The sun makes us feel warm and content, especially after a tough, cold winter. But it’s never too early to start your kids on a lifelong habit of using sunscreen. A recent report found that melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer, is up a whopping 250 percent in children and young adults since the 1970s. Researchers pointed to sunbathing and indoor tanning as probable culprits.
I tell my parents it’s generally safe to use sunscreen after babies are 6 months old. An even better idea: keep them out of the sun if possible, or make sure to dress them in loose clothing that covers them. And don’t forget a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, too. Not only do children look cute in sunglasses, it’s critical to protect their eyes from the sun. Send me your kid pics in sun glasses so we can post them on #askdrjen.
Ideally, use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that has UVA/UVB protection that’s fragrance free, hypoallergenic and has titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to block those harsh rays. Another tip: try a sunscreen patch test on a small area of your child’s skin to make sure there’s no irritation. Also, there’s a lot of talk that aerosol sunscreen is not really good to use on kids as it can be inhaled into their lungs. The coverage is unpredictable, too, especially on a windy day, so I say it’s better to use a lotion. For my kids, I like to apply sunscreen before we leave for the pool or beach, but only if’s it a short walk or ride away. That way there’s no chance of them jumping in the water without good protection.
Also stay away from a high SPF of 50 because it tends to give a false sense of security about protection. For all age kids and adults, reapply every two hours, especially while swimming or even while sitting under an umbrella near the reflected water. Check out a 2015 guide to sunscreens rated by ewg.org (The Environmental Working Group) here.
Sunburns are not only painful and dangerous. Your child will have a hard time sleeping or even bathing. It’s a scene you want to avoid.
Sources: American Society of Clinical Oncology, news release, May 28, 2015
The Smart Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, Accidents by Jennifer Trachtenberg, MD