by Dustin W. Bogan, PA-C
With children being out of school and college students home for a few months, summer is a time for the outdoors with your family. You may choose to pick fruit on a local farm, vacation to the beach, or even go hiking. All of these things involve one thing, the sun. The sun provides us with valuable vitamin D and has been proven to boost mood and productivity. Unfortunately, the sun also causes multiple forms of skin cancer.

Protecting yourself and your children while out in the sun is extremely important. I am hopeful that the following tips can allow you to safely enjoy all that summer has to offer.

Infants under 6 months of age are at an increased risk of sunburn and sunscreen is not generally recommended. Keep them in the shade and covered when able. I often encourage light cotton clothing that is breathable to cover high-risk areas and hats that shade the face. When sun exposure is absolutely unavoidable, then you may use a small amount of at least SPF 15 on exposed areas. I also encourage parents to look for a scent-free product that has the least amount of additives to lower the risk of skin irritation.  There are now a wide range of products with natural ingredients like zinc that protect physically instead of chemically.

All children over the age of 6 months should wear sunscreen on all exposed areas. The SPF rating should also increase to around SPF 30 to increase the duration of protection. Sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes before going out in the sun. It should then be reapplied every 2 hours. Sunscreen may need to be applied more often if water is involved. Remember, shade, hats, and protective clothing or bathing suits should still be considered.

Sunscreen comes in a variety of forms and strengths. It can be single spectrum, which is not very common, or broad spectrum allowing it to protect from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA and UVB rays are the forms of radiation that lead to skin cancer. The SPF rating on the bottle helps determine how long the sunscreen is able to protect from the sun and not how much protection is given.

Peak sun periods occur each day between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. It is important to avoid direct prolonged sun exposure during these hours if possible. If you are unable to avoid the sun, sunscreen becomes even more important.

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