happens
Getting a nasty sunburn is an effective way to teach you to use sunscreen. But don’t wait until this happens to you or your children before you take precautions. There are many sunburn remedies such as aloe lotion or zinc oxide, but the damage is already done if you need to use these.
Get in the habit of putting on sunscreen whenever you will be exposed to the sun, no matter the time of year. Don’t wait for a sunburn to get the sunscreen out of the cupboard. Purchase whatever brand of sunscreen you prefer, just make sure the rating is a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Children’s brands can offer even greater protection, often 70 SPF or more.
Enjoy the outdoors but keep your skin covered when you are able to. Find a wide-brimmed hat you like and keep your head covered, especially if you are balding or if you work outdoors. The more you’re in the sun, the greater the risk we will get burned. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 am and 2 pm, so be especially careful during these hours.
Older people have been exposed to the sun more often. Sunburns put you at a greater risk of developing skin cancer. Older people develop moles and other skin abnormalities as they age. These should be checked regularly by their primary care physician or dermatologist, especially if the moles change shape or color.
Sunburns aren’t just summer concerns. You need to protect your family from the sun’s harmful rays year-round. A burn in January isn’t any better for you than a burn in July. Keep covered and protected so that you can enjoy the outdoors year-round without worrying about damage from the sun. It’s a small price to pay to prevent skin cancer in the future. A little sunscreen goes a long way.
Jennifer Landis is a mother, wife, and the editor of Mindfulness Mama. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELandis.