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Experts Corner

Children's Health

Stop, Spray, and Play: A Guide to Skin Safety
By Tara Kompare, Pharm.D.

Summer is all about trips to the beach and runny ice cream cones. The bright skies and fun-filled days, however, often let us forget the hidden, and deadly, dangers of the sun.

When one of my husbandís best friends was diagnosed with a deadly form of skin cancer, I realized how precious our skin actually was. And, when you think about all the life-saving advice we offer our kids, protecting their skin is probably not on the top of the list. For instance, I have always reminded my oldest daughter to "Stop, look, and listen" before crossing the street and to "Stop, drop, and roll" if she should ever catch fire. But, the fact is, our children are actually more likely to develop skin cancer than to get hit by a car or catch on fire.

To help our children remember the importance of skin safety this summer, I came up with the child-friendly phrase: "Stop, spray, and play" to help remind our little ones to protect their skin:

Stop: Before going outside, stop.

Spray: Spray on some sunscreen* (the spray bottles are great for little ones) and rub it in thoroughly and evenly.

Play: Have fun!

* It is best to apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. If you forget, donít sweat it. As long as you remember to apply it, you are doing great.

Besides making up catchy jingles to appease our childrenís quest for parental silliness, you can also try the following skin-saving strategies:

  • Hats on: Kids look adorable in hats. A wide-brimmed hat is best and so is one that says, "My mommy rules!" Not only do they look cool, hats help shade our children's eyes and protect their delicate facial skin.

  • Sunscreen is our friend: Remember that sunscreen can save lives. When looking for sunscreen products, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of 15 or higher. It should also provide both UVA and UVB protection. Reapply a good amount (approximately a shot glass full) at least every two hours and even more frequently with heavy perspiration or when swimming.

  • Time is of the essence: The sunís rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m so it is especially important to remember sunscreen during these hours.

  • Play in the shade. When possible, try to get your children to play in the shade. I try to frequent parks with lots of shady trees. Umbrellas are also great for the beach put please use caution! Last summer, my run away umbrella had me sprinting in the sand and soaring into the air to catch it before it pounded into a small child and her mother. I have since mastered the art of umbrella anchoring.

Although the sun looks friendly enough, it is important to remember that looks are often deceiving. So have a ball this summer and may you and your family slip and slide your way to happiness. Just remind your kids (and yourself) to stop and spray before they go and play.

P.S.S. (Parent Sanity Saver): For quick relief of minor sunburn, dip your child in a cool bath and apply some zinc oxide ointment afterwards.

Skin Cancer Facts:

  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer.
  • Your risk of developing skin cancer doubles if you have had five or more sunburns.
  • At least 90 percent of all skin cancers are due to excessive sun exposure.

About the Author:
Tara Kompare, Pharm.D. is a doctor of pharmacy and mother of two amazing little girls. You can contact her directly at drk @ themedicinemom.com or visit her website at www.themedicinemom.com. She encourages reader feedback and questions.

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