Everyone, especially children, need protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Sunburn as a child can lead to skin cancer or other conditions when your child gets older, and sun protection is especially important in swimming pools where the sunlight can reflect off the water and put your child at an even higher risk for sun damage. Thankfully, there are a couple precautions you can take to reduce your child’s risk of sun damage while in or around the pool. Here are some common questions parents have regarding sun protection for little swimmers and the precautions you can take to protect your child’s skin.
What sunscreen should I apply?
Use a water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and UVA and UVB protection every time your child goes outside and especially while swimming. Make sure to apply on any skin that is not covered with protective clothing, including ears, noses, lips, knees, scalp, and feet, as these are places that are often overlooked. There are even special sunscreens you can purchase for babies, toddlers, and children with sensitive skin. However, if your baby is younger than 6 months of age, sunscreen use should be avoided except for on small areas of the skin and the best sun protection is to keep your baby in the shade and covered with protective clothing. Consult your child’s health care provider for specific recommendations if needed.
When and how often should I apply sunscreen?
It is important to apply sunscreen to your child’s skin at least 15 minutes before he/she will be outside swimming. Make sure to re-apply every two hours or as directed on the bottle, especially if your child is swimming. It is important to note that high-number SPF’s last the same amount of time as low-number SPF’s, so don’t forget to re-apply!
What about on cloudy days?
Even on cloudy days, the sun emits harmful UV rays and your child is at risk. Sun protection is important year-round, even if the sun isn’t out!
Can I use an old bottle of sunscreen?
If your sunscreen bottle has an expiration date on it and that expiration date has passed, it is important to throw that bottle out and buy a new one. Expired sunscreen may not have the same protective capabilities, and your child could be at risk for sun damage. Also, keep an eye out for visible signs that the sunscreen may no longer be good, such as color or consistency changes.
What should my child wear in the water?
If possible, your child should wear protective clothing while swimming in addition to their swimsuit, such as a rash guard or t-shirt.
I forgot the sunscreen. Is it really that important?
Skin damage from the sun can occur in less than 15 minutes. If your child is at the pool and you realize that you forgot to apply sunscreen, see if someone around you has sunscreen that you can borrow. It is extremely important to protect your child whenever he/she is outside and especially while swimming, and establishing healthy sun protection habits in your child at a young age will encourage them to continue these habits as they get older, thereby reducing their risk of skin cancer and other conditions.
Are there any other risks from the sun?
Another aspect of sun protection involves preventing dehydration and overheating. It is easy for your child to get dehydrated if he/she is in the sun and swimming. It is important to make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids, especially water, and if you notice your child feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous, these could be signs of dehydration and overheating.
About the author: Leslie Castillo, RN, BSN
Leslie Castillo Navia is a Registered Nurse with a passion for working with children in a variety of settings. She has several seasons of lifeguarding experience and her specialty is teaching toddlers to swim. She speaks fluent English and Spanish, has extensive international experience and has experience working with children with physical and mental disabilities. She balances fun and learning by incorporating songs and games into her lessons, and she puts a special emphasis on child safety and accident prevention.