By Dr. John Jones
As the parent of two sets of twins, 4 and 6 years old, I am “dad in charge” when it comes to getting the kids outside on a beautiful day.
Not only is it fun for them to run around in the fresh air and burn off all of that little-kid energy, it’s good for their health.
As a pediatric emergency physician, I know the importance of getting out in the sun for a daily dose of vitamin D. It aids the body in absorbing nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus, which ensure strong bones and a strong immune system, regulate blood pressure, reduce stress and tension, and more.
What you need to know
However, the risks associated with excessive sun exposure can have lasting effects, especially on young, sensitive skin. In fact, dermatologists tell us that it only takes one severe sunburn to potentially double your child’s chances of getting melanoma later in life.
Fortunately, new research shows that regular use of sunscreen during the first 18 years of life can reduce the lifetime incidence of skin cancer by 78 percent. That’s critical because skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in more than two million people are diagnosed annually — more than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon.
These findings led the Skin Cancer Foundation to implement new standards for sunscreens in its Seal of Recommendation program. These include rigorous ultraviolet A (UVA) protection requirements, and sunscreens are now divided into two categories based on their intended use: daily use and active use. More than 80 brands and more than 1,000 products have currently earned the Seal of Recommendation. Click here to view them.
Grab that sunscreen and apply it liberally. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
1. When: The sun is most intense from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going out during these hours.
2. Where: Cover all of your skin that will be exposed to the sun. Think “BEENS”: Back of knees, Ears, Eye area, Neck, and Scalp.
3. Which SPF: Opt for a sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Make sure it’s labeled “broad spectrum,” which means it blocks both UVA and UVB sunlight. UVA rays cause sunburn. UVB rays are the main cause of wrinkles.
4. How much: While the standard recommendation is to use about 35 ml (or 1 ounce) of sunscreen (the same amount that would fill up a shot glass), we recommend you really lather it on.
Dr. Maguire, who also has four children, says he might go through an entire 8-ounce bottle when he’s applying sunscreen for a day at the beach. “Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen, so use more than you think you should,” he says.
5. Shake it up: Remember to shake the bottle to mix all the particles so they are distributed evenly in the container.
6. Kids: Starting at 6 months of age, begin applying sunscreen. If your kids fuss about it, as mine often do, teach them to spell BEENS with the cream.
7. Note: If you are using insect repellent, it can reduce a sunscreen’s SPF by up to one third. So use a higher SPF, and reapply more often.