Got Sunshine? Be Sure to Cover Up!

child on the beachGuest Blogger: Jennifer Bram, MD, Primary Care Pediatrician, South County Pediatrics, Webster, MA

After cold temperatures and dark days, we’re all looking forward to spending time outdoors in the warm sunshine! As a primary care pediatrician, I get lots of questions from parents about how to keep kids safe in the sun, and thought I could share some of my advice here.

Why Should Parents Care About This?

Let’s face it – it takes time, money and some slick parenting skills to find shade, get our kids to wear a hat, smear on goopy sun block, etc.  But, the benefits can be big – preventing sunburns that cause pain and ultraviolet (UV) radiation damage to their skin can increase risk for skin cancer later in life.

Planning ahead is key. Keep these tips in mind.

  • Keep sun block available everywhere your kids are.
  • If you’re planning to be outside, put the sun block on 30 minutes before you leave the house. You’re less likely to forget and get distracted when your kids are ready to play!
  • Set the timer on your phone to remind you to reapply in two hours to keep their skin actively protected.
  • Clothing with UV protection factor built-in can be a big help for those (ah-hem) more resistant children – let the long sleeves do the work for you!
  • Hats are a must. I’ve found that allowing my kids to help pick from a variety of styles and fabrics (that I have already deemed acceptable) has increased their cooperation.
  • The other key is parental modeling. When our kids see us slipping on long-sleeve shirts, wearing a hat and putting on sun block, they are much more likely to model that same behavior – “this is how our family enjoys time in the sun.”

What About Babies?

It is best to keep infants under six months out of direct sunlight and in the shade. However, if sun exposure is unavoidable, it is acceptable to use small amounts of sun block on exposed skin.

Got Kids with Sensitive Skin?

Look for sun block with only zinc or titanium dioxide as active ingredients; these tend to be less irritating.

What About Tanning Beds?

A final word on sun protection and one I would especially like to reach is for our teens and their parents. We need to keep our kids OUT of tanning beds and salons. And that means that we, as parents and doctors, have to share the message with kids that having a tan is not desirable and can be dangerous. Tanning beds produce radiation that can be 10 to 15 times higher than the midday sun, and this raises the risk of developing skin cancer.

Let’s teach our kids to protect themselves and to “love the skin you’re in.”

For additional helpful tips about keeping your family safe in the sun, take a peek at this informative brochure created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How much sunscreen should you be using? Watch this video.

Join the conversation. Do you apply sunscreen everyday? Do you see your doctor each year to have your skin checked? What other ways do you stay safe in the sun?

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