Children’s skin safety is a year-round concern for parents. Whether protection means slathering on sunscreen in the summer or moisturizer in the winter, children’s sensitive skin needs constant care. Continue reading to discover how to protect your kids all year long.
Children’s skin is more sensitive to environmental factors than the skin of most adults. Plus, their immature immune system puts them at a higher risk for skin infections. This combination leaves their skin vulnerable all year long. Here’s a season-by-season account of how to protect your kids’ skin from reactions and irritations in any climate.
Winter brings extreme cold, wind and sun that can damage children’s skin. If your child has eczema, the drop in temperature and humidity can worsen his or her already delicate skin. Here are two easy ways to prevent flare-ups:
- Run a humidifier throughout winter to maintain constant humidity of 45% to 55% in your house.
Exposure to extreme cold can lead to frostnip and frostbite. Frostnip develops before frostbite and has less severe symptoms, including inflamed skin and a loss of sensation. Frostbite, on the other hand, damages the skin, in some cases permanently. Watch for whitening of the skin and complete numbness. Infants are especially vulnerable because they’re not yet able to regulate their own body temperature. Prevent and treat frostnip and frostbite with the following tips:
- Dress your kids in layers to play outside in the cold. Choose hats with earflaps, mittens and outer layers that block wind and water for their winter wardrobe.
- Reduce your kids’ exposure to extreme cold. In severe winter weather, it takes only moments for frostbite to develop.
- Move your child indoors immediatelyif you suspect that he or she has frostnip or frostbite. Parents Magazine advises heating the skin with “warm towels or warm (but not hot) water.” If symptoms worsen or don’t improve, see a doctor immediately.
Keep in mind that spending time indoors during the cold weather season exposes your kids to irritants inside, which may aggravate dry, sensitive skin. Harsh detergents, fragranced soaps, air fresheners and pet dander can all contribute to flare-ups or rashes. So, as a parent, reduce the risk of a reaction by:
- Identifying your child’s triggers. Remove those items from your home, and replace them with fragrance-free alternatives.
- Soothing flare-ups with menthol lotions or 0.5% hydrocortisone ointment. If your child’s reaction becomes severe, consult your pediatrician.
As temperatures warm up in the spring, children become more active – and so do the insects. Stings and bites can cause minor pain, discomfort and itching for most kids. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following symptoms may signal a severe allergic reaction:
- Upset stomach, including nausea or pain in the abdomen
- Breathing problems
- Swelling of the face
If your child shows any signs of an allergic reaction from an insect bite or sting, seek emergency care immediately.
Applying insect repellant reduces the chance of an insect bite; however, you don’t want to overdo it. Infants younger than two months of age are too young for insect repellants, and for kids with sensitive skin, insect repellants may cause rashes or other reactions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following tips for safely applying insect repellant to children:
- Apply only the minimum amount needed. Follow the guidelines on the package to avoid applying too much.
- Spray repellant only on your child’s clothes and exposed skin unless using repellants with permethrin, in which case, spray only on clothes.
- Avoid the face, eyes, mouth and open sores when applying insect repellant.
- Contact Poison Control or your doctor immediately if your child has a reaction.
For kids with sensitive skin or parents who want to avoid the use of insect repellants, there are other ways to avoid insect bites:
- Dress your kids in pants and long sleeve shirts when in heavily wooded areas or other places where biting or stinging insects may be lurking.
- Use fragrance-free cleansers and lotions. Flowery scents attract insects.
- Thoroughly inspect skin and hair for ticks as soon as you get home.
With all of the fun activities in the summer keeping you busy, don’t forget about sun protection! Childhood sunburns increase the lifelong chance of developing skin cancer, so applying sunscreen to your kids is extremely important. Here are some important guidelines:
- Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading outdoors.
- Keep babies in the shade until they’re six months old or older.
- Keep kids out of the sun from 10am to 4pm.
- Only use sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher and formulated with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These chemicals don’t penetrate the skin and are less likely to cause a reaction.
After the heat of the summer, you and your kids may welcome breezy fall days, but realize that dry skin can make your little one more susceptible to windburn. It’s a common misconception that wind alone is to blame for windburn; actually, it’s the combination of wind and sun that results in red, irritated skin. Here’s how to prevent and treat this condition:
- Prevent by covering up kids’ skin as much as possible when heading outdoors. For skin that you can’t conceal, add extra protection by applying sunscreen and moisturizer before going outside. Make sure to use sunscreens without harsh chemicals if your child has sensitive skin.
All year long
No matter what time of year, if you and your kids enjoy being outside, you need defend their skin from the sun. Your kids can still get sunburned on cloudy days, and, in the winter, the added reflection of snow increases the chance of sunburn. So, remember to slather on the sunscreen all year long.
It may surprise you, but your child can develop heat rash in both hot and cold weather. Overdressing your child in the winter can lead to heat rash. To avoid this, dress your kids in layers that can be removed when they get too warm or when indoors.
It may seem like a lot to protect your kid’s skin all year, but it’s easy to stay on top of it if you plan ahead. Here’s how:
- Keep small containers of sunscreen in multiple places (car, diaper bag, purse), so it’s always on hand.
- Know your child’s triggers and avoid them whenever possible.
- Make it fun for your kids by keeping them involved. Check out the American Academy of Dermatology Kids Skin Health website for fun ways to teach your kids about skin health.
Bottom line: Healthy skin, happy kids all year round
Whether your child has severely sensitive skin or simply experiences mild irritations from the elements, don’t let these challenges prevent them from spending time in Mother Nature. Being outside plays an important role in healthy child development, offering countless benefits ranging from boosting creativity to improved physical and mental wellbeing. As soon as your kids are old enough to play an active role in their personal care routine, it’s important to involve them in caring for their sensitive skin. By teaching them lifelong lessons such as how to prevent sun damage, avoid insects and maintain hydrated skin, you’ll prepare them for a lifetime of healthier skin from head to toe.
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