Sun Safety: Everything You Need to Know About Protecting Your Family

From the Show: Healthy Children
Summary: What are some sun safety tips you need to know in order to protect your family?
Air Date: 6/10/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: David L. Hill, MD, FAAP
david hill 2013Dr. David Hill is Vice President of Cape Fear Pediatrics in Wilmington, NC, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at UNC Medical School. He serves on the executive committees of the North Carolina Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics Council On Communications and the Media. In addition to writing a monthly column for Wilmington Parent Magazine, Dr. Hill writes and records for multiple websites including as,, and He has three children, ages six, nine, and 11.
Sun Safety: Everything You Need to Know About Protecting Your Family
Summertime might imply that it's time to kick back, relax, and finally enjoy yourself after a long winter bundled up indoors. However, summer also means the sun's power is a lot stronger and you're more at risk for sunburn and developing skin cancer.

What are some sun safety tips you need to know in order to protect your family?
  • Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight. Find shade under a tree, an umbrella, or the stroller canopy.
  • When possible, dress yourself and your children in cool, comfortable clothing that covers the body, such as lightweight cotton pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats.
  • Select clothes made with a tight weave; they protect better than clothes with a looser weave. If you're not sure how tight a fabric's weave is, hold it up to see how much light shines through. The less light, the better. Or, you can look for protective clothing labeled with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF).
  • Wear a hat with an all-around 3-inch brim to shield the face, ears, and back of the neck.
  • Limit your sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when UV rays are strongest.
  • Wear sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection. Look for child-sized sunglasses with UV protection for your child.
  • Use sunscreen.
  • Make sure everyone in your family knows how to protect his or her skin and eyes. Remember to set a good example by practicing sun safety yourself.
Sunscreen is one way that you can protect you and your family's skin from the harmful and powerful UVA/UVB rays. With TONS of options available, how do you know which ones to pick?

  • Use a sunscreen that says "broad-spectrum" on the label; that means it will screen out both UVB and UVA rays.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 (up to SPF 50). An SPF of 15 or 30 should be fine for most people. More research studies are needed to test if sunscreens with more than SPF 50 offer any extra protection.
  • If possible, avoid the sunscreen ingredient oxybenzone because of concerns about mild hormonal properties. Remember, though, it's important to take steps to prevent sunburn, so using any sunscreen is better than not using sunscreen at all.
  • For sensitive areas of the body, such as the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears, and shoulders, choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These products may stay visible on the skin even after you rub them in, and some come in fun colors that children enjoy.
What are some other sun safety tips you should follow?

Listen in as David L. Hill, MD, FAAP, shares everything you need to know about keeping your loved ones safe from the sun this summer.

RadioMD PresentsHealthy Children | Original Air Date: June 10, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: David L. Hill, MD, FAAP

Healthy Children with the American Academy of Pediatrics on RadioMD. Here’s Melanie Cole.

MELANIE: The summertime might imply that it’s time to kick back, relax and enjoy yourself after a long winter bundled up inside. We know how that feels. However, the summertime also means that the sun’s power is a lot stronger and you’re more at risk for burning and developing skin cancer. We want to talk today about safety tips, sun safety tips, that you need to know in order to protect your family and yourself. My guest is a fan favorite here on Healthy Children, Dr. David Hill, Vice President of Cape Fear Pediatrics and just an excellent dad and a kind doctor.
Welcome to the show Dr. Hill. First, let’s start with some sun safety stuff about SPF. People get confused about UVA/UVB. What do those SPF numbers mean?

DR. HILL: Right. So, in general, any SPF over 15 is probably going to be as good – What it means is how many times the normal amount you can stay out in the sun for before you burn. If you are somebody who, in a particular strength of sunlight, could stay out an hour before you burn, the SPF 2 means you could hang out for 2 hours. SPF 15 means you could hang out there for 15 hours, in theory. However, you really have to put it on every couple of hours. The problem is, you’re going to sweat it off, you’re going to wipe it off, and it’s going to wash off no matter whether it says water resistant or not. It may take a little longer, but really you want to get it on every two hours. Even if you have SPF 1 million, it doesn’t mean you put it on at six in the morning and you’re good until six at night. You still need to reapply. The highest SPF that you’ll see sold right now are 50+. However, it’s not like being able to stay out 50 times as long is any better, as far as we know, than being able to stay out 30 times as long. You reach a point where it’s just a number. So, look for 15 or above and know that no matter what that number says, you have to reapply every couple of hours.

MELANIE: Every couple of hours. Really, really so important. Are there certain things we should be looking at with that number? Broad spectrum, I’ve heard, is the one that takes care of both those UVA and UVB. Dr. Hill, while you’re at it, talk about the tear free and all of those kinds of sun protections. Are they any better, different? Is there something that can burn our little kids face, you know, sting their faces?

