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Sun Safety: A Fun, Sunburn Free Summer

School is out and the weather is hot- which means kids will be spending a lot more time in the sun. With that in mind, parents can understandably have questions about how to keep their kids safe while still enjoying summer past times like the pool, playground and beach. Here’s all the information you need to know to keep your kids safe while in the sun this summer.

Children under 6 months should not be allowed into direct sunlight and should not generally wear sunscreen. When outside they should wear lightweight clothing that covers their skin as well as a hat, and they should be kept in shaded areas. If being in the sun is unavoidable a small amount of sunscreen can be used on exposed areas such as the hands and face. Be careful when around water as sunlight can reflect off the water and cause sunburn even when a kid is in the shade.

For older children the best form of protection is avoidance. The sun is strongest between 10am and 4pm so staying inside or in the shade during those hours will limit sun exposure. Another way to limit sun exposure is to wear clothing that covers the skin, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. For time in the water there are now a lot of great options for bathing suits with Ultraviolet Protective Factor (UPF) properties.

Children, like adults, should also wear sunscreen whenever they spend time in the sun. There are 3 things to look for when picking a sunscreen. The first is SPF or sun protection factor which should be either 30 or 50. Studies show that there is minimal additional protection in wearing SPF > 50 but that it gives people a false sense of protection that can lead to sunburns. Secondly a sunscreen should be “broad spectrum” which means that it protects against UVA and UVB rays. Finally sunscreen can be water resistant for either 40 or 80 minutes. The best form of sunscreen is a cream or lotion as sprays make it hard to tell if you’ve applied enough.

After you’ve picked out your sunscreen you need to apply it. Sunscreen should first be applied 15-30 minutes prior to going outside to allow time for it to soak in. The recommended amount is 1 ounce- about the size of a shot glass or medicine cup. Don’t forget areas like the ears, back of the neck, part in the hair, and under bathing suit straps. You should then reapply any time the child comes out of the water and every 2 hours that they are outside. Make sure that you throw away any product that is past its expiration date or more than 2-3 years old.

Hopefully this information will help everyone in the family have a safe and sunburn free summer! If you have any questions, contact your pediatrician.

Alaina Brown, MD FAAP
Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville