JUL 24, 2020 6:51 AM PDT

Are you sunscreening your children the right way?

A new national poll suggests that parents are not using the best sunscreen application practices to protect their children from sunburns. The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at Michigan Medicine shows that while parents know about the importance of sunscreen, that knowledge doesn’t always follow through into practice. 

Photo: Pixabay

"Children are spending more time in the sun and possibly at beaches and pools as families enjoy outdoor summer activities. But too much sun exposure can be dangerous and damage the skin," says Mott Poll co-director and Mott pediatrician Gary Freed, M.D., M.P.H. "The majority of parents understand the importance of using sunscreen, but they may not always use a high enough SPF or reapply as often as they should to protect their children's skin."

The poll, which is based on responses from 1,120 parents of children ages 5-12, reports that the majority of parents have used sunscreen on their kids at least sometimes and agree it's very important in preventing sunburns and skin cancer, while half of parents also think that it is important in preventing premature aging and wrinkling.

Yet, 11% of parents do not use a specific minimum SPF for their kids and half say they may not reapply sunscreen unless their child was playing in the water. Furthermore, one in three parents don't re-apply sunscreen on a cloudy day, despite general knowledge that clouds don’t mean you can’t get burned. And even worse, 3% of parents say they don’t use sunscreen on their children at all!

"Parents should be aware that UV rays from the sun can reach their children on cloudy and hazy days, not just on bright and sunny days," Freed says. "Children need protection regardless of the amount of sunshine."

Freed explains that in order to adequately protect your children from UV rays and increased risk of skin cancer, you should use sunscreens with a minimum SPF of 15 to 30 that is "broad-spectrum," meaning it blocks both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation. You should also attempt to limit sun exposure on your children during the hottest hours of the day by dressing them in long clothing and hats. Additionally, as no sunscreen is waterproof, you should also re-apply it every couple of hours and even more often if your children have been in the water.

"Parents may believe their children are adequately protected from the sun but if the SPF is too low or they're not reapplying often enough, kids are still at risk of sunburns," Freed says. "Sunscreen is a key preventive tool against burns and skin cancer, but it must be used properly to be effective."

Sources: Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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