Monday, May 21, 2007

Good Monday morning!

It’s a stat holiday here: Victoria Day. Unless you’re in Quebec where it’s called Patriot’s day or something like that. Figures we have to be different. :-) When I worked as a nurse, I worked so many stat holidays that I still can’t believe that I’m not working them now. It’s an odd feeling. I am still doing some writing and editing today though since I took Friday to work at the Wellness clinic. I don't consider it going to work though. I just take it easy, go talk with the family when they're around, take breaks, stuff like that. Kind of a working holiday day, if that makes any sense.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on skin and sun safety for and, since we’re at the beginning of the summer season, I thought it would be good to rerun it here. Many people know a lot about protecting your skin these days, but for some of us, a refresher never hurts.

Sun Safety 101
Ah, the sun is here. Spring has arrived and the temperatures are climbing. Parents and kids alike are busting to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. However, gone are the days when we would go outside for hours on end, only to return home with yet another sunburn. Our mothers would slather on the Noxzema® and we’d live through the peeling skin, rarely learning our lesson and end up getting burned again. These sunburns of our childhood have left many of us with a legacy of dry, tough skin and, for some, skin cancer. We now know that we can’t let our kids get burned the way we did and that it can take as few as 15 minutes to be burned.

Weather reports now offer UV indexes as a way to tell us how strong the sun will be. Using the UV indexes is a good way to decide on your daily activities and when you’re going to be outside.

In North America, the UV index is from 0 to 10:

0 – 2: This is low and the risk of skin being burned is low. Sunscreen isn’t needed.
3 – 7: Skin can burn and the higher the level, the faster it can burn. Sunscreen and protection are needed.
8 – 10: The UV index is very high and the risk of being burned is high. Use extra protection.

The UV index can go higher than 10 in the tropics.

The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it’s best to limit sun exposure during that period. And don’t forget that sun rays can still get through clouds. Some children are burnt badly on cloudy days. Sun rays can also bounce off sand and water, so be sure to protect yourself there too.

As sunscreens appeared on the market, they came in varying SPFs or sun protection factors, from 15 on up. Which number you choose is up to you, but it’s important not to fall into a false sense of security if you choose a higher number. Generally, people with paler skin tend to choose the higher number SPFs. It’s important to make sure that you are using a broad spectrum sunscreen, one that will filter out both ultraviolet A and B rays.

When using sunscreen, be sure that it’s evenly applied all over the skin. Pay extra attention to areas like behind the knees and the top of the feet. These sections are easily missed. If areas of skin are missed, the resulting burn in that strip or spot can be very painful. Some sunscreens for children come with a colour that is obvious while the lotion being applied and then the colour fades away. Some also come in spray form rather than lotion.

Many of us don’t think about it too far in advance, but sunscreen should be applied about a half hour before it’s needed. Try to remember to apply the sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going outside. Re-apply sunscreen after your child has been in water or if he or she is sweating a lot, and waterproof sunscreen needs to be re-applied at least every 2 hours.

Sunscreen isn’t usually recommended for babies under 6 months old, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that it’s not harmful to apply sunscreen to small areas of skin such as the face or the back of the neck and hands.

To keep your baby safe from the sun:
Keep your baby in the shade as much as possible.
Dress your baby in lightweight clothes that cover the arms and legs.
Use a hat with a brim and that can cover the back of the neck.

Babies over 6 months old can have sunscreen applied, using at least 15 SPF. It’s still a good idea to cover your baby as much as possible with light-weight clothing and be sure that your baby has a well-covering hat. Some children start wearing sunglasses at this age. Too much sun exposure to the eyes can cause damage, so sunglasses are a good idea. Look for sunglasses that cover as much of the eye area as possible. They should also block UVA and UVB rays as much as possible.

Remember, if your child looks pink now, he or she is burning. The redness can take up to 12 hours to show. Don’t let the skin get to that stage because it’s getting damaged from the sun’s rays.

While it may seem like a lot to remember, applying sunscreen and being sun cautious can become a quick routine. If it’s a part of life, matter-of-fact, it becomes as natural as putting on hats and mittens in the winter. Don’t stay inside all summer; enjoy the weather and the sun safely.

No comments: