The unofficial start of summer is upon us and as temperatures rise, so does the amount of fun in the sun.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children who have sunburns at an early age nearly double their risk of developing melanoma as adults.
“If you have a sunburn every summer for 18 years by the time you’re 18 you’ve had a lot of sun damage to your skin,” said Joan Tamburro, D.O., a pediatric dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic.
What sunscreen is best?
Protecting little ones from sunburn starts with sunscreen. Look for an SPF of 30 or more and one labeled ‘broad spectrum’ to protect from UVA and UVB rays.
Dr. Tamburro also recommends sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
“These are large molecules that sit on the skin and reflect the rays and I think our safest way because then we do not worry about the absorption,” said Dr. Tamburro.
If you’re trying to decide between a sunscreen lotion and a spray, Dr. Tamburro said the best choice is the one your family will actually use. However, if you go with the spray be sure your kids don’t breathe it in.
How to apply sunscreen
When applying sunscreen, pay special attention to the face, ears, back of the neck, shoulders and head – especially if your child has a very short haircut or if their hair is parted.
Sunscreen should be put on liberally, rubbed in and reapplied frequently.
“If you have water play that’s going on, really it’s almost hourly that you need to be reapplying it,” said Dr. Tamburro. “And, of course, if the kids are somewhere where they are dry then we say every two hours.”
Other ways to protect kids
UV blocking swim shirts are another protection option and a time saver.
“An entire back can take quite a few minutes [for sunscreen application], if you have an active 8-year-old and he does not want to stand there while you do this, if you have him in a swim shirt/surfer shirt that’s sun protective, you’ll save that time,” said Dr. Tamburro.
Wide brimmed hats to shade the face and neck are also a good idea and babies younger than six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight and in the shade.