Did you know that just a handful of serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life?

Or that experts estimate that we get between 50% and 75% of our lifetime sun exposure before we turn 18 years old?

Or that even on a cool day with light cloud cover, UV radiation can cause skin damage?

Children need extra care to avoid health problems and sun damage.These facts are exactly why good skin care and protection must begin at an early age. That means minimizing our children’s exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. And during the spring and summer, it’s particularly important for families to practice good skin care habits. While cooler weather drives us indoors during the fall and winter, warmer weather encourages families to visit sunny beaches, play sports, or just enjoy an afternoon in the backyard.

We’re not saying that you can’t enjoy these seasonal staples! Just that it’s important for families to remember the following skin care tips:

  • Apply sunscreen. It’s not a secret that sunscreen is a must when it comes to skin care and protection from the sun. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that families use sunscreen every time your child goes outside. The CDC currently recommends using sunscreens with a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15, as well as UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection. That said, it’s best to go for a higher SPF if you can! An SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93 percent of UVB radiation, while an SPF 30 sunscreen blocks nearly 97 percent. Additionally, for the best protection, it’s best to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors. Be sure to reapply it throughout the day! And don’t rely on sunscreen alone, as it’s meant to be combined with other healthy habits for maximum effectiveness.
  • Stick to the shade. No matter how enticing the sunlight is, all experts recommend avoiding it if you can - especially from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are the most damaging. If you can’t plan an indoor activity for your family during this block of time, seek out a tree, open an umbrella, or set up a pop-up tent to help keep those UV rays from reaching your children’s skin.
  • Cover up. Another thing you can do to protect your and your children’s skin is to cover it with longer shirts and pants. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. This tip gets harder to abide by as it warms up, but it’s still worth remembering and following to the best of your abilities.
  • Invest in a good hat. Hats are a wonderful way to keep the sun from reaching our face and eyes, both of which can be easily damaged by the sun. However, the best hats also provide shade for our ears and neck. Children are more likely to wear baseball caps, which do not cover these areas. Always remember to use sunscreen to protect any areas a hat doesn’t cover.
  • Love the shades. Sunglasses are not just an accessory for the vain. They protect your child’s eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. Always buy sunglasses that have a sticker certifying that they block 100% of both UVA and UVB rays!

Following these tips will go a long way in helping your children enjoy themselves while taking healthy precautions. Of course, depending on your child’s age or even their current state of health, you may need to take additional steps to ensure they avoid sun damage. If you think you need additional advice on keeping your family healthy, please contact your Capital Area Pediatrics physician. Our team can individually assess your children’s health and safety needs, and provide specific advice for your child’s health and skin care needs. To schedule an appointment with a pediatrician, find your nearest location - and know that our staff will be happy to assist you!

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