I can’t believe it’s already the middle of June – how fast time flies! Before we know it, it will be August and everyone will be booking their back to school physicals at Agave Pediatrics. Every summer, I look forward to my annual vacation at Laguna Beach where my extended family gathers for a week of fun, a tradition my grandparents started over 50 years ago. And with that brings questions from my family regarding sunscreen and sun protection for all the kids. Here’s the lowdown I give them:
Slather on the Sunblock! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends sunscreen on all children 6 months of age and older with ALL sun exposure. Choose a child-friendly sunscreen that contains either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which tend to be less irritating than others and are considered the safest for children. Pick one that is labeled “broad spectrum” which means it blocks against both UVA and UVB sunlight and has a SPF of 30 or higher. It’s fine to go ahead and use higher SPF products, but they actually don’t block more UVB rays. Sunscreens with a SPF of 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays, therefore a higher SPF isn’t really necessary since nothing protects us 100%. The trick is choosing a product your child will wear, be it a lotion, spray, or stick, and apply it at least 15 minutes prior to going outside; reapplying at least every 2 hours because even the water-resistant sunscreens wear off. My nieces and nephews can barely sit still so I love the spray options, which are just as effective when you spray thoroughly, and I use the stick options on their face since they are sweat proof and less likely to drip.
The other tips I give to prevent sunburn is to cover up. The goal is to wear clothing that is dark and tightly woven to cover exposed skin. If you can see through it, the sun can shine through too! Now you can buy special clothing that is treated to protect against UV rays, but even easier than buying new clothes is buying a product like SunGuard, a laundry additive that provides ultraviolet protection. Toss it in the wash with their clothes and you get protection that can last up to 20 washings. Combine that with hats and sunglasses (that filter both UVB and UVA rays) and we’re ready to hit the beach.
But what to do with our little ones who are less than 6 months of age who don’t want to be left behind! While the older recommendation is to avoid sunscreen on children less than 6 months of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending sunscreen on small exposed areas of younger babies, such as the hands and face, that can’t be covered up by clothes, hats, and sunglasses. Test it out on a small area first; to make sure their sensitive skin can tolerate the product.
So as you’re packing your bags, don’t forget all the essentials for sun safety. Also, if you’ve got sunscreen left over from the past year, throw it in! The FDA actually requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least 3 years. Of course, no trip is complete without the photos to capture all the fun. Here’s one of me (on the far right) with my family last year at the beach!