Protecting Your Child from Sun Damage

Children in the sunSome sunshine is good for children. Sun exposure is an important source of vitamin D, which helps strengthen bones. But, researchers suggest that 5 to 30 minutes of sun at least twice a week is usually enough to meet the vitamin D needs of most people.

Sun exposure usually can do more harm than good, because sun damage begins in childhood. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause sunburn today, and wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer years later. Although skin cancer in children is rare, the most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, has been found in children. The most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, can develop later in life from just one severe childhood sunburn.

Sun protection should begin when your children are infants. Harmful UV rays can penetrate clouds, so be sure your children are protected even on cloudy days.

Clothing: One of the best ways to protect your children is to dress them in a hat with a brim and light-colored, tightly woven clothes. Experts recommend lightweight long sleeves and long pants.

Sunglasses: Childhood sun exposure can also damage the eye’s lens and retina and lead to cataracts later in life. Children and babies should wear sunglasses even if they are in the sun for a short time. Sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV rays have a special chemical in the lens and are the only ones that protect. Buy sunglasses that say “blocks 99 percent of UV rays” or “UV absorption to 400 nm.”

Sunscreen: Cover all exposed skin with a liberal amount of a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. “Broad-spectrum” guards against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply every two hours.

It’s best to keep babies younger than 6 months out of the sun completely or shade their stroller with an umbrella. Sunscreen use should be avoided if possible in babies younger than 6 months. If adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to small areas, such as the infant’s face and the back of the hands. 

Parents should have their children stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when it is the strongest.

Keeping Kids Healthy 

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