Children and adults are prone to get sunburned, especially during our hot Alabama summers. In fact sunburn can happen after only 15 minutes in the sun. But sunburn can be dangerous and repeated sunburns can lead to skin cancer.
So what should parents know about sunscreen in order to keep their children and themselves safe?
Ashley Hanna is a nurse practitioner in pediatric dermatology at Children’s South.
She explains what parents should look for when buying sunscreen. “We do recommend an SPF of 30 or greater in sunscreen,” she says. “It’s also important to look on the ingredient label for titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to be listed in the ingredients.”
Hanna says children should wear sunscreen from the time they are six months old. Before then, a baby’s skin is too sensitive and it’s best to keep them completely covered with cool clothing and a wide-brimmedhat, or out of the sun altogether.
For all other ages, remember sunscreen is only effective when it’s used correctly.
How to Use Sunscreen
- Apply sunscreen whenever your kids will be in the sun. For best results, apply sunscreen about 15 to 30 minutes before kids go outside.
- Don’t forget about ears, hands, feet, shoulders, and behind the neck. Protect lips with an SPF 30 lip balm.
- Apply sunscreen generously.
- Reapply sunscreen often, about every 2 hours. Reapply after a child has been sweating or swimming.
- Apply a water-resistant sunscreen if kids will be around water or swimming. Regardless of the water-resistant label, be sure to reapply sunscreen when kids come out of the water.
- Throw out any sunscreen that is past its expiration date or that you have had for 3 years or longer.
Hanna says if your child does get sunburned, there are things you can do to help make them more comfortable. “If your child does get sunburned,” she says, “make sure they stay hydrated, apply moisturizer and you can give them ibuprofen or acetaminophen.”
But watch their symptoms closely. If there’s any sign of blistering or dehydration, you should call the doctor immediately. And remember, repeated sunburns lead to skin cancer. Unprotected sun exposure is even more dangerous for children who have many moles or freckles, have very fair skin and hair, or have a family history of skin cancer.
It’s important for parents to be a good role model by consistently wearing sunscreen and limiting sun exposure. Lead by example to teach children to be sun smart.