What's the best SPF for your child?
As a parent, you are your child's greatest protection against the harmful effects of sun exposure. It is a dangerous misperception to think that tanning and sunburns are a natural part of childhood.
For instance, did you know that one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person's chances of developing melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) later in life?
Sun protection should start early - as early as infancy. To keep your kids safe in the sun, follow these important sun safety strategies:
- Avoid exposure to the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Infants less than six months should avoid all sun exposure.
- For children six months and older, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that has UVA and UVB protection. Do not use sunscreen on infants less than six months old unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out into the sun.
- Cover all exposed areas including lips, ears, neck and feet.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours - more frequently if your child has been swimming or sweating.
- Use sunscreen even on cloudy days.
- Make sure your child wears UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Have your child wear a hat with a 4" brim or bill.
- Choose cover-ups and clothing with dark, tightly knit fabrics.
- Seek out shade and use wide umbrellas or pop-up tents during all-day outdoor events.
- Avoid dehydration and heat exhaustion by having your kids drink water before, during and after playing outside (preferably in the shade).
But remember that sun protection shouldn't stop with young children. Regularly remind older kids and teens of the importance of the sun safety strategies they learned when they were younger.
And while it is important to be sensitive to the pressures adolescents face to fit in, it should never mean compromising on your child's health and safety. For this reason, never permit your child or teen to use tanning beds. Indoor tanning devices greatly increase the risk for skin cancer (2.5 times for squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times for basal cell carcinoma, compared to nonusers). If your teen wants to be tan, teach her or him how to use self-tanners, which are now much more natural-looking than in years past.
And remember, teach by example. Follow these same sun protection strategies to set a good example for your child.