Parents’ instinct is to protect their infants and toddlers from harm. Yet, many infants and toddlers are getting tans and sunburns on a regular basis. “Tans and sunburns increase your child’s risk of developing skin cancer later in life,” stated Dr. Sarah Campbell, board-certified dermatologist with Forefront Dermatology. “It is not completely out of the normal for a dermatologist to diagnose a teenager with melanoma after years of unprotected sun exposures. The sun safety steps you start taking from infancy on sets up your child’s future.”
Follow these recommended tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation:
• Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. Move your baby to the shade under a tree, umbrella or stroller canopy.
• Dress all children in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs and use brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn.
• When adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 30 SPF (sun protection factor) on infants under 6 months to small areas, such as the infant’s face and the back of the hands. Remember it takes 30 minutes to be effective.
• On children over 6 months of age, before applying, test the sunscreen on your child’s back for an allergic reaction. Apply carefully around the eyes, avoiding eyelids. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
• If an infant gets sunburn, apply cool compresses to the affected area.
• Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
• Select clothes made of tightly woven fabrics. Cotton clothing is both cool and protective.
Car rides can lead to unintended sun exposure, too. While glass screens out most UVB rays, the chief cause of sunburn, UVA rays can penetrate windows. Like UVB rays, UVA rays damage DNA and can lead to skin cancer. By law, front windshields are treated to filter out most UVA, but side and rear windows generally aren’t. Consider buying a UV shield, which you can hang over any window that allows sunlight to reach the child’s car seat. Otherwise, it’s best for your baby to wear sun-protective clothing in the car.
“It is important to start these healthy habits from infancy on. If you make this a part of your daily habits, your children will not second guess sunscreen. It will become ingrained in their memory that this is part of what we do before we go outside,” added Dr. Campbell. “It is also important to watch what we say. It’s not uncommon for individuals to say “look at my tan!” and talk positively about having tan lines when in reality tans are damaged skin increasing your odds of skin cancer. It starts with the positive example from the parents that could ultimately end in saving your child from developing skin cancer later in life.”
At Forefront Dermatology, we know that life is all about the moments when you don’t need us. That’s why we’re here for all the moments when you do. We offer comprehensive and compassionate care for all skin conditions and create customized treatment plans for all ages – even the tiniest of patients! Find a location near you today.