Protecting Kids and Babies From the Sun
By: Victoria Bernhardt, APRN, Celebration Pediatrics
As the weather continues to warm up, it is the perfect time of year to talk about sun protection for your little ones! While sunlight is great for boosting our mood and vitamin D production, it is also responsible for ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can have short- and long-term consequences to your child’s skin and overall health. Most sun damage occurs during childhood and can greatly increase the risk for skin cancers later in life, including melanoma (the most fatal type of skin cancer). There are various ways that you can protect yourself and your child from the sun’s harmful effects.
In babies younger than 6 months, it is not routinely recommended to use sunscreen products. Keep him or her out of direct sunlight and in the shade as much as possible. An umbrella at the beach or pool is a great idea! Keep the skin covered with lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs, and make sure to remember a wide-brimmed hat to protect your baby’s head, face, and neck. If these recommendations are not feasible, it is ok to use a small amount of sunscreen on exposed areas like the face or back of the hands.
Sunscreen is recommended regardless of skin tone. Try to pick a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater. Look for broad spectrum sunscreens that protect from both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen ingredients vary and they work in different ways. Sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are known as “mineral” sunscreens and work by reflecting or blocking the sun’s harmful rays. In addition to these ingredients being very safe, mineral sunscreens are gentle on sensitive skin and are the preferred option for babies and young children. Other sunscreen ingredients such as oxybenzone and avobenzone work by absorbing UV radiation. You may have heard information questioning the safety of these “chemical” ingredients and if they affect our bodies via absorption through the skin. This has not yet been proven and is currently being studied. If this concerns you, go with a mineral sunscreen!
It is recommended to limit sun exposure and enjoy the shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This when the effects of the sun are the most intense. Apply your child’s sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outdoors, and do not forget to reapply every 2 hours and after water activities (even if your product says it is water resistant). Lightweight, tightly woven clothing is recommended, and cover your child’s arms and legs when possible. Remember to also drink plenty of water to keep your family hydrated. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the great outdoors with your kids this summer! If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to give us a call at 407-566-9700.