Skip to main content UVA Health logo of UVA Health
Healthy Balance

4 Steps to Sun Safety for Your Kids

Young girl using sunscreen“Sunscreen time!”

“I don’t want it!”
Sound familiar? Getting kids, whether toddlers or teenagers, to stand still long enough for you to adequately cover them with sunscreen can be a daunting task. But it’s a crucial one; children get most of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18. And since that exposure is the main cause of skin cancer – the number one cancer in the United States – your efforts now play an incredibly important part of your child’s future health.

Sunburns Aren’t Safe

For those of us who were children 20 to 40 years ago, it may be surprising to learn that sunburns aren’t just uncomfortable or a source of wrinkles; they can put your child at risk of:

  • Skin cancer
  • Cataracts
  • Dehydration
  • Fever

In fact, just two or more blistering sunburns increase a child’s skin cancer risk. What to do?

Sun Safety Steps

Get your kids into the daily habit of sun safety, and they will enjoy being outside the rest of their lives.

Step #1: Choose the Right Sunscreen

Make sure it’s:

  • Waterproof
  • Broad-spectrum
  • At least 15 SPF

Step #2: Apply the Sunscreen

Remember to:

  • Apply 30 minutes before you go outdoors
  • Use even on cool or cloudy days
  • Reapply every two to three hours
  • Reapply more often if swimming, sweating or using a spray
  • Cover all exposed skin, including the scalp and lips (lipbalm with SPF)

Step #3: Cover Up

Get dressed with sun protection in mind, with:

  • Clothes made of tightly woven fabrics
  • Dark clothing that reflects the sun rays
  • A cap or hat with a bill
  • Sunglasses with UV protection

Step #4: Go Outside and Play

Stay conscious of the time:

  • Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest
  • Check skin frequently
  • Encourage your kids to take breaks in the shade

Sunburn First-Aid

The most important thing you can do to help a sunburn heal is to keep your child out of the sun. Contact your pediatrician for more detailed advice. Find a children’s specialist at the UVA Children’s Hospital for more information.

Your Turn: Do you have any tips for keeping kids safe in the sun? What sunscreen application tips work for you? Leave us a comment below – we’d love to hear your story!

Reply & View Comments Search Submit

Subscribe for Updates

Get stories & health tips every week