Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Kids don’t have to be at the pool, beach, or on vacation to get too much sun. Their skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays whenever they’re outdoors. With summer here and long pool days ahead, now’s a great time to remind parents of the importance of sunscreen.
Sunscreen needs to be used correctly for sun protection to happen. According to the American Academy of Dermatology and American Academy of Pediatrics, a few simple rules can protect your family from sunburns now and from skin cancer later in life.
- Use broad spectrum. This means it protects against UVA and UVB rays. Choose a product with a SPF between 30-50. There are many types of sunscreens, ones that contain chemical blockers, ones that contain physical blockers and some are combination of both. Chemical blockers absorb into the skin and then prevent absorption of the rays, whereas physical blockers actually repel the sun rays. Look for the active ingredients of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These are physical blockers and have a lower chance of causing skin irritation.
- Cover all exposed areas, especially face, nose, ears, hands and feet. Creams are recommended, but sunscreen sticks can be used around eyes and sensitive areas. Sprays provide the convenience and ease to parents but it’s hard to assess if the sunscreen has been applied effectively, and wind can affect application. Sprays are also easier to rub off and may need to be applied more frequently.
- Apply 15-30 minutes prior to going outdoors. Take sunscreen with you to reapply during the day, especially after your child swims or exercises, or every 90 minutes. This applies to waterproof and water-resistant products as well.
- Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight. Find shade under a tree, umbrella, or the stroller canopy.
- Cover up. When possible, dress yourself and your kids in cool, comfortable clothing that covers the body, like lightweight cotton pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats. Select clothes made with a tight weave – they protect better than clothes with a looser weave. If you’re not sure how tight a fabric’s weave is, hold it up to see how much light shines through. The less light, the better. Wear a hat or cap with a brim that faces forward to shield the face.
- Limit your sun exposure between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, when UV rays are strongest.
Wear sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection (look for child-sized sunglasses with UV protection for your child).
- Set a good example. Be the best teacher by practicing sun protection yourself!