Health & Info

Sun Safety

How can I protect my child's skin?


Keeping Safe in the Sun


Why is sun protection important?

Most of the health problems related to exposure to the sun, including skin cancer, appear in adulthood. Yet most of the damage which causes these problems occurs in childhood. For this reason it is crucial to keep children protected from harmful UV rays.


Why do children need special protection?

On average, children get three times more exposure to the sun's UV rays than adults. Plus, it can take less than 10 minutes for a child's skin to burn.


What is SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Sunscreens generally have SPF numbers ranging from 2 to 45. The SPF indicates how many times longer a person can stay in the sun before beginning to burn when using a sunscreen compared to using no sunscreen.


What is UV?

UV stands for ultraviolet. Overexposure to the sun's UV radiation can cause painful sunburn. In can also lead to other serious health problems, including melanoma, a life-threatening form ok skin cancer. The National Weather Service has developed a UV index based on monitoring the sun's position, cloud movements, altitude. Ozone data, and other factors. An index of zero indicates a low risk of overexposure or sunburn. An index of ten or more means a very high risk of overexposure or sunburn. The UV index is printed in the weather section of most daily newspapers.


Do infants need special protection from the sun?

Yes. Infant skin does not sweat effectively. This means exposure to the sun may increase their risk of heatstroke. Their skin also has less melanin than older children which means they burn more quickly. Because infants are unable to move themselves out of uncomfortable light and heat, they should be placed in shaded areas whenever outdoors. Use this checklist when dressing infants:

---loose-fitting, lightweight long pants with a tight weave

---loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts with a tight weave

---brimmed hats



Can I use sunscreen on my infant?

It was once believed that infants under the age of six months should not use sunscreen. However, in 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) revised its policy statement on the use of sunscreens for infants under six months of age. As stated in the AAP policy, "it may now be appropriate to use sunscreen, applied to small areas of the skin such as the face and the back of the hands, on infants younger than six months when adequate clothing and shade are not available." Consult your doctor.


Do certain activities require special protection?

All outdoor activities require protection from UV rays. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, wide-brim hats, sunglasses and sunscreen provide good protection. Many athletic activities take place on or near concrete, sand, water, or snow. These surfaces reflect up to 85 percent of the sun's UV rays. Although wearing a wide-brim hat or sitting under an umbrella helps avoid direct sunlight, it will not protect against UV rays reflected off concrete, sand, water or snow. Under these circumstances sunscreen should be applied to all uncovered areas. The sun's intensity is highest from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. each day. If possible, avoid or minimize sun exposure during these times. Cloudy days are no exception. Although it may appear otherwise 80 percent of the sun's harmful rays can penetrate light clouds, mist and fog.



Preventing Skin Cancer


What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is a disease in which cancer cells are found in the outer layer of the skin. It is the most commonly occurring form of cancer in the U.S.

  • Nonmelanoma skin cancer is 95 percent curable if detected and treated early.
  • Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It can appear without warning and grow uncontrolled. It accounts for 4 percent of skin cancer cases, but causes about 79 percent of skin cancer deaths.


Who gets skin cancer?

Everyone is at risk of skin cancer, regardless of skin complexion. Particularly at risk are people with:

  • Fair to light skin complexion
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Personal history of skin cance
  • Chronic exposure to the sun
  • History of sunburns in childhood
  • Atypical moles
  • A large number of moles
  • Freckles


How much sunscreen should I use?

Sunscreen should be applied liberally and evenly to all exposed areas of the body prior to sun exposure. Always shake the bottle before using and rub it in well to make sure coverage is even.


How often should sunscreen be applied?

Sunscreen should be applied liberally before your child goes outdoors. It should be reapplied after prolonged swimming, excessive perspiration, vigorous activity or toweling.


What strength of sunscreen is best?

The American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD) recommends using a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Sunscreen with SPF 30-45 blocks more than 96 percent of the sun's UV rays.


12 Tips for Sun Safety

  1. Cover up. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and protective clothing to keep out harmful sun rays.
  2. Know your SPF. Use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) that's best for your skin type and intended time in the sun. Dark-toned skin can burn, too!
  3. Apply sunscreen. Apply sunscreen before going outside. Use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15. You should wear sunscreen in all seasons, even on cloudy or overcast days, since 80 percent of the sun's rays can penetrate light clouds, mist and fog.
  4. Maximize protection. Give maximum protection to the parts of your body that get the most exposure: face, hands, forearms, shoulders, ears, back of the neck and top of the head.
  5. Reapply sunscreen. Put on more sunscreen when you are outdoors for a long time. Put on more after sweating, swimming, toweling off or exercising.
  6. Pucker up. Use a lip balm with sunscreen for your lips.
  7. Check it out. If you are taking medicine, check with your doctor or pharmacist. Some medicines make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
  8. Slip on some shades. When you're outside, wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays.
  9. Seek the shade. If your shadow is shorter than you are, you're more likely to sunburn. Plan outdoor activities for before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are less intense.
  10. Watch that reflection. The sun's rays reflect off sand, water, snow and concrete. Apply sunscreen even when you're under a beach umbrella. The rays can reflect off the sand and reach you.
  11. Apply sunscreen all year. The sun can harm you in other seasons as well as in summer.
  12. Moisturize. Moisturizers with vitamin E and aloe can replenish lost moisture in your skin after exposure to sun.