7 sun safety mistakes families make and how to avoid them

Families living in the Grand Strand have their sunscreen routine pretty well worked out – primarily because it’s absolutely necessary. If you want to spend time outdoors during the summer, you must protect yourself and your little ones.

sunscreen, sunblock, sun tan lotion, SPF

BabyCenter.com has a great article about sun safety covering the basics of choosing a sunscreen, keeping your child in the shade, drinking tons of fluids, and wearing protective clothing. It’s an excellent place to start, but how well do folks visiting the Grand Strand put it into practice? Here are the top six sun safety mistakes I routinely see and how to avoid them.

1. Not applying sunscreen – It doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is or how easily you tan, sunscreen is a must for every member of your family, particularly if you’re traveling from out of the area. The sun is more intense here than it is in the northern parts of the country. If you can sit out at the pool all day there and not get burned, I give you about 15 minutes – even less time for your children. You’ll still get a tan with sunscreen and you’ll save yourself a trip to urgent care to be treated for severe sunburn. Also remember that sun exposure is cumulative throughout the day. When you head to Broadway at the Beach for the afternoon, the amount of sun you get while walking around can result in a nasty burn. Lotion up before doing any outdoor activity.

2. Choosing a toxic sunscreen – Little ones (and big ones, like me) have delicate skin. It’s important to choose a sunscreen with the least amount of toxins as possible. The key is finding one that’s both safe and effective. Here are a few of our favorites.

3. Applying sunscreen at the beach – It’s already too late. Sunscreen needs 15 to 20 minutes to soak in. When we go to the beach, we apply it at home. When we get there, I know an adequate amount of time has passed and we’re protected.

4. Using a ridiculously low SPF – News flash, SPF 8 isn’t worth the bottle it comes in. You, and everyone in your family, needs SPF 15 or higher. We never go below 30 and, more typically, use 50. Again, you still get tan while wearing either of these choices. There’s just no reason not too.

5.  Not applying enough sunscreen – You should be using an amount equivalent to what would fit in a shot glass. I always love that comparison. “Honey, have you seen that “Cancun 1996″ shot glass? It’s time to lotion up the kids.” My point, though, is that during a week’s vacation at the beach, your family will go through a few bottles of lotion or several cans of spray lotion. Using a scant amount won’t protect you.

6. Failing to reapply sunscreen – Here’s where I see a lot of families get tripped up. You lotioned up and have been at the beach for a few hours. You start getting that my-skin-is-getting-crispy feeling and know it’s time to reapply for your whole family, but…  the toddler is covered in sand, the minute you get done the kids will go right back in the water, your hands will get messy, the lotion is hot from sitting in the sun, your husband is whining. Name your excuse, I’ve heard it. Here’s the trick  – spray sunscreen.  Stand away from those around you, don’t spray into the wind and avoid the hands and eyes. Stay out of the water for ten minutes and get a drink, or take a potty break and you’re good to go. For the record, you’re right.  It IS impossible to re-lotion a sand covered child.  Been there, tried to do that, failed miserably. Spray is the way to go for reapplication. Just remember that lotion is most effective and usually less costly for the initial application. And always read sunscreen labels closely to find the variety that best suits your family.

7. Not having shade or drinks readily available – The heat affects everyone and sometimes it’s not easy to determine just how much until it’s too late. Kids get to the beach and go nuts with the sand castles, boogie boards, and shell collecting. It isn’t until they’re collapsing due to dehydration and exhaustion do parents realize just how hot they are. Heat stroke is very serious and can be life threatening.

If you have an active child (or adult) at the beach, your best bet is to watch the clock and offer drinks every thirty minutes. A few ounces can go a long way, so no need to require your little one to finish a juice box or anything. Insisting they drink something is important, though.

Another tool to combat heat related illness is shade. Simply getting out of the sun typically provides a rest and cool down. Always pay attention to your child’s behavior, color, and complaints about headaches or nausea. If you suspect heat exhaustion or stroke, dial 911.

Let’s face it, living in and visiting the Myrtle Beach area comes with lots of time outdoors during the warm months. Be smart, be safe, and enjoy!

For more information about sun safety, check out South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control’s fact sheet.

Photo credit: Flickr

Want to read more? Check out the latest on the Myrtle Beach for Families blog.


  1. […] in South Carolina, I suppose.  Just make sure, if you’re out and about, to keep the signs of heat related illness in mind and protect yourself and your family.  Have a good […]

  2. […] Of course sun protection only works if you use it correctly. For a list of sunscreen mistakes many families make and how to avoid them, click here. […]

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