A new University of Michigan survey of parents nationwide shows that while most understand that using sunscreen is key to protecting their children’s skin health, a significant number may not be doing so correctly, and in some cases may not be doing so at all.
According to the most recent C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, just over one in 10 parents (11%) do not have a specific minimum SPF they use on their kids – and 3% said they never use sunscreen for their child. The poll included just over 1,100 parents of kids between the ages of 5 and 12.
Half of the parents surveyed said that after putting sunscreen on their child once, they don’t usually reapply it unless the child has played in the water. One in three said they don’t ever reapply sunscreen on cloudy days – when sunburns and sun damage also commonly occur.
Many parents decide whether to use sunscreen based on the situation, the survey also showed. Common factors they consider include how long their child will be outside, the clothes he or she is wearing, their child’s complexion and skin tone, how sunny it is outside and whether the child will be near water.
“The majority of parents understand the importance of using sunscreen, but they may not always use a high enough SPF or reapply as often as they should to protect their children’s skin,” said pediatrician Gary Freed, the poll’s co-director. “Parents should (also) be aware that UV rays from the sun can reach their children on cloudy and hazy days, not just on bright and sunny days.”
To be effective, sunscreen should be reapplied every couple of hours and even more often if children are in the water, Freed said, since “no sunscreen is waterproof.”
He recommended choosing sunscreens with a minimum SPF of 15 to 30 labeled “broad-spectrum,” meaning they protect against both harmful types of UV radiation: ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA). If possible, parents should also try to limit their child’s sun exposure during the peak intensity hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.