As school winds down and summer approaches, your family may be spending more time outdoors. Children, in particular, may need an outlet aside from video games and TV, to expel some of that youthful energy! Being outside is good but making sure you and your children are safe in the sun is equally important in the prevention of sunburn and skin cancer. Here are some tippers from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
So, if you have a little one less than the age of 6 months, keep him or her out of direct sunlight. Infants in this age group may be more likely to have sunburn and their skin may be sensitive to sunscreen. Make sure you find some shade and dress them in protective clothing and hats. If sun exposure cannot be avoided, you may use a small amount of sunscreen on sun exposed skin such as the face but pay attention to the ingredients. You want to look for sunscreens that have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as these provide broad spectrum UV (ultraviolet) protection and have minimal irritation to the skin!
Go outside at the right time even on cloudy days. You want to avoid the times when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest which is typically between 10 am and 4 pm therefore try to schedule your activities around this time. A general rule of thumb from the AAD is that if your shadow is shorter than you, seek some shade!
The more skin you cover, the better. When possible, choose light weight, long sleeve shirts and pants with tightly woven fabric especially if you plan on being outside midday for extended times. And don’t forget the hat. Not the cool cap that everyone loves, but a wide 3-inch brim hat so that it will protect the ears and neck. If you do choose to wear a cap or clothing with less coverage such as shorts, T-shirts, tanks, or dresses (which is more likely), don’t forget to put that sunscreen on and find sunglasses with at least 99% UVA and UVB protection.
Walking down the sunscreen aisle at Wal-Mart, Target, or Walgreens may be overwhelming with the wide selection of skin care products that all claim to be the best for skin protection. So, choose wisely and pay attention to the labels. You want to choose sunscreens with:
- Broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB
- Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher (per the AAP) or higher than 30 (per the AAD) – not enough studies support the use of SPF 50+
- Water resistance – how effective the sunscreen is while you’re in water e.g. 40 min or 80 min
Lather sunscreen generously on all areas not covered by clothing. The AAD recommends 1 ounce of sunscreen is the amount needed for the young adult. Put it on 15-30 minutes before heading out. When you’re dry, reapply every 2 hours or immediately after getting wet or sweaty or drying your skin. As mentioned above, sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide may be helpful in those with sensitive skin. Creams may be better for people with dry skin or on the face. Sprays are also a popular option nowadays. However, make sure you and your children are not inhaling the aerosol and spray thoroughly enough to cover all exposed skin. Sprays are new enough that more studies are needed to evaluate its safety and effectiveness.
Now that you’ve been informed about sun safety, go out there and have some fun!
- Linder, Jennifer. Skin Cancer Organization. Sun Protection for Infants. Skincancer.org. Page last updated June 7, 2013 https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/children/infants
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Sun Safety and Protection Tips. HealthyChildren.org. Page last updated March 13, 2018 https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/Spring-Break-Safety-Tips.aspx
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Sun Safety: Information for Parents About Sunburn & Sunscreen. org. Page last updated April 1, 2014 https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Sun-Safety.aspx
- American Academy of Dermatology. Sunscreen FAQ. Aad.org. Accessed on May 3, 2018 https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs
- Robinson JK. Sun Safety. JAMA Dermatol.2018;154(3):380. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.5256
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. Sun Safety Monthly UV Average. Epa.gov. Page last updated April 20, 2018 https://www.epa.gov/sunsafety/sun-safety-monthly-average-uv-index#tab-5
- Holloway L. Atmospheric sun protection factor on clear days: its observed dependence on solar zenith angle and its relevance to the shadow rule for sun protection. Photochem Photobiol 1992;56:229-34.