Sun Protection And Your Child

We know that the more a person is exposed to sun early in life, the higher the chances are that skin cancer develops at an older age. This is because children’s skin is actually more susceptible to sun-induced damage. In Ontario, 50% of all children spend at least 2 hours in the sun and this, when the UV rays are the strongest, often in un-shaded play areas. The best way to prevent this long-term “potential sun-induced” consequence is to protect children and ourselves from the sun at all times, particularly when the UV index is 3 or higher. This applies to tanning beds as well. Ontario law (Skin Cancer Prevention Act) prohibits the provision of tanning services to persons less than 18 years of age.

Here are some other important sun protection facts and tips that reflect the latest evidence-based recommendations (Spring 2017) by the Ontario Sun Safety Working group:

  • In Canada, the sun’s rays are the strongest usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. from April to September.
  • Sunscreens are designed to basically block the sun’s rays. The “Sun Protection Factor” (SPF) is a measure of how much protection the sunscreen offers. For example, an SPF of 30 means that a child can stay out in the sun 30 times longer than without the sunscreen. The recommended SPF is 30 (at the very least) and the sunscreen should be “broad-spectrum” (protects against both UV-A and UV-B light rays) and labeled as “water resistant”.
  • Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure because it takes some time for them to work on the skin. Remember that even “waterproof” sunscreens need to be reapplied every two hours.
  • Make sure that all potentially exposed areas are covered including the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears and the shoulders. While putting sunscreen on the face, avoid the eyes. If the screen burns the eyes, try a new type or one that can be applied with a stick applicator.
  • It is important to wear close-fitting/wrap-around sunglasses with UV 400(or 100%) UV protection, any time of the day outdoors, all year round as direct sunrays to the eye may cause cataracts.
  • Never use suntan oil, as it offers no protection and causes the skin to burn quicker. In addition, sunscreens that contain PABA should be avoided.
  • Sun rays can go through clouds and can cause damage even on cloudy days. In the shade, the sun’s rays can bounce from sand, concrete or snow, so keep that in mind as well. Sunglasses with UVA/B protection are also recommended.
  • Babies less than six months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. Baby should be dressed in clothing that covers all of the body (long sleeves, long leg pants etc.). Put your baby in the shade( i.e…under a tree, stroller canopy etc.).
  • Hats or bonnets are also necessary. A cap with a bill is helpful, however, the bill should be facing forward (not like a catcher in baseball) in order to protect the face. Also, tightly woven clothes offer better protection, than clothes with a wider weave.
  • If your child gets a sunburn, keep him/her completely out of the sun until the burn is fully healed.

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Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.