How to Protect Your Kids From the Sun

by Jennifer A. Gardner, M.D. on July 05, 2013

Romping In the Sun Is Fun, But Burning In It Is Not.

Hurray! School is out, and it’s time for play! But regardless of where, be it yard, playground, pool, or other, one element will be common to all—increased sun exposure. 

Fortunately for our kids, we as a society know much more than we did just 20 years ago about the perils of sun exposure.  Gone are tanning oil and sunbathing. In their place are sunscreen and umbrellas.

Below are some easy guidelines for maximizing your children’s protection from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Keep in mind that it's the sun’s UV rays that cause skin cancer, and they are present every day, rain or shine. That’s right, every day.

So to protect your children from UV rays, you should:

  • Try to limit sun exposure. A good way to do this is to keep your kids out of the sun between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM, when the sun is strongest.
  • Have your children cover up—by wearing wide brimmed hats and UV resistant clothing whenever possible, which is different from regular clothing and will say so on the label.
  • At least 30 minutes before your kids go outside, apply broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both UVA (“aging”) and UVB (“burning”) radiation, to all uncovered areas.
  • It should have a minimum SPF of 30, and mineral based sunscreens are best.
  • Don’t forget to cover the lips, ears, neck, hands, and tops of feet.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and after bathing, sweating, or toweling off.
  • Adults should use 1.5 ounces of sunscreen for each application (roughly the amount in a shot glass). Modify as needed for each child.
  • At this rate, a family of 4 should use almost one 6 ounce bottle every 2 hours (that's right, one bottle every 2 hours).
  • Instead of using several bottles per day, you may want to cover up with UV protective fabrics while outside. This can optimize your protection and reduce costs too.
  • Also have your kids wear sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB radiation whenever possible, to prevent cataracts as an adult.

​For more, see this helpful guide provided by the American Academy of Dermatology.

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