Posted: Jun 25, 2013 8:00 AM
Being in the great outdoors is simply good for kids. Playing, exploring and learning in nature are all good for their bodies, minds and emotional well-being. This much we know. But we also know that being outside means protecting their delicate skin from potentially harmful UV rays.

Myth #1

Melanoma is a skin cancer that only adults get.

isolated sunscreen

Fact^ Unfortunately, the rate of melanoma, while still relatively rare in children, is steadily rising. Seventy-five percent of pediatric cases occur in adolescents ages 15-19.

Myth #2

My teen wants to go to a tanning booth. I guess it's safer than tanning outdoors.

Fact^Tanning booths are not safer. There is no safe way to tan. Your child is still exposed to the same damaging UV rays in a tanning booth.

Myth #3

Oops, I forgot the sunscreen today. Oh well, it's just this once. I'm sure it will be fine.

Fact^ It only takes one blistering sunburn in childhood to more than double your child's risk of developing skin cancer later in life. In fact, sun damage is additive, and since a person's lifetime sun exposure mainly occurs during childhood (80 percent of it), protecting your child's skin every day is crucial.

Myth #4

The higher the SPF, the longer my child can stay out in the sun without reapplying it.

Fact^ SPF refers to protection against UVB rays, the rays that are responsible for the development of most skin cancers. A good sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 15 (30 is ideal for days spent in the sun), but anything over 50 is simply overkill and provides no additional protection.

Myth #5

On cloudy days, I don't need to apply sunscreen to my child.

fact^ Cloud cover does not stop UV rays from reaching the earth. Don't get lulled into a false sense of security. A child can still burn on an overcast day at the beach.

Myth #6

It's not safe to use sunscreen on a baby.

fact^ For infants under 6 months old, it's ideal to limit the amount of sunscreen used. But that being said, it should be used on exposed areas such as the hands, face and neck. Use sun protective clothing and hats to cover most of your baby's body.

isolated straw hat

Don't Forget!^

All sunscreens, including those claiming to be very water-resistant or water-proof, need to be reapplied at least every two hours.

More sun safety tips:

  • Use a sunscreen that is “broad spectrum” so you can be sure it provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Ninety-five percent of the rays that reach earth are UVA rays, and the other five percent are UVB.
  • Keep water on hand to prevent dehydration on hot days.
  • Check out the Environmental Working Group to find a sunscreen that is safe and effective for your child.
  • When spending the day out in the sun, remember to think of the whole sun protection package which should include: sun-protective clothing, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen and water.
  • Don't forget to reapply at least every two hours!

More reading about your child's health

Eczema 101: The mainstays of skin care
Guard your kids against heat-related illness
Teens and the kissing disease