FORT JACKSON, SC -- What is the best way to protect my children from the hot South Carolina sun'

Children, just as adults, need protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are constantly present, regardless of the season or the weather. Because UVA rays can penetrate deeper into the skin surface and damage the cells beneath, they are responsible for signs of aging. UVB rays are responsible for sunburns.

Unlike UVA rays, UVB rays are more prevalent in the summer months, but they can reflect off water, sand and snow. UVA rays can contribute to cancer, but it is the UVB rays that are responsible for causing most skin cancers. It is essential to protect a child's skin whenever he or she is outdoors, not just at the beach or pool. Remember, UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Limit the child's time outdoors between these hours.

Important guidelines to follow include:

-- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. Use a product with a minimum SPF 15 and UVA and UVB protection. Not all products contain the same ingredients; if the child has a reaction to one product, try another one or call the child's physician for guidance. Reapply during the day as needed, especially following exercise and swimming, even if the sunscreen is waterproof or water-resistant. Follow the directions on the package for babies younger than 6 months. The best defense for infants and babies is avoiding sun exposure and staying in shaded areas.

-- Seek shade under an umbrella or tree. Monitor the amount of time the child spends in the sun.

-- Wear hats and sunglasses. Remember to protect areas that hats do not always cover, such as ears and neck. UV rays can also lead to cataracts, so it is important to protect a child's eyes with sunglasses. The best sunglasses for children are those that wrap around and block as close to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays as possible.

-- Covering the skin with protective clothing also helps to block out the harmful UV rays.
Unprotected skin can be damaged within 15 minutes by UV rays. Even on days that are cloudy and cool, the UV rays still penetrate the clouds and can cause skin damage.

For those with children in the post's daycare facilities, keep in mind that sunscreen is considered a personal care item, which means daycare workers can apply sunscreen on the children without a prescription. Those who want their children to have sunscreen applied must fill out a personal care item form to provide to the daycare, along with a sunscreen of at least SPF 15.

Editor's note: Fort Jackson's Army Public Health Nursing department is part of Moncrief Army Community Hospital's Department of Preventive Medicine. Its staff of six provides health education to the Fort Jackson community. The staff members also serve as medical consultants to the post's Child Development Centers.

Have a question about something that has to do with family health' E-mail your question to FJLeader@conus.army.mil. Be sure to put "All in the Family" in the subject line and include contact information. Contact information will not be publicized.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16