How often should I be applying sunscreen to my child? - East Idaho News

How often should I be applying sunscreen to my child?

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Question: How often should I be applying sunscreen to my child?

Answer: As parents, we naturally prioritize the well-being of our children, and protecting their delicate skin from the sun’s harmful rays should be at the top of our list. Sunscreen is essential for safeguarding against sunburn, skin damage, and the risk of skin cancer later in life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends applying sunscreen to children older than six months whenever they’re going to be exposed to the sun. Before six months, it’s best to keep infants out of direct sunlight altogether, opting instead for shade and protective clothing. If protective shade is not an option, sunscreen is preferred for infants under six months over a sunburn.

Why Sunscreen Matters:

Children’s skin is particularly vulnerable to the sun’s damaging effects. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation during childhood increases the risk of sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer in adulthood. Since sunburns in childhood can significantly increase the risk of skin cancer later on, protecting children from the sun’s harmful rays is essential from an early age.

Regular use of sunscreen not only reduces the risk of sunburn but also helps prevent long-term skin damage, including wrinkles, sunspots, and skin cancer. By instilling sun-safe habits in childhood, parents can lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy skin.

Choosing the Right Sunscreen:

When selecting sunscreen for children, several factors come into play:

  1. Broad-Spectrum Protection: Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Look for labels indicating “broad-spectrum” coverage to ensure comprehensive protection.
  2. SPF (Sun Protection Factor): Opt for a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. SPF indicates the level of protection against UVB rays, which are primarily responsible for sunburn and skin cancer.
  3. Water Resistance: If your child will be swimming or sweating, choose a water-resistant sunscreen with a label specifying its duration of water resistance (typically 40 or 80 minutes). Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating, even if the sunscreen is water-resistant.
  4. Hypoallergenic Formulas: If your child has sensitive skin or allergies, consider using a sunscreen labeled as hypoallergenic or formulated for sensitive skin to minimize the risk of irritation.

Proper Application of Sunscreen:

Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before sun exposure to allow it to fully absorb into the skin for maximum protection. Apply generously to all exposed skin, including the face, ears, neck, arms, and legs. Don’t forget commonly overlooked areas like the tops of feet and backs of hands.

Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently if your child is swimming or sweating. Even water-resistant sunscreen can lose its effectiveness over time, so diligent reapplication is key to maintaining protection.

Avoid using combination sunscreen-insect repellent products, as sunscreen needs to be reapplied more frequently than insect repellent. Apply sunscreen first, followed by insect repellent, to ensure proper and timely reapplication of each product.

Sunscreen plays a vital role in protecting children from the sun’s harmful rays and reducing their risk of sunburn, skin damage, and skin cancer later in life. By choosing the right sunscreen, applying it effectively, and incorporating sun-safe habits into daily routines, parents can help ensure their children enjoy a lifetime of healthy skin.

This column does not establish a provider/patient relationship and is for general informational purposes only. This column is not a substitute for consulting with a physician or other health care provider.