In New England, summer sneaks up after a long winter. However, when the sun comes out, it’s out full force. Before you and the family head outside and “take back” summer, check out some summer sun safety tips to protect yourself and those you love against the sun’s harmful rays. 

Connecticut Children’s pediatrician Dr. Keri Wallace reveals the dos and don’ts of being outside in the sun. 

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1. Know that spending time outside has many physical and mental benefits.

Stepping outside on a sunny day is a great way for kids to stay active, social and cut down on excess screen time while having fun. The key is striking the perfect balance between quality time outside and protecting their little bodies from too much sun exposure.

2. Watch out for the strongest rays of the day—10 am to 2 pm.

The sun is strongest and its rays the most powerful during these hours. If possible, try to limit the exposure to direct sunlight for this time. Plan indoor activities or seek shade during these peak hours.

If staying outside is the only option, then apply and reapply sunscreen. Even if it’s cloudy, it’s still possible for the sun’s rays to reach the skin, so—apply and reapply sunscreen. Keep reading for more about that.

3. Keep babies (6 months and younger) out of direct sunlight

Baby skin is still developing and is extra sensitive because it’s so thin. If being inside is not an option on hot, sunny days, find a shady spot somewhere—like under a tree, umbrella or the stroller canopy. Dress your baby in lightweight, comfortable clothing that covers the arms and legs. Ask your pediatrician if it’s ok to apply sunscreen to exposed areas.

4. Stick to a good sunscreen and be consistent about applying it.

Here’s what you should know about sunscreen:

  • Look for “broad spectrum” on the label—which means protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Go for a SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply the sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going outside and reapply at least every two hours.
  • Don’t miss the ears, shoulders and tops of the feet.
  • If swimming is part of the plan, look for “water resistant” on the label. Reapply more often if toweling off frequently.

Remember, sunscreen is an extra line of defense, not a free pass to stay out in the sun for a longer time! Always encourage your child to limit their direct sun exposure.

5. Wear a hat and protective clothing

The best form of protection from the sun is covering up:

  • Long sleeves and pants made from tightly woven clothing can help block the sun’s rays
  • You can also look for clothing that is certified for ultraviolet protection—like rash guards
  • Keep the clothing dry—a wet t-shirt will offer much less protection than a dry one
  • Hats can help protect the scalp, face, shoulders and neck. Hats with a wide brim and neck flap are great, especially if your child won’t stay still easily to apply sunscreen.
  • Sunglasses can be a great way to protect the eyes from harmful UV rays. Not all sunglasses offer UV protection so make sure to check the label.    

6. Be mindful of any medications.

Certain medications or supplements can increase sensitivity to the sun. Make note of all your child’s medications, read the labels and ask a pharmacist or your pediatrician if you’re unsure.

7. Should I call the doctor if my child gets a sunburn?

That depends. If your child is:

  • 1 year old or younger, call your pediatrician as soon as you can and ask for advice.
  • Older than 1 year, call your pediatrician if there is pain, blistering or fever with the sunburn.

8. Here are some ways to soothe your child’s sunburn:

  • Prepare a cool bath to help soothe their skin.
  • Ask your pediatrician if it’s ok to use aloe or other soothing creams.
  • Also ask your pediatrician if it’s ok to give them pain medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Ibuprofen [Motrin or Advil] is not for children younger than 6 months.)
  • Make sure they drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

>Related: 5 Creative Ways for Kid to Stay Hydrated