A national poll from Michigan Medicine suggests that many parents fail to use the best practices for protecting children from the sun. The researchers said that while the majority of parents recognize the importance of sunscreen, many are not using the proper SPF or reapplying often enough.
The study shows that only three percent of parents do not use sunscreen for their child. One in ten parents that are using it, however, do not choose a specific minimum SPF.
When children are playing in the sun outside of the water, half of parents do not reapply sunscreen, according to the survey. In addition, 33 percent do not reapply on a cloudy day, even though clouds do not completely block harmful UV rays.
Dr. Gary Freed is a pediatrician and the co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at Michigan Medicine.
“Children are spending more time in the sun and possibly at beaches and pools as families enjoy outdoor summer activities. But too much sun exposure can be dangerous and damage the skin,” said Dr. Freed.
“Parents should be aware that UV rays from the sun can reach their children on cloudy and hazy days, not just on bright and sunny days. Children need protection regardless of the amount of sunshine.”
The research is based on survey responses from 1,120 parents with children between the ages of 5 and 12. Most of the participants agree that sunscreen is very important for preventing sunburns and skin cancer, while half believe sunscreen is vital in preventing premature aging and wrinkles.
The parents were found to take several factors into consideration when deciding whether to use sun protection, such how long their child will be outside, what the child is wearing, whether the child will be around water, and how hot it is. Nearly half of parents say they take into account whether it is cloudy outside.
Different factors also influence the decision to reapply sunscreen. In the survey, 81 percent of parents reported reapplying within two hours when children are playing in the water. However, frequent reapplication dropped to 50 percent for children playing outside of the water, 25 percent on a cloudy day, and to 20 percent when children are playing in a shady area.
Dr. Freed pointed out that no sunscreen is actually waterproof, and in order to be effective sunscreen needs to be reapplied every couple of hours – or even more often if children are in the water.
Sunscreens labeled “water resistant” are required to disclose whether the protection remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes when swimming.
Dr. Freed recommends for parents to choose broad spectrum sunscreens with a minimum SPF of 15 to 30. In addition, he says that sun exposure should be limited during the peak intensity hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
“Parents may believe their children are adequately protected from the sun but if the SPF is too low or they’re not reapplying often enough, kids are still at risk of sunburns,” said Dr. Freed. “Sunscreen is a key preventive tool against burns and skin cancer, but it must be used properly to be effective.”
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer