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Sun Safety Tips for Parents from the Skin Cancer Foundation

Today’s guest blog comes from the Skin Cancer Foundation, the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. For more information, visit www.SkinCancer.org.

Summer is here, and children are spending lots of time outdoors. But are they sun-safe? In one recent study, 83 percent of children ages 12-18 reported at least one sunburn during the previous summer. Unfortunately, just 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.

To help keep your kids sun-protected,

  • Seek the shade between 10 AM and 4 PM, when the sun is most intense.
  • Schedule outdoor activities in the early morning or late afternoon.
  • When you’re outdoors with your baby, use a sun umbrella, or use a stroller or baby carriage with a canopy or hood.
  • Dress your children in sun-protective clothes: long-sleeved shirts and long pants, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.

Sun Protection Guidelines for Babies and Kids

Because their skin possesses less melanin (the pigment that gives color to skin, hair, and eyes, and provides some sun protection), babies are particularly at risk for sun damage. However, their skin is also very sensitive to topically applied products, such as sunscreen. Keeping babies less than six months old out of the sun and dressing them in clothes that will cover the most skin when outdoors is a simple and effective solution.

For children over the age of six months, apply one ounce (two tablespoons) of sunscreen to all exposed areas 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating heavily; use water-resistant formulas if you expect to be swimming or sweating.

What Makes Children’s Sunscreens Different?

“Sunscreens for children tend to be less irritating,” explains Henry W. Lim, MD, Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and a member of The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Photobiology Committee. “Physical filters — zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — tend to be more commonly used. For children six months or older, look for SPF 30 or above, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreens.” Dr. Lim recommends lotion or cream sunscreens, since “they’re easiest to apply and reapply in appropriate amounts.”

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