Only a few serious sunburns are enough to increase a child’s risk of skin cancer later in life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Kids tend to hit the playground and pool during peak daytime hours, so they’re at high risk for burns.
Even when parents put sunblock on their kids before heading the pool, they may not reapply adequately while the children are playing. “The pool is often tricky — you feel cool and can stay in for hours and forget to reapply sunblock,” says Dr. Ellen Marmur, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Marmur recommends slathering your kids with sunscreen head to toe, before getting dressed, so you make sure to protect areas that might become exposed when swimwear shifts. “Reapply every 40 to 80 minutes,” says Marmur. “You should use up many many bottles of sunscreen during the summer.”
Newborns are at special risk. Experts recommend keeping them out of the sun; sunscreens should be used only on babies over the age of six months.
A great way to shield kids’ delicate skin is to dress them in long-sleeved swim clothes — top and bottom. If you just put a long-sleeved shirt on your little ones, says Marmur: “Remember, sun penetrates two feet down into the water so you and your kids may be covered up, but your legs and feet may still be exposed.”
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