Keeping Your Child Safe in the Sunshine

Date Created: 06/24/2016
By Nicholas Dodaro, M.D., ABEM, FACEP

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Sunbathing and weekend outings are prime times for sunburns for you and your child. In some cases sunburn, depending on the UV Index factor, can occur in less than 15 minutes. Before you go outdoors, be sure to protect your little one’s skin against damaging sun.

Keep in mind that not all sunscreens are the same. New FDA rules for sunscreen labels make it a lot easier for you to compare products when you shop for sunscreen.

Once children reach the 6-month mark, you need to keep them protected from the sun without harming them in other ways. The Environmental Working Group's recommendations for the best sunscreens for children are products that do not contain potential hormone disruptors. According to EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews, it's inactive ingredients like retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) and oxybenzone that parents need to watch for.    

Here’s what you can do to protect your child’s skin:

1.     Use sunscreen daily. Apply sunscreen every two hours if they’re swimming or sweating. Sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and be water resistant. When applying, pay close attention to hands, feet and bald spots. Follow these other tips:

o   Look for “broad spectrum” on the label. It means the product passes government tests for effectiveness.

o   Choose products that are water resistant for 40-80 minutes. The terms “waterproof” and “sweat proof” are no longer allowed because they’re misleading.

o   Use one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass).

o   Check the expiration date and replace as needed.

o   Allow 15 minutes for your child’s skin to absorb the product before going outside.

o   Reapply after two hours of sun exposure—and immediately after sweating or swimming. 

o   Avoid spray products — they're convenient but not the best choice. Why skip the convenience of spray lotions? "You don't get a uniform coating on the skin," Andrews says. Plus, "Given the concern about the ingredients in these products, we really don't want to coat the inside of our lungs with sunscreen."

3.     Protect their eyes. Have your child wear sunglasses that feature broad-spectrum protection.

5.     Avoid prime time. Try to stay indoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.

Protecting your child’s skin now will help prevent age spots, wrinkles and even skin cancer that can appear years or  decades later. It takes just a few minutes before you head outside.

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Nicholas Dodaro, M.D., ABEM, FACEP

Dr. Dodaro is board certified with the American Board of Emergency Medicine and is a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians. He is a graduate of Tulane University Medical School in New Orleans, Louisiana. His residency training included an internship at Georgetown University in Internal Medicine followed by Emergency Medicine at the University of Florida HSC Jacksonville, Florida. Dr. Dodaro still enjoys seeing patients in all Crucial Care facilities and serves in a variety of leadership and management roles throughout the organization. He has held privileges in a variety of settings, such as private hospitals, free standing Emergency Departments, and Academic Medical Centers. He is actively involved in the growth and development of the Crucial Care Management Services based in Jacksonville. Dr. Dodaro enjoys spending time with his wife and three children.

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