Freeman Medical Musings Blog


Tips for a Healthy & Sunburn-Free Summer

Posted by Dr. Laura Stewart, on May 19, 2015

As summer approaches and our children are drawn outside into the sunshine once again, protecting our children from sunburn is key. Now more than ever, sun protection matters. Episodic sunburns during childhood and adolescence have been shown to increase the lifetime risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In addition, sunburns hurt! Three ways to help your children avoid sunburn include sun avoidance, protective clothing and sunscreen. Try the tips below!

Sun avoidance

  • Avoid or minimize sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s rays are hottest.
  • Be careful when the child is near water, sand, snow or concrete since these can reflect the sun and cause sunburn.
  • The risk of sunburn during certain activities, such as water sports, is high.
  • Clouds are not sufficiently protective against sunburn since the sun’s rays on a cloudy day may only be reduced by 20% to 40%.
  • Seeking shade is somewhat helpful, but a child can still sunburn because light is scattered and reflected.

Protective clothing

  • Clothes offer the simplest, and often most practical, sun protection.
  • Tight weave clothing lets in less sunlight than a looser weave.
  • Clothes that cover more of the body provide better protection.
  • Consider dressing children in lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts if sunburns are possible.
  • Rash guards or swimming clothes that cover the arms and chest can be helpful when children are playing in or near the water.
  • Hats with bills or a 3 inch brim can be cooler and more comfortable than a bare head in the summer and can help shield the face, ears, neck and eyes.
  • Don’t forget sunglasses!

Sunscreen

For children and teens:

  • Sunscreen should be used any time a child spends time outdoors.
  • Use sunscreen for sun protection, not as a reason to stay in the sun longer.
  • Choose a sunscreen that states broad spectrum with a SPF of at least 15; SPFs of 15-30 work for most children, but 50 can be a good choice for a fair skinned child or infant. SPFs 70-100 do not likely offer any greater protection than 50.
  • Use enough sunscreen to cover all exposed areas – especially the face, nose, ears, feet, hands and even backs of the knees. Each application should be 2 ounces of sunscreen (2 tablespoons) or more! Rub it in well!
  • Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before the child goes out into the sun to allow time for the sunscreen to absorb.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Remember that no sunscreen is waterproof or sweat-proof –reapply after a child swims, sweats or uses a towel.
  • Lip balm with sunscreen will help protect a child’s lips from sunburn

For babies:

  • Ideally, infants younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight.
  • Infants should be dressed in cool, comfortable clothing with a tight weave and wear hats with brims.
  • Babies do not sweat as well as big kids, so exposure to the heat of the sun may increase the risk of heatstroke and dehydration.
  • Sunburn may occur easily because infant skin has less pigment than at any other time in life.
  • Apply sunscreen on small areas, if needed.