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Staying Safe In The Summer Sun

(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

Protecting our skin from the sun is a relatively new concept to many of us. How I cringe when I think of my 12-year-old self dousing myself in baby oil and baking on my apartment building rooftop for six hours at a time. My sisters and I endured countless sunburns, blisters and peeling skin episodes in pursuit of that perfect tan. Who knew that cooking ourselves silly made us more prone to skin cancer later on in life?

We can't change our pasts, but we can prevent our children from making the same mistakes, teaching them to be sunburn savvy as they grow up. After all, it only takes a few childhood sunburns to put someone at risk. Here are some quick and easy tips to stay safe in the sun this summer.

(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

Stay inside, if possible, during the midday hours, when the sun is at its strongest. Plan your outdoor activities — beaches, parks, hikes and picnics — for earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. Spend the middle of the day relaxing out of the sun. And when you do go outside, seek the shade of a tree or beach umbrella whenever possible.

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Councilman Johnson, left, and DA Seth Williams talking to a few Southwest Philadelphia residents. (Credit: Tim Jimenez)

Cover that skin! Long sleeves and pants protect our skin from the sun's harmful rays. If it gets too hot, a short-sleeve shirt and long shorts are better than a tank top and short shorts. Fortunately, many bathing suits for kids cover most of the body; some swim shirts even have long sleeves. With less skin exposed, we don't have to repeatedly apply sunscreen that rubs off during outdoor activity. But any skin that is exposed should be covered with high-SPF sunscreen.

(credit: CBS3)

Hats and sunglasses are critical in the bright summer sun. The right hat should cover all the vital parts of the head, including the face, ears and neck. Many kids' clothing brands make cute ones for pretty cheap. Sunglasses shield the eyelids and the eyes themselves from the sun's harmful rays. But remember to apply sunscreen to any skin that's still exposed.

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(Photo Credit: Alma Schneider)

Sunscreen is a great way to protect your child's skin from ultraviolet rays. There are lots of them on the market, but go for one that's water resistant, has a high SPF and avoids all the unnecessary chemicals. Be wary of the spray-able kind, which may seem easier to apply but are often filled with toxins that can inadvertently end up in your child's eyes. Zinc oxide is another great way to protect skin, especially fair skin that burns easily. Make sure to have multiple containers of sunscreen and keep them wherever you might need one — glove compartment, pocketbook, beach bag, stroller bag, etc. You should never be without it. Sunscreen needs to be applied before your kid goes out, so it has a chance to soak in. Once you're outside, that fidgety child won't want to sit still.

These precautions, along with a little vigilance, will keep you safe the summer sun. But be on the lookout for pink skin, which may already be the beginning of a burn. A sunburn can show up to 12 hours later. And take breaks in the shade whenever possible. Have fun outside, but be smart and be safe. Enjoy!

Check out the Summer Guide at CBS Local.

Alma Schneider is a licensed Clinical Social Worker helping individuals overcome their psychological and practical obstacles to cooking and parenting on her blog and consulting business, Take Back the Kitchen. She is a native New Yorker transplanted to the suburbs with her husband, four children and loving yet stubborn Beagle Shiloh.

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