As the temperatures rise, so does the amount of time kids spend outside. Swimming and outdoor sports are great ways for them to stay fit, but they also mean increased exposure to the sun.
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Here are some things parents can do to make sure summer is both fun and safe:
1. Keep babies out of the sun
“When they’re younger than 6 months, they need to be kept out of the sun all the time,” says Elaine Schulte, MD, MPH, Chair of the Department of General Pediatrics at Cleveland Clinic. “Rather than applying sunscreen or sun protection products, dress them in hats and long sleeves and keep the stroller in the shade.”
2. Cover your head and face
Dr. Schulte recommends that children wear brimmed hats when playing outside to shade their faces and necks.
3. Make sure older kids stay safe, too
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children who have sunburns at an early age nearly double their risk of developing melanoma in adulthood.
Yet while younger children are fairly regular users of sunscreen, sunscreen use drops off as kids enter their teen years. A study conducted by researchers at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center found that among children who used sunscreen at age 11, only half were still using it regularly three years later.
“It’s a community-wide effort,” says Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist at Cleveland Clinic. “Coaches, swimming pool employees, and camp counselors should all strongly encourage sunscreen for kids. If you can get kids to wear sun-protective clothing, that’s even better.”
4. Type of sunscreen
In most cases, sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 or higher is appropriate.
“A ‘broad spectrum’ lotion, or one that blocks UVA and UVB rays, is also a good idea” Dr. Schulte says. “Some products may claim to have long-lasting protection, but they should still be reapplied often.”
5. Time of day
The AAP recommends that kids limit time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., as those are the hours when the sun’s rays are strongest.