Healthy You - Every Day

Keeping Kids Safe Under the Sun

You can minimize your child’s risk for sunburn by following a few helpful tips

Keeping Kids Safe Under the Sun

During the sweltering summer months, it’s common for kids of all ages to spend more time outside and participate in warm weather activities.

“It’s great for kids to go outdoors and stay active when they are on summer break,” says pediatric nurse practitioner Krystal Trinkle, CRNP, with Lehigh Valley Physician Group Pediatrics (LVPG)–Pennsburg. “Physical activity can have a positive influence on both physical and mental health, and spending time in the sun provides vitamin D, which is good for bone health.”

However, there are risks to playing in the sun as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting as little as a few serious sunburns during childhood can increase your risk for skin cancer in the future.

To help you protect the children in your life, Trinkle offers some sun safety tips:

Keep infants out of the sun

Sunscreen is not recommended for children under six months of age, and in general, a baby’s skin burns easily.

Because of this, it’s best to limit the time babies are in direct sunlight.

Regularly re-apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher

Children over 6 months of age should have their sunscreen re-applied every two hours. However, if they are sweating a lot or just coming out of the water, they should have it re-applied right away (regardless of how long it’s been).

“To make applying sunscreen easier, you can play a game of Simon Says where the child needs to keep their arms up or stay very still,” Trinkle says. “Little tricks like that can be especially helpful for younger children who are eager to get moving again.”

Broad-spectrum sunscreens are a good option for kids because they protect against both UVA and UVB rays, which can both damage skin.

“During the summer, the number one thing I tell my patients and their parents is to wear sunscreen. Like your phone, wallet and keys, you don’t want to leave home without it.” - Krystal Trinkle, CRNP

Use mineral sunscreens instead of chemical options

There are two main types of sunscreen: mineral and chemical. While all sunscreen protects against the sun, mineral sunscreens are typically preferred by health care experts for a variety of reasons.

“I recommend mineral sunscreen because it just sits on top of the skin and doesn’t absorb into it,” Trinkle says. “Chemical sunscreen absorbs directly into the skin, which can sometimes affect hormone function.”

When picking out a sunscreen, Trinkle recommends looking for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide on the product’s ingredient list.

Consider hats, sunglasses and sun protective clothing

Sunscreen is the number one choice for sun protection, but wearing a hat and sunglasses can help protect parts of the body that it can’t be applied to.

There are also pieces of clothing specifically designed to block the sun’s rays, which is a great option for outdoor sports and playtime.

Plan for the sun’s strongest rays

“In general, the sun is at its strongest during midday,” Trinkle says. “If you can plan some activities in the shade during that time, or even take a break inside, that’s great. If not, keeping up with sunscreen is the best way to stay protected.”

When it comes to sun protection, keeping a few things in mind can not only prevent sunburn in the short-term, but it can also protect your children from related health concerns in the future.

“During the summer, the number one thing I tell my patients and their parents is to wear sunscreen,” Trinkle says. “Like your phone, wallet and keys, you don’t want to leave home without it.”

Banner Image-Childrens Hospital

Lehigh Valley Reilly Children’s Hospital

Your partner that’s better prepared than anyone in the region to care for kids.

Learn more

Explore More Articles