Stapleton Pediatrics Blog

Sun and Sunscreen Safety

by Brandon Davison-Tracy, MD

It’s been said that in Colorado, we enjoy 300 days of some sunshine per year, so it’s important to take precautions to care for our children’s skin during all four seasons. Here are some common questions and answers about sun and sunscreen safety.
What SPF (Sun Protection Factor) number should I use for my child?
Make sure that your sunscreen SPF is at least 30 and that you are using sunscreen that is broad-spectrum (protection from both UVA and UVB rays) and water-resistant. It is not clear from studies if an SPF of more than 50 offers any additional protection.
How much sunscreen should I use on my child and how often should I reapply?
You should apply sunscreen generously. Some sunscreens must be applied up to 30 minutes prior to exposure, so be sure to read the label on your sunscreen. The most common reason for sunburn that we see is a failure to reapply! Regardless of the SPF, reapply sunscreen every two hours – even when it is cloudy. Reapply more frequently if your child is swimming or sweating.
I’ve heard conflicting reports that sunscreen is not safe; what is the real story? 
It is safe to use sunscreen. Using any sunscreen is better than using no sunscreen, since the benefits of prevention outweigh any existing, unproven concerns. If/when we receive new reports on sunscreen safety, we will pass them along to you.
At what age can I begin to use sunscreen on my child? 
You can apply a small amount of sunscreen to babies as young as two months old. Avoid excessive sun exposure, keep babies in the shade as much as possible, and always make sure they are wearing protective clothing.
Is sunscreen lotion better than spray sunscreen? 
The concerns about spray sunscreen are risks of accidental inhalation, which is being investigated by the FDA, and the possibility of inadequate coverage. The spray sunscreens work well, just be sure to use enough to cover all exposed areas and never spray near the eyes or mouth. If you are uncertain, it may be better to go with a lotion or sunscreen stick.

Does sunscreen expire?
Though the FDA requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years, it’s a good practice to throw them out after one year. Most sunscreens are not kept in a “cool dry place” and as a result can degrade faster than the expiration date indicates. If in doubt, “throw it out.”
Have a sun-safe summer!
It’s important to take the necessary precautions to protect your child’s skin, but there are important benefits of being outside as well. So be sun safe, have fun and enjoy another beautiful Colorado summer!
Posted: 7/8/2014 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments
Filed under: preventative, safety, summer, sun

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