Dr. Mona Amin is a board certified pediatrician practicing in Florida. Follow on instagram @pedsdoctalk to find her always educated and insightful pediatric advice!
This is my favorite time of year: long days, barbecues, picnics, swimming, and a whole bunch of outdoor activities under the sun. Growing up in Southern California, I was no stranger to the sun. My mom would remind me to stay in the shade and all I wanted was that sun-kissed feeling on my skin. I would spend hours at the beach and I regrettably neglected my sun-care routine. I thought that because I had a darker skin complexion, I would be protected from skin issues like sunburn and skin cancer. It wasn’t until medical school and a trip to Mexico that I got my first sunburn and was reminded of the obvious and not so obvious damages too much sun can do to our skin: and it all begins in childhood.
Children need to be protected from the sun as their skin is sensitive and most sun exposure happens in childhood. They spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in the summer and we need to protect their youthful skin from harmful UV rays. Remember that the sun’s UV rays also come through on overcast days, so don’t forget to apply sunscreen on cloudy days also!
Sun safety tips
For babies under 6 months:
- Keep babies out of direct sunlight. Use an umbrella, tree, or stroller canopy to cover them.
- Try to avoid being outside during peak sun-time. This is when the sun is directly overhead (between 10am-4pm).
- Put on a brimmed hat that protects their delicate face, ears, and neck.
- Dress them in breathable clothing that covers their arms and legs.
- When necessary (shade is not available and you have to be outside), apply a minimal amount of sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Use sunscreen with at least a SPF 15 to small areas like the infant’s face and back of the hands.
- Personally, I advice families to try to avoid prolonged sun exposure as much as possible under the age of 6 months.
For babies/children over 6 months:
- For prolonged outdoor activities for children above 6 months, try to avoid peak sun time. If you must be outside, make sure to bring an umbrella or find a shady spots for occasional relief from the sun.
- Put a brimmed hat on your child to protect their delicate face, ears, and neck.
- Dress your child in sun safe clothing! Clothing with a certified UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating is ideal. This includes Lark Adventurewear. Lark Adventurewear makes UPF 50+ clothing that is breathable, durable and protects your little ones against sun exposure and sweat-related heat rashes.
- When you are choosing sun safe clothing, look for clothes with a tight weave. This means that if you hold it up to the sun, little light comes through the weaves. The more light that comes through, the more sun gets in.
- Apply sunscreen with a SPF 15 or greater to all exposed areas 30 minutes prior to sun exposure.
- If you’re going to be somewhere with a chance of no shade, have your child wear sunglasses with 99% UV protection. Looks for kid’s sizes that fit their face and are comfortable.
- Set an example yourself. Remember to reapply your sunscreen when you reapply theirs.
It’s great to use sunblock, but remember that there is a proper way to apply it and reapply it! It’s not enough to apply once and forget it.
Here are some tips on ways to choose a sunblock and other tips related to sunblock:
- Look for SPF 15-50. The additional benefits of SPF 50+ are limited.
- The SPF number indicates how well a sunscreen protects against UVB rays. If it takes you 10 minutes to burn without sunscreen, applying an SPF 15 sunblock will take 15 times longer to burn (150 minutes of sun exposure before burning).
- Look for a sunblock that says “broad-spectrum” on the label. This encompasses protection against UVA and UVB rays
- Look for UVA star ratings (1-4). 4 is the highest protection available.
- Choose a water-resistant sunscreen and still remember to reapply every two hours or after getting wet. Rub into skin well!
- For sensitive areas (nose, cheeks, and top of the ears), choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These may not dissolve into the skin and will remain visible.
Sun safety is important for the whole family. Enjoy the summer and remember that sun safety is important on cloudy days and winter days also.
More About Dr. Amin:
Dr. Amin was born and raised in Southern California. She attended UCLA majoring in Psychobiology. She worked in Mindfulness Meditation research and residence life prior to attending medical school. I attended D.O. medical school in Arizona at A.T. University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona. As part of her medical school training, she moved to Brooklyn, NY rotating in underserved areas as part of a collaboration our med school had with Community Health Centers. For residency, she went to Upstate NY at The Bernard and Millie Duker Children's Hospital in Albany, NY. For the last four years Dr. Amin has been working in private practice. First in NYC and now in Florida. She's happily married to her husband who is an ER doctor and they have an amazing puppy named Shiloh.