test your sun smarts

How often should you reapply sunscreen? Do bright colors really help deflect sunlight? Get the facts on these and additional questions on sun safety for kids.

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Test Your Sun Smarts



Here's what pediatricians have to say about some common sun-safety myths--plus advice on how to protect your kids.

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MYTH 1: With SPF, the Higher, the Better

Wrong.There's virtually no difference between an SPF of 45 and an SPF of 30, notes New York City dermatologist Linda Franks, M.D. And when choosing a sunscreen, Dr. Franks says, look for those that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, both of which physically block UVA and UVB rays (like an umbrella).
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Sun Smarts Advice
Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outside, so that a layer of protection can form. Don't forget to cover lips, hands, ears, feet, little crooks behind the neck and shoulders, and the top of the head. (Kids--especially infants--should also wear hats in the sun.)
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  • Lift up bathing-suit straps and apply sunscreen underneath (in case straps shift from body movement).

  • Check with your family doctor before using sunblock on babies under 6 months.

  • To make sunscreen application more fun, play "connect the dots," by dabbing spots of lotion on your child's arm or leg and then connecting them. Playful Parenting expert, Dr. Lawrence Cohen, suggests telling kids that sunscreen is a magical lotion that gives them special powers.

  • Encourage your children to slather some sunscreen on you. "They'll respond better if they know you're wearing it, too," says Dr. Franks

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MYTH: A T-shirt Alone Can Prevent Sunburn

No."Most shirts only provide an SPF of 4 and offer virtually no protection if they get wet," explains New York City dermatologist Linda Franks, M.D.
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Sun Smarts Advice
  • The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that kids wear sunscreen plus wide-brimmed hats and, if practical, long-sleeved shirts and pants when in the sun during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

  • Why a hat? To avoid sunburn on the scalp, forehead, and nose. Even if it's cloudy, kids should wear a hat because UV rays reflect off sand, water, and even concrete, causing unexpected sunburn and skin damage.

  • Try the FDA-approved, lightweight Solumbra clothing, which provides an SPF of 30.

  • Try washing your kids' clothes with SunGuard™. It works like an invisible shield when added to the wash, and ups the SPF of clothing to about 30.

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MYTH: Waterproof Sunscreen Lasts All Day

False: Waterproof sunscreen does not last all day. It should be reapplied every two hours and after swimming.
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Sun Smarts Advice
Schedule time-outs--every couple of hours and have kids go inside, under an umbrella, or play in a shaded area outside. Use this time to also reapply lotion.

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MYTH: Babies and Toddlers Don't Need Sunglasses

False: All kids--and even babies--should wear sunglasses because UV rays increase the risk of cataracts and can burn sensitive eyelids.
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Sun Smarts Advice
Buy sunglasses with labels ensuring they provide 100% UV protection.

"Let your child select the style, so she can pick a fun frame, like one embossed with cartoon characters," suggests Deanne Kleinsmith, M.D., a West Bloomfield, Michigan, dermatologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology. Wear your own sunglasses regularly and your child will likely be more willing to do the same.

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MYTH: Children's Pain Relievers Are OK for Sunburn Pain

False: Over-the-counter pain medications like Children's Advil or Motrin may lessen the discomfort your child feels from sunburn, but they can also increase your child's sun sensitivity, upping her risk of further sun damage.
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Sun Smarts Advice
  • A better solution for sunburn pain is aloe vera gel. Rub some on the burned areas and wait three to four days before allowing your child in the sun again.

  • Play games with the soothing aloe vera gel. Let your kids "finger-paint" with the gel on their bodies, drawing patterns or pictures. The cooling sensation will make them giggle so much, they may forget their burning shoulders!

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Important Disclaimer: This information is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a doctor with questions about your or your child's condition. NickJr.com does not recommend or endorse specific tests, products, procedures, opinions, or other information provided by any sponsors or other third parties. Please also see NickJr.com's Terms of Use.
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