The Importance of Sunscreen for Kids

Sunscreen protection in the pediatric population is immensely important. Various studies have shown a strong association between sun exposure early in life and risk of melanoma later in life. While adults are safe indoors at work, kids are running around playing outdoors and can receive 2–3 times more UV-B rays. One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence can more than double a person’s chance of developing melanoma later in life. This is why as pediatricians we are always telling parents to apply sunscreen to their children.

There are a few new FDA guidelines regarding advertising on sunscreen bottles. Look for bottles that are advertised as “broad spectrum” and you may notice that the bottles are now more accurately labeled as “water resistant” rather than “water-proof”. Seek shade between 10am and 2pm and reapply sunscreen every two hours while in the sun. Use SPF 30 or higher and wear sun protective clothing such as long sleeve shirts and pants and accessorize your wardrobe with wide brimmed hats and sunglasses.

Also, since we are talking about sun exposure, we can also mention another intervention that has essentially all of its impact during childhood years: Vitamin D and bone density. Essentially all of a persons bone density is deterrmined by 18 years of age and it is well known that Vitamin D and calcium are critically important. Pediatricians should be asking about milk intake (the only reliable dietary source of vitamin D) and many doctors screen for vitamin-D deficiency (with blood tests) and/or supplement with vitamin D pills. Incidental to our discussion, Vitamin D is also produced by your body during sun exposure, but this production is all but eliminated when applying sun screen.

So which one to choose? Apply the sunscreen or make some Vitamin D? My advice to parents is to let your kids have their fun in the sun, just be safe and protect them with sunscreen to minimize their risk of skin cancer Keep them well hydrated while they are out in the sun and when they get home they can get their vitamin D in a tall glass of milk (2–3 cups daily). Sure there are some kids that don’t like milk, but I have yet to meet one that wouldn’t take a chewable vitamin.

Dr. Faisal Chawla
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

After finishing his undergraduate studies at UC Irvine, Dr. Chawla completed his medical degree at the Temple University School of Medicine. Dr. Chawla completed his residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and is currently a Physician Advisor for the CHLA Hospitalist Division.

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author, an independent physician, and do not necessarily represent those of Heal. You should not assume or construe that this blog post represents the opinion of Heal. In addition, although this blog post provides information concerning potential medical issues, it should not be relied upon as medical advice. It is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified, licensed physician and does not replace a physician’s independent judgment about any given patient’s condition or appropriateness or risks of any treatment or procedure. Rather, this blog post is solely for general educational and informational purposes. Your reading of this blog post does not create any physician-patient relationship between you and the author.

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