Dr. Ana M. Duarte is a board-certified pediatric dermatologist and consultant to the makers of Coppertone®. She is the division director of dermatology for Miami Children's Hospital and founder and president of the Children's Skin Center, P.A.
As a pediatric dermatologist, Dr. Ana M. Duarte advises on children's skin health to help ensure families are taking protective measures while enjoying time outdoors, both at school and at play.
"Living in a year-round sunny climate like Miami has made me particularly passionate about encouraging sun protection knowledge among families," says Dr. Duarte. "An important part of my practice involves talking to parents about how to instill sun-smart habits in their children early on, when kids tend to be receptive to new information and building new skills."
Check out these tips and ideas from Dr. Duarte that can help your family develop sun sense.
I like to tell parents to be a role model for their child. Making sun protection a priority for oneself as a parent can help children understand its importance. Talk to your kids about your own sun-smart routine, making sure to incorporate elements such as a broad spectrum sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.
At my practice in Miami, I see patients with diverse skin tones. Many of my patients tend to think that only fair-skinned people need to be concerned about sun exposure. It's true that darker-toned skin has higher levels of the skin pigment melanin, which can help protect against the effects of the sun. However, people of all skin tones can still experience sunburn, skin cancer, skin aging and sun-related damage to the eyes and immune system.
That's why sun protection is so important for everyone, regardless of skin type or ethnicity. Consult with your doctor or child's pediatrician to understand the individual skin needs of your family members, and be sure to practice sun-smart behaviors.
Simply encouraging your children to observe their surroundings can help them be sun-smart while at play. For example, be sure to use extra caution near sand, snow, concrete and water since they can reflect up to 85 percent of sunlight and as a result, intensify sun exposure. I also tell patients to help their children identify shaded areas during outdoor activities, whether shade structures at their school playground or trees in a backyard.
Did you know that the skin around children's eyes is more delicate and vulnerable to UV rays than that of adults? UV rays can also be damaging to the eye itself. Here's a tip: Involve your kids in picking out sunglasses that they will actually want to wear for use during outdoor activities, whether they are walking to the school bus or playing outside. Be sure to help them choose sunglasses that can block 99-100 percent of harmful UV rays. I also recommend "playground-ready" styles such as plastic lenses that are impact-resistant and scratch-resistant as well as bendable frames.
Sometimes parents forget that sunscreen isn't a once-only application. To help protect kids from UV rays throughout the day, parents should reapply their child's sunscreen every two hours and/or after swimming, sweating or towel drying. If you're on the go and need a little help remembering to reapply sunscreen to your kids, try handy tools like the Coppertone® MyUVAlert™ app, a free download for the iPhone or Android, with reapplication reminders that you can set for everyone in your family.
School districts may differ on policies surrounding sunscreen usage at school. That's why I recommend checking in with your school administrator to find out more about your district's policy on sun protection. Make sure to ask about what sun protection methods are permitted during school hours such as sunscreen application and the use of hats, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing. Consistent reinforcement and support from your family, your child's school and your community can ultimately help children establish lifelong sun-smart behaviors.