Keeping Children of All Skin Colors Safe in the Sun

August 22, 2013
Written by Rita Cook in
All About Family
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children outside in the sun
Remember skin cancer does not discriminate therefore it is important to keep children of all skin colors safe while in the sun, especially during hot summer months, which can be long in some geographical areas. Photo Credit:

Keeping children of all skin colors safe while in the sun should be top priority during all seasons, but especially summer months, which can be very long in many geographical areas.

Brett Johnson, MD, Director of the Methodist Family Medicine Residency Program at Methodist Charlton Medical Center in Texas knows a little about the sun. After all, during the summer time and even in the cooler months when the sun is shining, Texas can be hot and the sun bright putting children in danger of sun exposure.

While Johnson points out that, of course, there are benefits to the sun like vitamin D, there are also risks and long term effects too. 

Even though the skin cancer ratio is much lower in darker skin children, because of increased melanin, no child is immune anymore.  For black children, there are important differences, but the thing to remember overall is that skin cancer does not discriminate therefore it is important to use sunscreen on children of any ethnicity.

child wearing sunglasses

Johnson says "Lifelong sun protection is recommended beginning at an early age" no matter the skin color. "Although sunscreen is the most commonly used method of sun protection, parents should not rely solely on sunscreen." Johnson says that a complete program of sun protection includes wearing clothing and hats, timing activities to minimize peak hours of the sun, and protecting the eyes by wearing sunglasses.

As for sunscreen, Johnson recommends using one that says "broad-spectrum" on the label since this type of protection screens out both UVB and UVA rays for children of any skin tone. In addition, it is also wise to make sure children are wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.

For babies younger than six months, protective clothing is a must as well as lots of shade and the application of sunscreen on the face and the back of the hands. For the exposed areas of the body on children of any age, proper sun protection on the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears and the shoulders is also important and a sun block with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is recommended.

parent applying sunblock to a child

Always apply sunscreen to your child 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors to give time for the sunscreen to be absorbed into to the skin, Johnson says, "Remember that you can get sunburn even on cloudy days. Also, UV rays can bounce back from water, sand, snow, and concrete."  

Keep applying sunscreen every two hours or more if the child is swimming or sweating.

"Using sunscreen and other methods of skin protection will help avoid uncomfortable sunburns and protect the skin for the future for children of all ethnicities," Johnson concludes.

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