Dr. J. Hibler, Board-Certified Dermatologist at Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute, Answers Our Questions on Sun Safety for Kids

It’s that time of year when the weather gets a little warmer, nature starts to bloom again, our kids spend more time outside playing, exercising, and maybe they’re starting to plan their next family vacation. As always, we want to make sure our children are safe and healthy. we have dr. Hibler of the Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute to answer some questions about how best to protect our children from the harmful effects of the sun.

dr. Hibler works at the Incline Village site of the Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute. He believes in treating the whole person, not just a specific symptom or condition. His specialties are medical, pediatric, surgical and cosmetic dermatology. (Photo courtesy of Skin Cancer and Dermatology Institute)

Q: What sun protection equipment should I bring for my children?
A: On top of the obvious, sunscreen is for everyone, UPF clothing is a super convenient way to get the benefits of sunscreen without having to reapply every one to two hours. UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and is the classification given to clothing for broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, only 2% of UV rays can pass through UPF clothing, while up to 20% can pass through regular clothing, significantly increasing the risk of skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation has excellent information about choosing suitable clothing for sun protection. Finally, a wide-brimmed hat is essential to protect the ears, the side of the face and the back of the neck.

Q: Is sunscreen safe for my baby? What type of sunscreen do you recommend? Are there any sunscreens we should avoid?
A: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding the use of sunscreen products on infants under six months of age and keeping them out of direct sunlight. However, if suitable clothing and shade are not available, a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF can be applied to small areas such as the baby’s face and back of the hand. I would recommend physical/mineral blockers, such as titanium and zinc based products, rather than chemical blockers, which are even banned in some places because of the damage they can do to coral reefs. This type of sunscreen is also better for sensitive, sensitive skin. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher for kids six months and older.

Q: What should I pay attention to when applying sunscreen to my child? How should it be applied and how much?
A: Basically, you want to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin, including the back of the neck, ears, hands, and feet. Reapply approximately every 90 minutes or more if your child is swimming or playing in the water. A thin layer that rubs in completely and absorbs without showing it is all you need.

Q: Should my child wear sunglasses?
A: We recommend sunglasses. Chronic direct and indirect (reflection from water, snow, etc.) can cause damage to the eye and children’s eyes are more sensitive to light. Not all glasses protect against UVA/UVB rays, so check labels. Wraparound styles provide better protection and polycarbonate lenses are best because they are impact resistant and block both types of rays.

Q: Is sun exposure not necessary for my child to get vitamin D?
A: Yes, exposure to natural sunlight is important for vitamin D. About 15-20 minutes several times a week is enough to reap the benefits of natural sun exposure.

Q: What causes sunburn?
A: Too much natural sunlight causes oxidative stress on skin cells, leading to radiation toxicity, and resulting in excessive inflammation manifesting itself in the form of redness, blistering, and irritation or pain. Over time, chronic sun exposure can damage skin cells, leading to skin cancer. Sunburn is a known risk factor for skin cancer, and that damage can start as early as childhood.

We bring you world-class patient-centered dermatology care with 10 locations in the Reno-Tahoe area. Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute specializes in medical dermatology, Mohs skin cancer surgery, and cosmetic dermatology. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images))

Q: We’ve been in the sun. What should I do if my baby gets sunburned? Should I call the pediatrician?
A: Not necessarily. Mild burns can be treated with moisturizing creams, aloe, and hydrocortisone. Make sure your child stays hydrated by giving it water or fruit juice. If the burn is severe enough to cause pain, fever, or blisters, a visit to the doctor may be necessary.

Q: At what age should I start scheduling annual skin exams for my child?
A: It depends on. For example, a direct family history of melanoma would necessitate family monitoring for melanoma and other skin cancers, regardless of age. If a child has a history of multiple blistering from sunburn, routine or annual skin exams should be considered. As with other health care screenings, much of it depends on risk factors.

Q: If we don’t go to the beach during our vacation, should I still be careful about UV exposure in the mountains?
A: Absolute. This is a good idea. The UV index here in the mountains can be higher than many other beach locations, further increasing sunburn and skin cancer risk. You can get sunburn, chronic sun damage, and skin cancer from chronic unprotected sun exposure in virtually any geographic location, at any time of the year, regardless of weather conditions.

About Dermatology Supplier
dr. Hibler works at the Incline Village site of the Skin Cancer & Dermatology Institute. He believes in treating the whole person, not just a specific symptom or condition. His specialties are medical, pediatric, surgical and cosmetic dermatology. To make an appointment online with Dr. Hibler, click here.

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