Sun Protection in Children

Summer is coming up, and children all over Kauai will be heading to the beach.  Protection from the sun is important, as sunburns can be painful, and tissue damage can lead to skin cancer.  Children and infants are especially susceptible, because their bodies are still growing, their skin have less melanin (the pigment that helps protect from the sun), and they are more likely to be at risk for dehydration.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Infant less than six months

Infants should not be in prolonged sunlight, period.  They are too young to use sunscreens.  Their skin is especially sensitive and more likely to react.

If you do go to the beach, keep infants covered by long sleeved onesies and a large hat or bonnet.  Keep in mind that baseball caps do not protect the ears and neck.

The dry air and warm temperature put babies at higher risk or becoming dehydrated.  Be sure to give them a chance to hydrate more often than usual.

Avoid being outside during the hottest times of the day, from 10 AM to 4 PM.  Keep infants in shady areas under trees, pavilions, umbrellas, and tents

Infants and children older than six months

Consider choosing a ‘chemical free’ sunscreen made of zinc oxide or titanium oxide.  These physically block out the sun and start working immediately.

Although chemical sunscreens containing PABA or oxybenzone are generally safe, children have thinner skin and more likely to react to the chemicals.  Also, chemical sunscreens need to be applied about 15-20 minutes prior and do not start working immediately.

Avoid ‘all in one’ lotions with sunscreen and a bug repellant combined.  They tend to do poorer at both jobs.

Aim for a SPF (sun protection factor) between 15 and 30.  Anything above 30 adds minimal protection and has higher concentrations of unwanted chemicals.

Apply the sunscreen thickly, covering every part of the body, but especially the burn-prone areas of the body: the ears, nose, back of neck, and shoulders

Reapply the sunscreen often.  In general, reapply every two hours or each time they get wet and dry off with a towel.  Don’t believe a product that says it lasts for 8 hours; that only works if you have a child that is completely still and dry for the whole day.

Follow these tips and have a fun, safe day at the beach!