FERGUS, Ontario June 25, 2012 - Health and Safety Watch.com - With the temperatures rising this summer, Canadians are starting to enjoy the beach season and various outdoor activities. People should be reminded about safety when using sunscreen products. Special attention must be paid to products used for infants and toddlers. The following information has been adapted from Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) documents. Click on Sources tab for original articles.
Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause sunburns and skin cancer. It is important to wear sunscreen, along with other sun protective measures, to protect yourself from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Exposure to UV radiation, primarily UVB, can cause sunburns and may eventually result in skin cancer. It is important to note that while sunscreens can help reduce sunburn, they are not as effective against the other harmful effects of UV rays, like premature aging of the skin and depression of the immune system.
All sunscreens have a sun protection factor (SPF) on their labels. The SPF represents the length of time that sunscreen-protected skin can be exposed to UVB rays before a minimal redness (erythema) appears, compared to the length of time it takes on unprotected skin. In other words, it indicates how much longer you can be exposed to the sun before getting a sunburn.
The amount of time it takes for unprotected skin to burn depends on skin type. In general, fair skin burns more quickly than darker skin. If you have the type of skin that would burn after 20 minutes in the sun without protection, then the proper application of sunscreen with SPF 15 would allow you to spend up to 300 minutes (15 times longer) in the sun without getting a sunburn. However, this does not mean that your skin is protected from all UV effects. Damage to your skin, other than sunburning, may have already started.
How sunscreens protect your health:
There are many different brands of sunscreen available. They are classified according to their active ingredients, as some products contain chemical filters, some contain physical filters, and some contain both.
...Chemical filters absorb some of the UV radiation and convert it into heat. There are more chemical filters that absorb UVB rays than absorb UVA rays.
...Physical filters are small particles (usually zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) that scatter and reflect both UVB and UVA rays.
Infants and toddlers
Contrary to common belief, it is usually not recommended to use sunscreen products for infants. The best approach is to keep infants under 6 months out of the sun, and to avoid exposure to the sun in the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when ultraviolet (UV) rays are most intense.
Babies' skin is much thinner than that of adults, and it absorbs the active, chemical ingredients in sunscreen more easily. Infants have a high surface-area to body-weight ratio compared to older children and adults. Both these factors mean that an infant's exposure to the chemicals in sunscreens is much greater, increasing the risk of allergic reaction or inflammation.
The following tips will ensure protection of your child:
...The best protection is to keep your baby in the shade, if possible.
...If there's no natural shade, create your own with an umbrella or the canopy of the stroller.
...Hydrate your baby/toddler by giving formula, breast milk and other liquids to drink.
...If there's no way to keep an infant out of the sun, you can apply a small amount of sunscreen—with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15—to small areas such as the cheeks and back of the hands.
...It is recommended testing your baby's sensitivity to sunscreen by first trying a small amount on the inner wrist.
...Avoid sunscreens containing the insect repellent DEET on infants, particularly on their hands. Young children may lick their hands or put them in their mouths. According to AAP, DEET should not be used on infants less than 2 months old
Adults and older children
Protect your health by using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Look for claims on the label indicating that the product is resistant to removal (e.g., water resistant, very water resistant, waterproof).
For best results, be sure to follow the instructions on the product label. Use the recommended amount of sunscreen and respect the waiting period between application and exposure to the sun. If you are sweating heavily or swimming, reapply sunscreen often to get the best protection.
Steps to protect yourself against UV exposure include:
...If possible, avoid being in the sun between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
...Look for shade, stay under a tree, or use an umbrella.
...During outdoor activities, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. When the UV index is three or higher, you should also wear protective clothing and a large-brimmed hat.
...Remember to apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of your skin.