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Sunscreen and Children: How to Apply and How Often



Dr. Vicki Herrman, Boys Town Pediatrics

Sun exposure should be avoided and that should be the first thing that is stressed in summer.  You should avoid the sun between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon and that will preserve your skin.  You will look better in later years.  You will feel better.  You will not get sunburns.  If you go out, light clothing, loose clothing with long sleeves and a hat with a brim are really a good idea just to preserve your skin health.  If you do decide to sit out in the sun or go to Hawaii, you should apply sunscreen.  It should be applied before you go out.  The minimum of SPF 15 according to the Academy of Pediatrics you can go higher but 30 doesn't double the time you can spend out in the sun.  That's a little bit of a delusion people have.

You should apply enough which is like a full ounce.  Imagine two tablespoons of it to your body.  So you have to apply enough and you have to reapply it every two hours.  That is pretty important.  If you are not using it correctly it is not going to work. 

Kids can get very ill from sunburns.  I have seen children with second degree burns on their shoulders that really needed burn care.  It doesn't take too long, especially in fair skinned people or people like us in Nebraska.  We are not exposed to sun all winter and then our skin is not ready for an onslaught of solar radiation. 

The more burns you have the earlier in life, the more likely you are to have skin cancer and I think that is something to really consider and I think that is why parents are so protective of their kids skin.

If it is just what we call a first degree burn, where they are just reddened, you can use an aloe based lotion if you want.  Those are considered very soothing.  Don't put a lot of chemicals especially on small babies.  Old kids you can start doing it a little more.  You know, benzocaine based stuff and painkiller, but I wouldn't use that on kids under two.  If you've got true blisters and they cover more than a couple of inches of the body, you should probably have a practitioner look at it.  I'm not talking about just peeling skin, because a lot of first degree burns will eventually peel.  I'm talking a about blisters, the day after where you're saying wow, this baby really blistered and let us take a look at it.  Let us look at kind of how much of the body is covered and see if it needs any other attention. 

​Kids can get very ill from sunburns.  Sun exposure should be avoided, but if you do go out in the summer sun, precautions and sunscreen needs to be applied.  Dr. Vicki Herrman, pediatrician with Boys Town Pediatrics, explains how parents should apply sunscreen to their child and how often.