By Dr. Brown
Dermatologists now know that any exposure to the sun is detrimental to the skin. There is no such thing as a "healthy tan". Since most of us and our children spend a great deal of time outdoors in the summer or winter, it is important to protect the skin against exposure to the sun. Regular exposure and especially sun burns can result in skin cancer and premature wrinkling of the skin. Often the effects are not seen until many years or decades after the damage is done. The sun's rays are at their highest intensity between 10:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M.(CDT). The ultraviolet light that causes burns penetrates clouds, so the risk is as great on cloudy days as on sunny days. Long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats provide some protection, but beware of thin fabrics, especially light colors because the UV light may penetrate them. Because of use of sunscreen, it's important your child receives a Vitamin D supplement during winter and summer.
To be effective, sunscreen products must stay on the skin, must have an appropriate SPF(Sun Protection Factor) for your skin, must be used in a sufficient quantity and be freshly dated. Keeping it on: Waterproof formulas are recommended. Even if you are not swimming, your perspiration can wash sunscreen away. The choice of cream, spray, lotion, or oil is one of personal preference.
If your skin would normally begin to burn after 15 minutes in midday sun, a SPF of 4 would mean you could stay out 60 minutes before you would burn. Remember you do not see the burn (or tan) until many hours later. Infants and children should use SPF of 15-30. Children especially under 2 years may develop a rash from sunscreens that contain PABA. Since there are many products that are PABA-Free, most dermatologists recommend these PABA-Free sunscreens. There are a lot of children and adults who react with a rash to sunscreens over 30 SPF. So do not use these products over 30 SPF.
Most manufacturers recommend using at least one ounce of lotion for an average adult body. That means a typical 4 oz bottle only lasts for 4 applications at the beach! When you use less than this amount, it does not protect as well and will not give you the level of protection you bought.
Most sunscreens have an expiration date printed on the package. When in doubt if it is more than two years old, toss it out and replace it. When out of date, the SPF is dramatically less effective than rated.
Because the combination SPF and Insect repellants do not work well, we do not recommend them. They are not waterproof, the SPF is usually too low for real protection, the repellant is too dilute also. As with all medications, do not allow your child to use as a teething object or toy. Also, reapplication of this combination product may end up putting too much insect repellant on.
Other Summer Hints
While you are out picking up sunscreen, pick up some antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin, Neosporin, Bacitracin for use on abrasions and minor cuts. These wounds can be best washed with a deodorant soap like Dial, Coast, or Safe Guard then treated with the antibiotic ointment 4 times a day for a few days. Healing is faster and scars are minimized if treated this way.