Eighty percent of an individual’s sun exposure most likely happens in childhood, and just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital encourages parents to protect your child from lasting negative effects of overexposure to the sun, including sunburns, premature aging of the skin, wrinkling and skin cancer.
Seek Shade. The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the most hazardous for UV exposure, so plan indoor activities for that time of day. If this is not possible, seek shade under an umbrella, tree or other shelter for relief from the sun. When playing in direct sunlight, be sure to allow breaks in the shade every 10 minutes. Babies are especially susceptible to sunburn and heat stroke, so keep babies six months or younger completely out of the sun.
Apply sunscreen. Choose a "physical" or "chemical-free" sunscreen with an SPF of 30. Check the label to ensure the sunscreen is made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which creates a "broad-spectrum" and provides protection from UVA and UVB rays. Always apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before your child goes outside and remember to reapply at least every two hours, especially after swimming, sweating or toweling off. When reusing sunscreen, remember to check its expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.
Wear protective clothing. Along with sunscreen, children should wear protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses. Special UPF clothing protects against the sun’s rays, and adding a special powder to your laundry can add UPF to your clothing for up to 20 washes. Choose a hat with a wide brim to shade your child’s face, head, ears and neck. Be sure to apply sunscreen to areas that are exposed to the sun. Protect your child’s eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.