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Q: What is the best way to protect my child from sunburn?
A: The risks of excessive sun exposure are well documented and include not only sunburn but also premature aging and increased risk of skin cancer later in life. You can protect your child with wide-brimmed hats and clothing, limiting sun exposure during peak intensity hours (10 a.m.-3 p.m.), and, for those older than 6 months, regular use of quality sunscreen products. A good sunscreen should block UVA and UVB rays, both of which are damaging to the skin. The SPF (sun protection factor) should be at least 15. Apply the sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside to allow time for it to completely dry, and apply it to all exposed areas. No sunscreen is water- or sweat-proof, and it needs to be reapplied every couple of hours to maintain protection. Avoiding sun is the first-line strategy in infants under 6 months of age. If shade is not available, then use of a quality sunscreen on exposed body areas is certainly preferable to sunburn.
- Dr. Tonia Cox, Pediatric Diagnostic Associates; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society