School may be right around the corner, but there’s still plenty of time left to spend in the sun. Heads up moms and dads: Even a few serious sunburns raise your child’s risk of skin cancer. What’s more, most of the sun damage to skin occurs in childhood. That means protecting your child’s skin with sunscreen is essential.
Christy Forbes, APRN, nurse practitioner with HSHS Medical Group in Greenville and Vandalia, offers some tips to use sunscreen properly.
“Avoid exposing babies younger than 6 months to direct sun,” says Forbes. “The best way to protect their delicate skin is to keep them in the shade. Dress them in a wide-brimmed hat and lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs. If there’s no shade, it’s OK to apply sunscreen to small areas of a baby’s exposed skin.”
Even if it’s cool or cloudy, kids still need sunscreen. Clouds don’t block the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Not every sunscreen will do. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, has a sun protection factor of 30 or higher, and is water-resistant. You may also want to select a sunscreen that doesn’t contain oxybenzone, a chemical that may have hormonal properties.
You need to think ahead. “Sunscreen should be applied to dry skin 15 minutes before going outside,” says Forbes. “It needs time to be absorbed in the skin. Also be aware that one application may not be enough. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.”
It’s important to be thorough. When applying sunscreen, don’t forget to cover ears, noses, feet and hands, and the backs of knees.
Forbes is accepting patients of all ages at both of her locations. For an appointment at HSHS Holy Family Health Center in Greenville, call 618-664-1380. For an appointment at HSHS Medical Group Health Center in Vandalia, call 618-690-3597.