Just a few serious sunburns can increase a child’s risk of cancer later in life. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a person’s risk for melanoma–the most serious form of skin cancer–doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns. Protecting children from the sun’s ultraviolet rays whenever they are outdoors can offer their skin protection and reduce their risk of cancer.
Children should always wear a sunscreen that provides protection from both UVA and UVB sun rays whenever they are outdoors. A Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 should be worn to prevent sunburn. To get the protection sunscreen offers, it must be used correctly. Sunscreen should be applied thirty minutes prior to sun exposure and be reapplied according to the manufacturer’s instructions, typically every few hours, after a child swims or after sunscreen is wiped off.
For babies under 6 months of age, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sunscreen be used on babies under 6 months of age if protective clothing and shade is not available. When used it should only be applied to small areas of the body that are exposed.
When choosing sunscreen avoid combination sunscreen/bug sprays as bug sprays should typically be applied far less often than sunscreen. Children should also be encouraged to wear hats and sunglasses when in the sun. Swimsuits and clothing with a high Ultraviolet Protective Factor (UVF) can offer children additional protection as it reduces the amount of radiation that passes through the garment.