Minimizing exposure and using maximum protection is critical to reduce the risk of skin damage from the sun. Sun protection includes protective clothing, shade and sun screens. Choosing the right sunscreen is important for skin protection.
Risks of sun damage
To prevent skin cancer we must begin early with our children as sun damage to skin is cumulative. Current evidence suggests that up to 80% of skin damage occurs by the age of 18. Children and adolescents who experience a single blistering sunburn are twice as likely to develop skin cancer in later life.
The sun is strongest when it is directly overhead, usually from 10am-2pm. Limiting sun exposure during this time helps protect the skin from damage.
As sun can reflect off of surfaces such as sand, snow and water, sitting in the shade provides only partial protection from the sun. Additional, ultraviolet rays can penetrate the clouds, so your child is still exposed to the sun on cloudy days.
Long pants, long shirts, hats with a brim and sunglasses all protect the skin and eyes from excess sun exposure.
Using a sunscreen is an important part of sun protection. Sunscreen can be used in children of all ages, though it is best to try to avoid it in children younger than 6 months of age. Sunscreens, prevent ultraviolet light from entering the skin
Additional information on sunscreens
Both types of ultraviolet light, UVA and UVB, are absorbed by your skin to cause premature aging, wrinkling, sunburns and skin cancer. Choose a sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is a measure of how long a sunscreen will be effective for each individual. Multiplying the SPF of a sunscreen by the time it usually takes for your child's skin to turn red in the sun tells you how long the protection will last. For example, if you use a lotion with SPF 15 and your child's skin usually turns red in 8 minutes of sunlight exposure, the lotion will protect your child for approximately 2 hours in the sun. We recommend you use a minimum SPF of 15 for your child. Sunscreen must be applied 30 minutes before being exposed to the sun and should be reapplied at least every two hours and after swimming.
It is critical to protect the skin from sun exposure early in life to reduce the risk of long term skin damage. Sunscreens, long clothing, shading and generally eliminating exposure when possible during the strong sun hours provides the best protection.
The CDC and AAP provide additional information on sun protection and safety.