- Courtesy Kaiser Permanente
Because children spend a lot of time outdoors playing, they get most of their lifetime sun exposure in their first 18 years. And since we live at a higher altitude, the rays are even more powerful. So, what should you do to protect your kid’s largest organ, their skin? It’s really as simple as A-B-C:
A = AWAY: Remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade. Sun safety starts as soon as babies are born and it’s safest to keep babies younger than 6 months out of the sun.
Stay away from tanning beds! Tanning beds can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. If you want your skin to look tan, try a sunless tanning cream or spray that makes your skin look tan.
B = BLOCK: For children 6 months old and older, use a sunscreen that:
- Is broad-spectrum that protects the skin from UVA and UVB rays and a sun
- Has sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 or higher.
Apply the sunscreen at least 15 to 30 minutes before going in the sun, to all the skin that will be exposed to the sun, including the nose, ears, neck, scalp, and lips. It usually takes about 1 fl oz, about the size of your palm. And Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. The SPF value decreases if a person sweats or is in water. Use extra caution near water, sand or snow as they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.
If your skin is sensitive to skin products, you have had a skin reaction, or are just concerned about the ingredients in sunscreen, look for one that is free of chemicals, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), preservatives, perfumes, and alcohol. There are organic options and children’s sunscreens use ingredients that are less likely to irritate babies’ and children’s sensitive skin. The mildest sunscreens use only zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as active ingredients.C = COVER UP: Wear clothing that covers the skin, hats with wide brims, and sunglasses with UV protection. Even younger children should wear sunglasses with UV protection.
Don’t forget to do regular skin checks. Be aware of any changes to moles or other concerning skin findings. And watch for skin spots that are different than others or that change over time.
If you do notice something concerning, make an appointment with your doctor. And remember, we parents lead by example, so don’t forget to protect your skin too!
For information on sun exposure, vitamin D, and other skin concerns, visit KP.org or SpotSkinCancer.org.
— Audrey Hall, MD, is a pediatrician at the Kaiser Permanente Briargate Medical Offices located at 4105 Briargate Parkway, Suite 125 in Colorado Springs and is with the state’s largest physician group — the Colorado Permanente Medical Group — which serves the 680,000 members of Kaiser Permanente in Colorado. To learn more about how Kaiser Permanente can help your family thrive, visit kp.org or call 1-888-681-7878.