While we all may slather sunscreen on our kids before hitting the beach, according to Marty Visscher, Ph.D., Director, Skin Sciences Program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, some parents do not understand the dangers of prolonged sun exposure on their child’s skin.
“During the summer months, it is critical that parents make sure their child uses sunscreen and wears sun-protective clothing to reduce the risk of sun damage,” Dr. Visscher says. She notes that the best sunscreen protection will have an SPF number of at least 30 or higher and it should be applied liberally to the skin at least once every hour for maximum protection.
Some of the dangerous effects of sun exposure on the skin include sunburn, photosensitive reactions (rashes), and cell and tissue damage. However, Dr. Visscher explains that there are several precautionary methods that parents can take to make sure their child is protected from too much sun exposure.
Dr. Visscher advises the following ways for parents to protect their child from the sun:
- Apply water-resistant sunscreens that help protect skin from both UVA and UVB rays and that have SPF numbers of at least 30.
- Remember that sunscreen will wash off in water and it should be reapplied frequently at a minimum of every hour.
- Apply the sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going out into the sun.
- Apply extra sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium oxide to the nose and lips since those areas get the most exposure to the sun.
- Speak with camp counselors to make sure the counselors apply and reapply sunscreen on their child (or at least supervise the child when he or she is applying the sunscreen).
- Keep babies younger than six months out of the sun. Sunscreens may irritate baby skin, and an infant’s developing eyes are especially vulnerable to sunlight.
- Make sure your child wears sun-protective clothing that lists the garment’s Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) (the level of protection the garment provides from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays).
- Parents need to limit their child’s playtime during the hours when the sun is at its strongest peak, which is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., in the summer months. If a child is outside during these peak hours, he needs to take breaks in the shade.