It’s hot, and parents need to be aware of the dangers of too much sun. There are benefits children get from the sun, like maintaining healthy vitamin D levels, but there are also risks and long term effects. 

Lifelong sun protection is recommended beginning at an early age. Although sunscreen is the most commonly used method of sun protection, parents should not rely solely on sunscreen. A complete program of sun protection includes wearing clothing and hats, timing activities to minimize peak hours of the sun, and protecting the eyes by wearing sunglasses. Consultation with a medical professional is especially important for children at high risk of developing skin cancer—children with light skin, those with moles and/or freckling, and those with a family history of melanoma.

Use a sunscreen that says “broad-spectrum” on the label. That means it will screen out both UVB and UVA rays. Also, use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. The higher the SPF, the more UVB protection the sunscreen has. There is a new  UVA “star” rating system on the labels.  Four stars is the highest UVA protection available in an over-the-counter sunscreen product.

For exposed areas of the body, such as the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears, and the shoulders, choose a sunscreen or sun block with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These products may stay visible on the skin even after you rub them in, but some now come in fun colors that kids enjoy.  

Babies younger than 6 months should have protective clothing and be well shaded..  Use of sunscreen on small areas of the body, such as the face and the backs of the hands is very important.  

Apply sunscreen to your child 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors to give time for the sunscreen to be absorbed into to the skin.  Remember that you can get sunburn even on cloudy days. Also, UV rays can bounce back from water, sand, snow, and concrete.  

Lastly, reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Keep in mind that most sunscreens wear off after swimming, sweating, or just from soaking into the skin.    

Using sunscreen and other methods of skin protection will help avoid uncomfortable sunburns and protect the skin for the future.

The Methodist Charlton Family Medicine Center is the family medicine outpatient care and teaching center of Methodist Health System. The physicians on the medical staff including those practicing at the Family Medicine Center and in the Family Medicine Residency Program are independent practitioners who are not employees of Methodist Health System or Methodist Charlton Medical Center.  The medical staff that practice at the Family Medicine Center specialize in family medicine –the medical specialty that provides continuing and comprehensive health care for individuals and families throughout the various stages of life, from childhood and adolescence to adulthood and geriatrics. For more information, visit www.methodisthealthsystem.org/FamilyMedicine or call 214-947-5400.