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Sun: Protecting Your Child's Skin

Parent applying sunscreen on child

Too much sun exposure can cause severe sunburns, including blisters, illness, shivering, and fever. In the long term, too much sun exposure can cause early aging of the skin and even skin cancer.

It is important to protect your child's skin from the sun. This can include applying sunscreens, wearing sun-protective clothing, and avoiding the sun completely.

  • The fairer your child's skin is, the greater chance your child will get a sunburn.
  • On days that are cloudy or overcast, the sun’s rays can still reach your child.
  • The sun’s rays are at their strongest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m..
  • Babies under 6 months should avoid the sun, because sunscreens are not recommended in this age group. Keep them in the shade at all times.

Sunscreens

Sunscreen agents that your child can use on the skin do the following things:

  • protect against the sun’s harmful rays (UV rays)
  • protect against sunburn
  • help prevent sun-related skin changes such as wrinkles, pigment (skin colour) changes, and skin cancer

Choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB, which are the damaging components of sunlight.

Sun protection factor (SPF) refers to the degree of protection from UVB rays. It does not include protection against UVA rays.

Chemicals that protect the skin against UVA include:

  • oxybenzone
  • avobenzone
  • ecamsule

Sunscreens that contain substances such as titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide protect against both UVA and UVB.

Choosing and using sunscreen

Follow these steps when choosing and using sunscreen:

  • Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally and often to all parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, especially the face and neck.
  • Apply and re-apply every 2 to 3 hours, especially when your child does outdoor activities or after water activities or swimming.

Other tips for reducing sun exposure

  • Avoid tanning beds. Studies have shown that using tanning beds increases your risk for skin damage and skin cancer significantly.
  • Avoid going out in the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is when UV radiation is the strongest.
  • Participate in outdoor activities earlier or later in the day.
  • Avoid sunbathing.
  • Look for areas that are shaded or covered instead of sitting in the direct sun.
  • Wear loose, long-sleeved cotton tops, and pants. This helps keep you covered and cool during the day. Cotton and linen are the best materials for staying cool.
  • Wear a sunhat.

Medications and sun exposure

Certain medications may cause skin to become more sensitive to sunlight. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Key points

  • Too much sun exposure can cause sunburns and long-term skin damage, including early aging of the skin and cancer.
  • It is important to protect your child's skin from the sun. This can include applying sunscreens, wearing sun-protective clothing, and avoiding the sun completely.
  • Your child or teenager should not use tanning beds.

Miriam Weinstein, MD, FRCPC
Michelle Lee, RN
Jackie Su, RN
Elena Pope, MD, MSc, FRCPC

Charis Kelly, RN(EC), MN

9/19/2013
 

Helfrich YR, Sachs DL, Voorehees JJ. Overview of skin aging and photoaging. Dermatology Nu





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