Melanoma risk is increased 80% by sustaining five or more sunburns in youth. One US study showed that 54% of children become sunburned or tanned in their second summer, versus 22% in their first.
“Children should not be getting sunburned at any age, especially since there are a range of very effective sun protection methods that can used,” said Perry Robins, MD, President, The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Parents need to be extra vigilant about sun protection all the time.”
Here are some ways to protect their young children.
Infants (0-6 months)
Infants under 6 months should be kept out of the sun because their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen. An infant’s skin possesses little melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin, hair and eyes and provides some sun protection. Therefore, infants get especially the sun’s damaging effects easily. Parents should take walks early in the morning before 10 AM or after 4 PM and use a stroller with a sun-protective cover. In addition, dress baby in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs and choose a wide-brimmed hat or bonnet that protects the baby’s face, neck, and ears.
Babies (6-12 months)
In this period, it’s safe to use sunscreen on babies. You should apply broad-spectrum, SPF 15+ sunscreen to areas left uncovered such as baby’s hands. Choose tear-free formulas that won’t sting baby’s eyes. Moreover, using a spray sunscreen should not be applied directly to the face. Parents should mist sprays into the hands, and then spread on the face. It’s very important for sunscreen to be applied 30 minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
It is important to educate your child and caregivers because protecting toddlers from the sun requires a little more thought and effort. You should use broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF 15 or higher for your toddlers and choose water-resistant, spray-on sunscreens for toddlers who won’t sit still. Spray sunscreens should not be applied directly to the face. You should mist spray into the hands, then spread on the face and make sure your child seeks the shade between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Toddlers should be covered by long-sleeved, unbleached cotton clothing that is cool and comfortable, while also highly protective. Clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) listing on the label offers extra security. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends clothing with a UPF of 30 or higher.