Summer Camp Sun Protection 101: Why the Cotton Shirt Your Kid Swims in Just Won’t Do

Jun 18, 2013 No Comments by

Summer camp is jam-packed with activities from sunrise to sunset. Counselors and camp staff make it a priority to ensure safety of all campers; however, with the rigorous reapplication routine sunscreen requires, sometimes sun protection may be overlooked in all the commotion. Sunburn and skin damage are easily preventable. Educating and equipping children with good sun protection habits prior to the start of camp is essential.

While sunscreen is a necessity, adding additional forms of sun protection may ease parental anxiety.

SUN PROTECTION STRATEGIES FOR SUMMER CAMP

1. Pack sun protective swimwear and clothing: The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using sun protective clothing first, followed by sunscreen. A WHITE COTTON T-SHIRT WILL NOT PROTECT YOUR CHILD FROM THE SUN! In fact, it only offers an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 7, and even less when wet. UPF and SPF ratings for sunscreens are similar, but UPF is the standard for clothing and accounts for both UVB and UVA rays. When shopping for UPF clothing, look for a UPF 50+ rating, the highest rating available. This means a garment will block 98% or more of UVA and UVB rays. Swim shirts (also known as rash guards), are great for extended water play since the sun protection will not wash out.

2. Remember a wide brim hat:  To be protective, a hat must have a 3” brim or greater (for toddlers this might be less) or a flap in the back to cover the ears and neck if it’s a baseball style cap. Hats also protects the scalp, especially along the part-line.

3. Wrap on UV sunglasses: Eyes are susceptible to sunburn too, and not all sunglasses protect against UV. Opt for a pair of wrap style sunglasses that fit closer to the face so UV rays don’t leak in the sides. Look for sunglasses labeled UV 400 or blocks 99% or greater of UVA and UVB rays. For younger kids, purchase sunglasses with straps to keep them secure.

4. Choose the right sunscreen: Most kids will be active, so look for brands that offer better protection in water or while sweating. Also remember the following:

  • Look at the label. Many parents assume the higher the SPF the better, which is not necessarily the case. Look for quality ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are physical sunscreen ingredients. Choose an SPF of 30 that’s labeled broad spectrum, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Avoid aerosol sunscreens. The major drawback of a continuous spray sunscreen is that it could get into the eyes or inhaled by a child, long-term data on those effects are unknown.
  • Apply generous amounts on exposed skin. Start with the neck down, covering thick and evenly on all areas of the body, not forgetting the ears, backs of the hands, crease of the neck, underarms, between the fingers, underneath the bathing suit (if it’s not sun protective). After covering those major areas, do the face last. Even on a cloudy day, 80 percent of UV reaches the Earth’s surface.
  • Reapply. According to new Food and Drug Administration guidelines for sunscreens, labels must display a reapplication time of either 40 or 80 minutes and after swimming or sweating. Remember to do so.

5. Inquire about camp sunscreen application policies: Most camps are like schools, sunscreen is not allowed without written consent. Also, camp staff are often discouraged from helping kids apply sunscreen. Teach children to do their best applying sunscreen everywhere they can reach and ask for help on spots like their back.

Dr. Amy Brodsky, founder of the Pediatric Sun Protection Foundation is advocating a comprehensive sun protection strategy for her kids and hopes other parents will catch on. “I’m a dermatologist and a mom who has seen a lot of skin cancer and aging skin in my practice, so it’s only natural to want my own kids and others to think of wearing sun protection as the norm and sun protective shirts and sunscreen as cool,” said Dr. Brodsky. Dr. Brodsky often refers to the four-S’s to teach kids and parents alike the key skin cancer prevention measures — sunglasses, sunscreen, sun protective shirts, and sun hats.”

Additional Resources:

More about the Pediatric Sun Protection Foundation and sun protection advice for parents.

Read what the American Camping Association has to say about fun in the sun.

Follow SunAWARE for easy to remember steps for sun protection.

Shop Boys and Girls UPF 50+ clothing.

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