After that miserable winter, I’m still basking in the early spring warmth.  So last week bike safety, this week let’s talk sun exposure.  Two million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year.  Skin cancer primarily affects adults but does account for approximately 3% of childhood cancer.  Most lesions are strongly sunlight associated and it is estimated that people typically absorb about 50% of their total lifetime UV exposure by age 20.  So focusing on your child’s skin protection can provide a lifetime of dermatologic health.

Principles of sunscreen use:

  • Use broad spectrum products that protects from both UVA (causes skin aging and passes through glass) and UVB (sunburn, blocked by glass)
  • Apply liberally and generously coat skin, especially on the face
  • SPF 30 blocks about 97% of the sun’s rays.  Beyond SPF 50 there is essentially no further benefit.  Higher SPF does not last longer.  I say that if you think you need more than SPF 30, it’s just time to get out of the sun.
  • Sunscreen for any child 6 months and above.  Under 6 months–why do they need sunscreen?  Just keep them out of direct sunlight.
  • That delightfully soft, smooth baby feel is thinner skin and underlying baby fat.  And thinner skin burns easier.  So babies are more prone to sunburn.  And remember–beach sand reflects sunlight up, so that umbrella is of little use to prevent sun exposure to you or your baby.
  • Reapply every 2-3 hours, especially after swimming or profuse sweating.  No sunscreen is “waterproof.”
  • Context is important–sun exposure is more intense in July than October, in Florida compared to New Jersey, at the beach compared to your back yard, and it’s strongest from 10a-2p.

Remember that the best sunscreen is a roof over your head and the clothes on your back(and head–don’t forget hats!!)

If your child should sustain a sunburn, you should apply cool compresses and moisturizers to the reddened skin(scented products use chemicals that may further irritate and sting).  Oral analgesics like acetaminophen or ibuprofen are useful for pain.  Do not pop blisters if they form but rather you should call me.

As always, I invite questions or comments, and thanks for folowing.


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