4 Your Health: Best practices for kids and sunscreen
Parents know that getting children outdoors is good for them. This summer, the chair of Allegheny Health Network's pediatrics department tells me it's crucial that kids play outside.
But it's just as crucial to make sure their skin is protected from the sun.
As a mom, I try to remember to make sure my kids have sunscreen from head to toe when we go outside. We went to see Dr. Joe Aracri, who says the majority of sun damage happens when you're young, and you don't see the effects until you're older.
"The biggest risk is for melanoma, and we know that's associated with excessive sun exposure," Aracri said. "So it's really important that you prevent excessive sun exposure to your skin so you don't have melanoma. And melanoma can be quite lethal."
He says a big mistake parents make is not how they apply sunscreen, but when.
"What most parents do, and I see it at the pool all the time: The kids come out, and the spray comes out, and they start sunscreening their children up when they're already at the pool," he said. "Remember, you want to put the sunscreen on before the kids get outside. So you want to do it a half-hour before sun exposure."
Focus on the areas you don't typically think about. Aracri said that "regions that typically get missed" include the tops of the ears, the tip of the nose, the forehead and in between the arms.
Older children can apply sunscreen themselves, but keep an eye on how well they do.
"You want to use elemental sunscreens on the face. These are sunscreens that have zinc oxide in them," Aracri said. "They have less chemicals in them. They won't irritate the eyes as much."
Whatever sunscreen you choose, don't just spray, but rub it into your skin up to your hairline and under your clothes. Use a makeup brush to work it into the face. Even on cloudy days, exposed skin can get burned.
"If you see your child is starting to develop a sunburn, what do you do? First, you want to cool down the skin as much as possible, increase their hydration, make sure they're drinking lots of water. And then you want to use anti-inflammatories like Motrin to help with the pain."
There are two types of sunscreen: elemental and chemical. Elemental contains zinc, and it literally makes a barrier between your skin and the sun. That type of sunscreen can be hypoallergenic too. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays.
Whatever you use, make sure to reapply every two hours and after swimming.