Summer safety in the 501

by Katelin Whiddon

Summer is here and it’s my favorite season of the year! Warm days, lots of sunshine, less stress and vacations! While summer may be a fun time of year, there are also some things parents can do to keep children protected and safe.

Protecting ourselves and our children from the harmful rays of the sun and staying well hydrated will help us enjoy our summer days now and our health later. 

Millions of people around the country crave the tanned skin, but perhaps they would change their method if they knew what the long-term effects of the sun could do to their skin. Sun exposure can lead to early wrinkling of the skin, cellular damage, age spots and skin cancers – including melanoma, a very serious, aggressive and potentially fatal cancer. 

The vast majority of wrinkles are from sun damage (tanning and sunburns) before the age of 18. Most moles are present before the age of 30, and those who are exposed to more sun in their childhood are more likely to have a greater number. The American Academy of Dermatologists has an incredible website to teach the public about sun damage and skin cancer. Visit for more information and photos.

It is recommended that you use a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF. Using sunscreens higher than 30 SPF are still safe, but may only give you a little more protection than SPF 30.  Regardless of the SPF, you should reapply EVERY 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.

Using a daily moisturizer or makeup with sunscreen will help to protect your face. Sun damage can even affect your lips – so be sure to snag lip balm with SPF in it as well! Try to wear protective clothing when possible and utilize shade when you can to protect yourself from harmful rays.

Children under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight whenever possible. Always try to keep children in the shade and in cool clothing that covers their skin – especially at very young ages. After 6 months of age, most sunscreens are considered safe for children.

The safest sunscreens are those containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide because these do not penetrate the skin. These formulas are also less likely to cause skin irritation in children with sensitive skin. These formulations, however, are generally not waterproof, so reapply frequently with water activities and after sweating.

With activities keeping our families busy in the summer, we can often forget to drink as much water as needed. Our bodies need water all throughout the year, but in the hotter months when we are sweating more and having more direct sun exposure, our bodies need even more water. It is far easier to get dehydrated (or worse) in the warm months if we do not replace what water we are losing naturally.

Try to remember to take a few minutes away from the fun times of summer and think about safety for your family. Use as much sun protection as you can and be sure to keep up with the body’s water needs.

Staying safe and healthy will lead to more opportunities to enjoy life now and later down the road.


A Conway native, Katelin Whiddon is a nurse practitioner at the Conway wound clinic for Arkansas Heart Hospital. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A University of Central Arkansas graduate, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and works in pediatrics.