As children head outdoors for summertime fun, warm rays and tanned skin can be a warning of future health risks.
Between 60% and 80% of a person's sun exposure occurs before age 18, and skin damage occurring during adolescence is a key factor in the development of skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. A combination of clothing, sun avoidance and sunscreen should be part of your child's sun protection, said pediatrician and skin care authority Dan Krowchuck, M.D.,FAAP.
Dress your child in fabrics with a tight weave, such as natural cotton or Lycra. Sunglasses should block at least 99% of both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, while hats should have a 3-inch bill and be turned forward.
Although the afternoon is a tempting time for a swim, UV radiation is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and children should avoid outdoor activities during this time. A shady spot can offer temporary relief from the sun.
Children should use sunscreen when they are outside. Here are some tips to make sure your child's sunscreen is effective:
Choose a sunscreen labeled “broad-spectrum” to screen out both UVA and UVB rays.
Choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Because many people do not apply enough, choosing an SPF 30 can provide a margin of error, Dr. Krowchuk said.
Sunscreens should be water-resistant or waterproof.
About 1 ounce of sunscreen (the size of a golf ball) should cover a young adult from head to toe. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going out in the sun to allow time to dry. Make sure to rub it in well.
If sunscreen irritates your child's face, try using a sunscreen stick.
Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
Follow the expiration date on the bottle. If your sunscreen does not have an expiration date, call the company or purchase a new bottle each year.
Extra precautions should be followed for babies younger than 6 months: keep babies out of direct sunlight; dress them in lightweight long pants,long-sleeved shirts, brimmed hats and sunglasses; and apply a small amount of sunscreen to small areas of the body, such as the face and the backs of hands,if clothing and shade are not available.