DR. HILL: There’s a whole bunch going on there. Let’s take them one at a time. One, broad spectrum. UV light is the kind of light that damages the skin and leads to skin cancer. Some of it is more likely to cause cancer, others are more likely to cause wrinkles and age spots. Essentially, if we all lived in caves all the time, we would have essentially no skin cancer or it would be ridiculously rare and we would have beautiful baby like skin when we are in our 80’s. But we are exposed to sun and our skin is getting damaged. The idea is to get sunscreen that is broad spectrum. In other words, it covers you against those UVA waves and UVB waves. The FDA made this easier for us a couple of years ago by revising their guidelines on how you label sunscreens. Now, there are relatively reliable labels on sunscreens and say whether it protects against A or B or broad spectrum those kinds of UV rays and I know of no reason not to go for both. Number two, people worry about allergies. They worry about skin sensitivity. Without naming brands, I will say that the highest priced, most clinical looking suntan lotions make me break out like I have poison ivy. So, price is not always a guide to what is going to make you break out. If you’ve had allergies or reactions to sunscreens in the past, look for those that are based in titanium dioxide or in zinc oxide. These are metals and they are great sunscreens. The disadvantage is they may not blend into the skin as well. You might still be able to see that you are wearing sunscreen. On the other hand, as far as I’m concerned, that just makes you look more like a professional surfer or lifeguard. So, go with that. Run with that. It’s what SpongeBob says. “Hey, you look like Larry the Lobster.” It’s good in a lifeguard way, not the red skin kind of way.

MELANIE: Now, we are talking about safety which means, Dr. Hill, prevention. Before we move on to babies and hats and sunglasses and other sun safety important things, what happens if we do get a sunburn? You’re a doctor. What do you do for kids that come in with the sunburn?

DR. HILL: I have to give you full disclosure here. We live in a beach community here in Wilmington, North Carolina. One of my kids came home from the beach, wasn’t with me this was another family, and he brought his sunscreen and he swears he put it on every couple of hours and I had one of my kids sunburned, which is really embarrassing. That tells you how easy it is for it to happen because he’s been well-educated on this and so is the family that he was with and it still happened. There’s not a ton to do. Ibuprofen can be very helpful for the pain. Acetaminophen is another choice but it doesn’t have as much as an anti-inflammatory effect. A little bit of cool compress. You don’t want to put ice on it because then you can get an ice burn on top of the sunburn but some cool washcloths or cool baths can be sort of helpful. If there’s a lot of itching you might try an antihistamine. A lot of people have Benadryl around but that can make you sort of sleepy.

MELANIE: Do you have a problem with aloe vera or any of those things?

DR. HILL: No. That stuff is fine. But you might also try loratadine or cetirizine or some of the newer antihistamines to help out with the itch. Then, a lot of sympathy, lots of sympathy. It’s nasty. It’s just real unpleasant.

MELANIE: You know not too much sympathy because you know that maybe they didn’t put it on as much as they should have or, you know, we are talking about sun safety which is not only sunscreen but, Dr. Hill, I see people at the beach all the time and they are laying there and they’ve got their hats and sunglasses on and their kids are running around without sunglasses on. Our eyes can burn in the sun, can’t they?

DR. HILL: Right. And a greater concern, as well, is that there’s concern for the development of cataracts over time. Damage from sun rays is not just limited to the skin. It can also affect the structures of the eye, so having a good UVA and UVB--there’s that broad spectrum again--protection for the eyes is also important. So, look for clearly labeled sunglasses.

MELANIE: Getting kids to wear little sunglasses.

DR. HILL: I tend to get mine from reputable dealers and vendors because I’m never sure if somebody stuck a sticker on the sunglasses. Do I really know? So, I tend to spend a little extra on my kid’s sunglasses to make sure that I’m really confident that they’ve got good UV protection.

MELANIE: And they lose them like crazy. I think my son has already lost six pairs of sunglasses in just this summer. It is still important to make sure that they’re not squinting all the time and doing all of that. What about little babies? Little babies going out in the sun--you want to take them and watch them play in the sand and do all of that stuff but they burn like instantly. Some of those sunscreens, I don’t know, are they safe for babies?

DR. HILL: Here’s the thing. Very few of them to none of them have been tested under six months of age, so it’s possible that they are safe for babies but there’s nobody who will stand up and say, “Yes. I can guarantee this is safe for babies.” Under six months of age, nobody’s going to say you should definitely us this sunscreen. You can dab a little on the nose and cheeks probably safely but there’s just no testing to say for sure, “Okay. This is safe.” What we do with babies is to use the time of day. Go out in the sun, go get some enjoyment out of the park or beach--wherever you live, the mountains, the woods--but get back in about after 10 in the morning whenever the rays start to get really strong. Do some indoor stuff. I don’t know. Putt-putt, have a good time until about four in the afternoon and then go back out there. This is what the natives in the beach town where I live do, anyway. We go out in the morning before the beach gets crowded then we go have lunch, do whatever we do in the daytime, then, whenever the tourists get off the beach in the afternoon time, it’s all ours. Live like a native. Use the beach when it’s less crowded and when the sun is less strong.

MELANIE: That’s great advice. You have about 30 seconds here, my friend. Please give your best advice for sun safety as the summer approaches and the sun is hot.

DR. HILL: You go it. First of all, clothing and hats are really important especially for young children. Don’t forget the sunglasses. Choose a high SPF 15 or greater sunscreen. Put that on 30 minutes before you get out there. Reapply every 15 minutes and enjoy yourself. It’s fun out there.

MELANIE: It is fun. It gets you a little Vitamin D and, of course, if you’re out in the sun you’re probably being active which is really the best thing in the summer. Get out, run around, play Frisbee with your kids, go to the beach, go swimming, but make sure you protect yourself from those rays of the sun because for adults, here, it makes us more wrinkled and gives us skin cancer and for the kids, they can really get burned and predispose them to skin cancer later in life.

This is Melanie Cole. You’re listening to Health Radio and Healthy Children right here on RadioMD. Stay well.
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