- Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 6 p.m.
- Yampa Valley Medical Center, 1024 Central Park Drive, Steamboat Springs
Because a “healthy tan” can be the first sign of future skin cancer and sun-damaged skin, it’s important for parents to protect their children from ultraviolet radiation. But how can kids play safely outside at 7,000 feet so close to the Earth’s most dangerous nuclear reactor, the sun?
Protection needs to start early, parents need to be good role models and kids need to adopt truly healthy habits early in life. So here are some sun safety tips to help protect children from skin cancer.
■ Protect skin early. For babies, avoid direct sun exposure. Or if that’s not possible, use ultraviolet protection factor clothing and physical block sunscreen.
■ Choose physical protection, not chemical. Because a young child’s skin is sensitive, use a physical sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These pure physical block ingredients provide the safest protection with the least potential for skin irritation.
A physical sunscreen deflects, rather than absorbs, UV rays and starts working the moment it is applied. Choose a sunscreen with at least sun protection factor 30. The Food and Drug Administration is replacing the imperfect SPF rating system, so stay tuned for more information coming soon. Test for reactions to any new topical product by first applying a tiny amount to a patch of skin on the arm or leg.
■ Use the right amount. Use 1 ounce (enough to cover your palm or fill a shot glass) for application on a child. For an adolescent, use 2 1/2 ounces.
■ Check the date. Sunscreens expire and lose efficacy.
■ Apply every two hours and after swimming or heavy sweating.
■ Wear ultraviolet protection factor clothing, sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. Coolibar and SunPrecautions are just two examples of the many clothing lines that carry infant to adolescent clothing that offers convenient protection. Don’t forget to cover up while swimming. Look for ultraviolet protection factor swim shirts for long-lasting protection as sunscreen rinses off.
■ Keep children in the shade when possible, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Remember, water and snow reflect sunlight and intensify exposure.
■ Forbid use of tanning beds and sunbathing. Show them scary pictures of skin cancer and wrinkles.
If you get your children to adopt these habits at a young age, it becomes a way of life. You got them to brush their teeth and stop picking their noses. This is easier.
Dr. Maryann Wall — of Northwest Colorado Ear, Nose, Throat and Facial Plastic Surgery, PC — is board-certified in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and facial plastic and reconstructive surgery.