It’s summertime, and your child is likely playing outdoors for at least a portion of each day. How can you encourage your child to enjoy outdoor activities while protecting his or her skin from harmful ultraviolet rays?
The best way to protect your child’s skin is to limit direct sun exposure. A wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and lightweight, long-sleeved clothing offer the ideal protection outdoors. If possible, have your child play in the shade during the sun’s peak hours, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
If your child’s skin is directly exposed to the sun, the next best defense is sunscreen. For the most effective sunscreen coverage, follow these tips.
• Don’t skimp – slather it on. Apply sunscreen liberally to cover all exposed skin, including your child’s ears, neck, hands and feet. Remember, more is better when it comes to sunscreen.
• Apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before heading outdoors. It can take 30 minutes for sunscreen to start working.
• Don’t save the sunscreen for sunny days. Even on a cloudy day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through the clouds. Check the national UV Index at epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html to find the specific UV risk for your area on any given day.
• Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after a dip in the pool, even if you’re using a water-resistant product.
• Keep babies under 6 months of age completely out of direct sunlight. When going outside, dress your little one in lightweight clothing and a hat with a brim.
Choosing a sunscreen
There are countless rows of sunscreens at the drugstore. How can you possibly pick the right one? Look for the following labels and ingredients.
• Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen. This means it will protect against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
• SPF 30 is best for children who are active outdoors for long periods of time. The higher sun-protection factor blocks out 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. Sunscreens with even higher SPFs don’t offer much additional protection.
• Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are good for young children and those with sensitive skin. Sunscreens with these ingredients physically block the sun’s UVA rays from penetrating the skin. They are best for infants, toddlers and anyone with eczema. They are also effective and safe for older children and adults.
Outdoor fun is part of what summer is all about. But it’s important to protect your child from the sun’s harmful rays.
Dr. Manisha Panchal is a board-certified pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Santa Clara Center.
The Palo Alto Medical Foundation and column editor Arian Dasmalchi provide this monthly column.