For Patients & Families
Consumer Health Information
Protecting your kids from the punishing summer sun
Summer is the season for beach visits, keeping cool in the pool and day camps filled with outdoor fun. All this can add up to a big dose of blistering South Florida sunshine for area children. No child wants to come home with a painful sunburn, and no parent wants his or her child to have skin cancer – now or in the future. Because skin damage is cumulative, too much exposure to the sun can lead to wrinkles, lines and spots later in life. And melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is on the rise. The National Cancer Institute reports 68,130 new cases and 8,700 associated deaths in 2010. Fortunately, regular use of sunscreen can reduce the risk of developing melanoma. A recent clinical trial showed that applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 16.
Skin Protection Tips
Here are 10 recommendations to protect you and your children from the sun.
- Stay indoors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Because the sun’s rays are fiercest during the middle of the day, schedule outings for the morning, late afternoon or evening.
- Purchase a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more, and be sure it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Apply plenty of sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. Use two or three tablespoons and be sure to include the face, neck, ears and feet. Consider using a cream with zinc oxide, which is less likely to irritate skin.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, and more frequently if your child is swimming. Water and perspiration wash away even “water-resistant” sunscreen, so keep applying that lotion, cream or spray.
- Don’t forget your lips. Use a sunscreen stick for the lips, nose and mouth.
- Don’t put sunscreen on infants 6 months or younger. Instead, keep yourbaby covered when going outdoors during the day. Use the stroller shade, an umbrella or a hat to protect that super-sensitive skin.
- Have your child wear a long-sleeved shirt and a hat when playing outdoors. A baseball cap with a brim provides some protection, but a shirt or hat made with sunresistant fabric is even better. Remember
that if you can see through a hat or shirt, the sun’s rays can get through, too.
- Wear sunglasses. UVA and UVB rays can damage the cornea or the retina, leading to cataracts, eye tumors or other problems later in life. Get your child in the habit of wearing sunglasses.
- Treat sunburn immediately. If your child has painful, red skin, apply an aloe gel to the burned area. You can also give your child a mild pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If there are large blisters or cracks in the skin, go to the emergency room or urgent care center for immediate treatment.
- Be a role model. Your children are more likely to develop healthy sun habits if you practice them, too.
Ana M. Duarte, MD, is the director of dermatology at Miami Children’s Hospital.