By John Mersch III, M.D.
The contents of this web site are provided as an informational tool. This is not intended to replace medical advice or care administered by a healthcare professional. Common sense should always be used when referencing this site. If, at any time, you feel your child is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
Growing up in Southern California and surfing from the 6th grade on, I lived in ignorant bliss regarding the damage I was doing by not using sunscreen. Girls of that time (my wife included) were constantly applying baby oil to their skin before spending long hours in the glare of the sun. Eight years ago she paid the price of such repeated skin irradiation—she died of melanoma. Every summer we see many kids with sunburns and even blistering due to lack of solar protection. Below is a summary of information found on the American Melanoma Foundation website. Let’s work together to protect ourselves and our children this summertime.
Select a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. If PABA (the common active ingredient in many sunscreens) is a skin irritant check the label for glycerol PABA, padimate A and/or padimate O—modifications of PABA that are less an irritating. The above agents only protect against UVB. Look for Oxybenzone, sulisobenzone and Parsol 1789 (also called avobenzone) to protect against UVA. Aim for an SPF value of 25 or greater.
Sunscreen is like salad dressing—shake it before you use it. Apply 30 minutes before sun exposure (it takes time to penetrate your skin and be fully effective). For people who will be sweating or will be in and out of water, try to use a “water proof” sunscreen. Remember, however, that such a designation purely means it can maintain it’s SPF value to a maximum of 80 minutes in water—reapplication is a must! Drying off with a towel may remove sunscreen—don’t forget to reapply. Pay special attention to “pointed” facial areas—ears and nose regions since these areas are especially prone to intense burning.
Many surfaces reflect UV rays and augment sun exposure effects—snow, sand, water and pavement are all common culprits. Try to avoid prolonged sun exposure during high intensity periods – 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. If you are going to be outside, remember a T-shirt only has a SPF value of 5-8. Wear sunscreen under light clothing. Don’t forget to use a lip balm with SPF protection. Sunglasses (with coating to protect against UVA and UVB) and a broad brimmed hat are very important.
All children (4 months and above) should be watched closely when out in the sun—research is indicating that sunburns sustained during childhood and adolescence are more likely to be implicated in later development of skin cancer than sunburn during the adult years.
If you have any questions regarding this information please feel free to discuss them with your child’s doctor or nurse practitioner.