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Sun Exposure and Protection for Children

​​​What do picnics, playing at the park, swimming, bike riding and exploring all have in common? Your fi​rst guess might be they are all summertime activities, which is true, but they all often take place in the sun too.

Over the past 30-plus years, malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has risen in children and teens an average of two percent every year. But you can preserve your sunshine's future by following the guidelines below.

Steer clear of midday sun. Do your best to avoid outdoor activities between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. Try to schedule a 9 A.M. swim lesson over the 1 P.M. session whenever you can. Plan an early-morning hike or a late-afternoon trip to the park.

Wear sun-protective clothing. Using rash guards, hats and sunglasses is a very effective way to reduce sun exposure. Encourage your young athlete to wear a long-sleeved uniform whenever possible.

Don't confuse temperature with sun intensity. The sun is not necessarily stronger when it's hotter outside. In fact, it is possible to get far more sun damage on a cool, clear day than on a warm, muggy one. Sun intensity is determined by a combination of where you are, what the weather is like and the time of year.

Don’t be deceived when the sun is hidden. UV rays, the rays that cause sunburns, can pass through clouds, meaning even cloudy days can cause significant sunburn.

Use proper sunscreen every day, all year. Keep it stashed in the car and know that it doesn't last forever. Sunscreens all have an expiration date, and after that point ingredients can be less effective. Sunscreens that contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Avoid using products that combine sunscreen and the insect repellent DEET, since sunscreen must be regularly reapplied and insect repellent typically doesn't need to be reapplied.

Sunscreen is okay to use on children 6 months or older. Apply sunscreen liberally and often to all parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, especially the face and neck. Re-apply sunscreen every two to three hours, especially if your child’s skin has become wet from perspiring, playing in water or swimming.

Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight. Protect your baby from sun exposure by dressing him or her in protective clothing such as a hat with a brim and sunglasses.

Pay attention to medication labels. Certain medications may cause skin to become more sensitive to sunlight. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

  • Sunscreen

    Sun exposure should be avoided and that should be the first thing that is stressed in summer.  You should avoid the sun between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon and that will preserve your skin.  You will look better in later years.  You will feel better.  You will not get sunburns.  If you go out, light clothing, loose clothing with long sleeves and a hat with a brim are really a good idea just to preserve your skin health.  If you do decide to sit out in the sun or go to Hawaii, you should apply sunscreen.  It should be applied before you go out.  The minimum of SPF 15 according to the Academy of Pediatrics you can go higher but 30 doesn't double the time you can spend out in the sun.  That's a little bit of a delusion people have.

    You should apply enough which is like a full ounce.  Imagine two tablespoons of it to your body.  So you have to apply enough and you have to reapply it every two hours.  That is pretty important.  If you are not using it correctly it is not going to work. 

    Kids can get very ill from sunburns.  I have seen children with second degree burns on their shoulders that really needed burn care.  It doesn't take too long, especially in fair skinned people or people like us in Nebraska.  We are not exposed to sun all winter and then our skin is not ready for an onslaught of solar radiation. 

    The more burns you have the earlier in life, the more likely you are to have skin cancer and I think that is something to really consider and I think that is why parents are so protective of their kids skin.

    If it is just what we call a first degree burn, where they are just reddened, you can use an aloe based lotion if you want.  Those are considered very soothing.  Don't put a lot of chemicals especially on small babies.  Old kids you can start doing it a little more.  You know, benzocaine based stuff and painkiller, but I wouldn't use that on kids under two.  If you've got true blisters and they cover more than a couple of inches of the body, you should probably have a practitioner look at it.  I'm not talking about just peeling skin, because a lot of first degree burns will eventually peel.  I'm talking a about blisters, the day after where you're saying wow, this baby really blistered and let us take a look at it.  Let us look at kind of how much of the body is covered and see if it needs any other attention. 

Skin Care Pediatrics