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Sun Safety Checklist – S1 E9

Summertime is here! As we get ready for some fun in the sun with our kiddos, avoiding painful sunburns is top of mind. Babies and toddlers have delicate skin that puts them at a higher risk of skin damage from the sun’s powerful UV rays. But staring at the endless shelves of sunblock options can be overwhelming!

To help you prepare your children for outdoor adventures, host Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez chats with Sergio Perez, SunWise Program Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services. They give you a checklist of sun safety measures to help you protect your little one from the sun’s rays.

Podcast Resources:
Sun Safety Tips
CDC Sun Safety Tips for Families
University of Arizona Skin Cancer Institute
Strong Families AZ
Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez
Podcast Credits:

host Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez is the Program Director for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

host Guest: Sergio Perez is the SunWise Program Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services.


[00:00:00] Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:00:00] Welcome to The Parenting Brief. I’m your host, Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez, an Arizona working mom and Program Director for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services. On this podcast, you’ll get the answers to your biggest parenting questions. Whether you’re preparing for a newborn or figuring out how to manage a new phase in your little one’s development,

our child development experts and [00:00:30] parenting pros are here to lend helpful advice, quick tips and guidance.

Thank you for joining us for this episode of The Parenting Brief. Warm weather is here! And as the months get hotter, protecting our kiddos from the sun is very important. But like many things with parenting, it can be confusing and overwhelming to know what to do and how to do it. Whether [00:01:00] getting ready for a safe swim, a daytime bike ride, or some fun in the backyard sandbox, it’s up to all of us to make sure our little ones are heading out the door with the right protection from the sun’s damaging rays. But what if a child is only going outside for a few minutes? Is it okay to skip the sunscreen? And at what age should you start lathering your little one up before venturing outside?

We’ve got answers to those questions and more right now

Today we’re [00:01:30] joined by sun safety expert Sergio Perez. Sergio is the SunWise Program Manager at the Arizona Department of Health Services. Before we get into specific tips and recommendations for sunscreen and other sun protection, could you briefly explain the differences between heat-related illnesses, such as sunburn or sun poisoning, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke?

Sergio Perez: [00:01:54] The difference between heat exhaustion and sun related negative health outcomes, is that heat [00:02:00] exhaustion would be something directly related to temperature, whereas skin cancer and sunburn are something more related to the actual UV radiation coming from the sun’s rays. That said, heat exhaustion will happen predominantly in the summer months,

where sunburns can actually happen all year round in the desert or even anywhere where there’s a lot of UV radiation. So, when there is a high altitude and if you’re closer to the sun, those rays are going to be stronger, [00:02:30] no matter what temperature is. So a sunburn may happen from overexposure to the sun and those UV rays, whereas heat exhaustion would be something more related to the temperature in our environments, and the temperature of course in our environment will lead us to overexert ourselves and can stress some of the body’s major systems like our breathing, our blood flow, and really what we’re trying to avoid with heat exhaustion in terms of temperature is we want to avoid [00:03:00] heat stroke because that is when all, a lot of the major systems in the body are really affected.

And whereas when we’re talking about some unrelated illnesses, we’re really talking more about sunburns, the prevention of skin cancer long into the future.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:03:15] And are children more at risk for those sun related illnesses?

Sergio Perez: [00:03:20] So children, the way they play in is that actually sun damage accumulates over time.

So, we actually accrue a lot of sun damage or the majority of our sun [00:03:30] exposure happens in our youth. So that is a critical time for us to be aware of that exposure and that potential damage building up. So, childhood sun exposure is a key indicator for developing skin cancer later in life. That said, we want to teach children about sun safety at an early age, so we can help them develop healthy habits around the sun, which can decrease their cancer, developing skin cancer, later in life.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:03:58] I do really wish that this [00:04:00] level of awareness and information was around when I was little because I am fair-skinned, and I have red hair and I was always the kid at the pool where my parents made me wear a t-shirt over my swimming suit. And, you know the thick zinc sunscreen on my nose. And back then, that was like, so not cool.

And now you have like the swimsuits with the long sleeves, and everything is much more, it’s not [00:04:30] as embarrassing to wear as it was way back when. So as one of the most common go-to solutions for parents is sunscreen, picking out the right sunblock can be a bit overwhelming with all of the choices. At what age is it safe to start using sunscreen with our children?

And what should parents be looking for as they’re shopping for sunscreens?

Sergio Perez: [00:04:53] When we mention babies, we want to make sure that we remember that babies have sensitive skin and that we want to keep babies [00:05:00] under the age of six months, just out of the direct sun. And if you were wanting to use sunblock, I would recommend that you speak with your pediatrician about that.

That said the common practice is six months and above is a good time to utilize sunblock. I do want to mention that sunblock while it’s a very good tool and we’ve been using it for a while now and it does a great job, it reduces the damage of overexposure, but it does not eliminate it. So that said, what are the things that we should be looking for when we’re out [00:05:30] there shopping for our sunblock?

And the main thing I want to make sure that everyone knows is that you want to get broad spectrum that covers the UVA and UVB rays from the sun. We want to also have a sun protection factor that’s the SPF of 30 or more. When thinking of baby, I want to note that there’s no need to go higher than 50 for anybody, but in particular, we’d never want to go higher than 50 on a baby.

