|Linda Hamilton, MD|
Summer is here and we want to encourage you to get your children outside to play, but to protect them from the ultraviolet radiation of the sun.
Children get most of their lifetime sun exposure during their first 18 years of life, so protecting them from babyhood through adulthood is important. You child does not have to be sunburned in order to sustain photoaging, such as wrinkling and toughening of the skin and skin cancer, over a lifetime.
Ways to protect your children:
The most intense Ultraviolet ray exposure occurs during the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, so try to limit activities during this time period.
Wear tightly woven, loose fitting clothing that covers arms and legs, a wide brimmed hat, and UV protective sunglasses. There is a laundry additive called Sungard, which contains a sunscreen called methoxyphenyltriazene, which adds UV protection to fabric.
Remember that sand, snow, concrete and water reflect UV rays and can intensify sunburn.
Children with very light skin pigmentation are at higher risk for Ultraviolet ray induced sun damage than children with darker skin pigmentation, however, it is recommended that even darker complected people wear sunscreen to protect against photoaging and skin cancer.
Wear broad spectrum sunscreen which protects against UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can cause photoaging, such as wrinkling, sagging skin and skin cancer. UVB rays cause most sunburn, and can lead to non melanoma skin cancers.
Sunscreen should have both UVA and UVB protection. An SPF of 50 protects against 97-98 percent of UVB rays, so anything more than that is not necessary. What is necessary is to apply an adequate amount, and to reapply every 2-3 hours after swimming or sweating. Sunscreen should be water resistant, and be hypoallergenic and fragrant free for those with sensitive skin. Sunscreen should be applied even on cloudy days. Water resistant sunscreen just means the sunscreen has effectiveness for 40 minutes while in water, for very water resistant sunscreens, the effective period is about 80 minutes. At present no sunscreen is waterproof.
Most sunscreens that say they are broad-spectrum, i.e., blocking both UVA and UVB rays are not. There is not at present a good way to rate UVA protection, so look for sunscreens that have one of the following ingredients, such as Ecamsule, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. These compounds will protect against UVA rays.
Child friendly sunscreens are usually less irritating. For adults and children with sensitive skin, get a sunscreen that is PABA free, and which does not contain benzephenones, such as dioxybenzone, oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, or avobenzone. Sunscreens which contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are less likely to irritate skin. If you have dry skin, use a sunscreen with lotion.
Apply sunscreen about 15-30 minutes prior to sun exposure. It can be applied under makeup. For an adult applying two tablespoons to cover the whole body is adequate. Most people do not apply a sufficient amount of sunscreen. Remember to apply sunscreen to your hands especially when riding in the car. In addition, consider lip balm with SPF protection.
Sunscreen loses efficacy over time, so dispose of those past their expiration date.
INFANTS less than 6 months of age should not be in direct sunlight, should wear loose fitting cotton ( long sleeve, and long pants) clothing, and should be in shade or under a stroller umbrella. Infants do not sweat well, so do not over clothe as this can lead to heatstroke. As infants have the least amount of melanin, they easily sunburn.
Sunburn occurs about 6-12 hours post sun exposure. If the burn is just red and warm, give your child Ibuprofen and apply cool compresses to the area. IF the burn is severe with blistering, fever, chills, headache your child needs to be seen and evaluated for dehydration, and may require hospitalization.
Currently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against using tanning beds or sun lamps. While inducing a tan may make one look good now, the effects can be devastating over the long term.
Tanning beds/booths generate ultraviolet radiation, 95 % of which consists of UVA rays. Many adolescents use tanning beds routinely. The FDA does not regulate the amount of UVA or UVB radiation in tanning beds. There are regulations as to the amount of tanning bed exposure however these are not required by law to be adhered to by the tanning salon. Adolescents who use a tanning bed more than ten times per year increase their risk for melanoma. Risks from using tanning beds include corneal burns of the eyes, acute photosensitivity reactions while on medications, melanoma and non melanoma skin cancers and photoaging with thinning of skin, wrinkling, pigmentation.
The AAP does not endorse using tanning sprays or mists. These products were never meant to be used in that quantity and the inhalation of these products during application is of concern. Many tanning salons are not following FDA guidelines for use of the spray.
Counteract against free radicals by eating foods rich in vitamins E and C like wheat germ, apricots and leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Free radicals can hasten the aging process. Eat Internal SPFs, such as chocolate in moderation and tomatoes, which are high in anti-oxidants. Wear SPF rated clothing. These are available through an outfitter such as REI or at Sungrubbies.com or Coolibar.com.
If you have skin which has many moles, see a dermatologist yearly for suspicious areas.
Lastly apply sunscreen first before DEET containing insect repellents. Combined sunscreen repellents decrease the efficacy of the sunscreen and are not recommended. Reapply sunscreen every 2-3 hours.
Enjoy your protected time in the sun!