For those of you that have kids, you know the old adage that the first child is the guinea pig, trial and error, etc. I have found that with my own two children, even though I was way more cautious with the oldest than the youngest, unfortunately, it was the first that experienced my mistakes. Though it's hard in parenting to admit mistakes, I truly believe that people learn from the mistakes of others. And in this circumstance, I know that I have learned from my own!
Living in Southeast Louisiana, we are fortunate to live within 2 hours drive of the beautiful, white sand beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. My oldest daughter (now 6) has LOVED the beach and the water since she was born, so our family would make several daytrips a year to the Gulf Coast. On one occasion when she was 2, the dark clouds threatened our day just as we arrived. We decided to unload our gear regardless and hope for the best. Because the sky was dark and the sun was nowhere to be seen, I decided not to apply sunscreen. She played in the sand and water for several hours and even though the sun never made an appearance, not a drop of rain fell on us that day.
Later that day, I noticed that she was overly cranky, even for a two year old, and that her face was getting more red by the hour. By night, I realized that I had made a HUGE parenting mistake. My child was sunburned. Badly. I began to apply aloe vera gel to soothe the sunburn. Over the course of the next week, she had a few blisters on her little cheeks and though eventually they subsided and disappeared, I had parent guilt for months. After that incident, I vowed to ALWAYS apply sunscreen to my children - no matter what time of day, what time of year, no matter if I had to hold their squirming little bodies down to do it - and even if they were only outside for 10 minutes! I learned a valuable lesson that day - and I hope that others can learn before it happens to them! So here are a few great tips:
- Apply GENEROUSLY, about 20 minutes before going outdoors.
- Use sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15.
- Re-apply every 2 hours or less, especially if you are swimming or sweating.
- A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses can help prevent your face from too much sun exposure.
- Sand, snow and water reflects the rays of the sun and increases your chances of getting burned.
Personally, I find that those sunblock sticks for faces work well with kids. They not only offer a great layer of protection, but you can generally see the areas where it's been applied. I also have my children wear the rash-guard type swimsuits when they are at the beach or pool. They provide excellent cover to their backs and shoulders, leaving only arms and legs exposed.
Because skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, we all need to be aware of the dangers that the sun can present. By using these tips (and hopefully learning from the mistakes of this mom!), you can still enjoy your time in the sun while protecting yourself from overexposure.