And that’s because the sun protection factors over 50 have not been tested. [00:06:00] And those that are under 50 have been tested. So, we know what those results will look like, and we’re confident that they will not be harmful to baby. So, the other two things that we want to make sure that we acknowledge when we’re talking about sunblock is the expiration date.

So sometimes I know for myself as I’ll buy tons of sunblock and I’ll leave it in a drawer and, you know, I’m thinking that they’re all just good because it has something in there it’s gotta be good, right? But we want to make sure that when looking at that expiration date, it’s good to note that most [00:06:30] sunblocks will have two years of life in them. And that means that the chemicals in there will start to lose their efficacy and won’t be able to protect us as much after that time. So, the other last thing, when thinking about sunblock is applying it. When to apply it is important. We know that it takes sun block about 20 to 30 minutes for it to fully have the effect on our skin which we need.

And so, we want to apply it 30 minutes before, and we also want to reapply it every two hours. [00:07:00] Now that’s going to change if we’re in the pool or if we’re sweating, we want to increase that reapplication period to 30 minutes or anytime we’re toweling off. So, if we’re sweating and you know, it’s been, you know, just 10 minutes while I’m out there and if I’m sweating, I will go ahead and towel off, but I will also reapply.

So that reapplication is very important. Sunblock daily is great, but it won’t protect you for the full day. So, you need to keep reapplying.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:07:27] So what other safety measures should parents [00:07:30] follow to protect the skin of their little ones?

Sergio Perez: [00:07:33] There are more than one measure. So, we want to use a multiple prevention measures approach.

So that’s why we talk about sun safety measures and those we’ve already spoken about sunblock, and we know that that’s one method that we can use, but we can actually really layer on that protection by, we mentioned already the UV index. So, we want to make sure that we’re checking the UV index and planning our day accordingly.

So, if we go into any weather forecast, we probably have been ignoring it. But [00:08:00] once you know what UV index is, you’ll know that it really does help to decide what are going to be your sun safety measures for that day. So again, a day with a higher UV index, I may want to use more of these methods that I’m going to talk about.

So, another method besides the sunblock and knowing what the UV index is, is limiting that mid-day sun. So, between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM are going to be the times where the sun’s rays are the strongest and we want to plan accordingly. So, we want to plan perhaps an [00:08:30] event indoors at that point, if possible, or even just avoiding the sun completely.

And then we know also if we’re going to have to be in the sun during that mid-day, that we can use some of these other methods like seeking shade. So maybe planning if we’re going to be outside, maybe we can have an umbrella. Maybe we can have a tent. We also want to cover up. So, we know that covering up a child’s skin with clothes can also help them to prevent or protect against those harmful UV rays.

So, a long sleeve shirt. Long [00:09:00] pants with a tight weave are the best. And when those are not possible, that’s when we definitely want to make use of our sunblock. Two other lesser known, but very cool things or innovations are sunglasses, as we mentioned earlier. So, when looking at sunglasses, we want to make sure that we’re looking again at that UVA and UVB ray protection.

So, what a lot of sunglasses might say are UVA and UVB protections, or may say [00:09:30] 100%, they may say 95%, but know that you want to protect against that broad spectrum of UV rays, both A and B. And that also can be helpful. Lastly, we want to make sure that if we can, we want to wear a hat, and a hat that shades, our face, scalp, ears and neck.

So, I know that my nephews and nieces play a lot of sports, and they will wear a lot of baseball caps. And baseball caps are good, they definitely cover our face, and they provide [00:10:00] some shade on our scalp as well. But when we do use those baseball caps, we want to make sure that we’re using again, sunblock to sort of fill in those gaps, to get those ears, get the neck, those areas that the baseball cap cannot shade.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:10:13] I think that this conversation is incredibly timely as we are entering into our hottest months of the year, so I really appreciate your time today. For parents once they hear this information and want to learn more, where can parents go to find more tips on [00:10:30] sun safety?

Sergio Perez: [00:10:31] So we actually have two resources for parents.

Definitely the CDC with sun safety has some great information for families. And the second resource is actually here in Arizona. We have the Arizona Skin Cancer Institute. Which has some great resources for educators and for the general public and even researchers and patients who are maybe experiencing some of those negative health effects that we spoke about earlier, they have, you know, again, resources about [00:11:00] skin self-exams.

Those sunscreen questions that if you want to get more information, I would definitely recommend looking at the Arizona Skin Cancer Institute to find those answers. They are a great group. They’ve been doing the good work for a lot of years now. And again, a great resource for all in Arizona.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:11:20] If you’re preparing for poolside days and outdoor play time with your kids, [00:11:30] we have more helpful links for you in the show notes. There are more episodes on the way, so give us a follow on your favorite podcast app like Apple podcast or Spotify or listen to us on Alexa. Just ask, “Alexa, play The Parenting Brief.” While you’re there, pass the episode along to the moms or expecting moms in your life until next time. This is Jessica. You’ve got this, Mom! [00:12:00].

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