Monday, August 8, 2011

Sunscreen 101

I was recently with my daughter-in-law at a Frisco RoughRider baseball game.  With the practiced eye of a first grade teacher, she made the observation that not many of the kids or parents were seen to apply sunscreen, although many of the kids did seem to be sporting a hat.

This blistering hot Texas weather encouraged me to do a little search for the current recommendations for summer sun protection for kids.  According the American Academy of Pediatrics the first, and best, practice to reduce harmful sun exposure is to cover up. For example, wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a forward facing baseball cap, wear sunglasses, and choose cotton clothing. A silly hat is fun for young children while sports or school logos may appeal to older kids.  Try to avoid going outside between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when the sun is strongest.  

Here’s some other ways to keep your kids safe in the sun:

  • Always put sunscreen on your child 15-30 minutes before going outside, starting at 6 months of age.  Keep it fun by teaching your child to spell BEENS.  This will help you remember to cover some of the spots that might ordinarily be forgotten-Back of the knees, ears, eye area, neck, and scalp.  Be sure and reapply at least every two hours and more frequently if they are swimming.  Ask teachers or daycare workers to also apply sunscreen when taking children for outings.
  • Many pediatricians encourage sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as these compounds are not absorbed into the skin.  Use a sunscreen with a 30 or higher SPF.  A broad spectrum sunscreen blocks both UVA and AVB rays.  A colored or scented sunscreen will make application fun (be careful if your child has sensitive skin).  Sprays are easy to apply while sticks are sweat proof and less likely to drip.
  • If your child gets a mild sunburn, apply cold compresses.  Seek medical attention with more severe burns. 

It’s also important to remember that sunscreen isn’t just for the sweltering summers in Texas. It’s something that should be top of mind year round.

Tracy Morgan is director of women’s services at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano.

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