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Spring has officially sprung and the countdown to summer camp for the little ones has begun. As the end of the school year approaches, parents start stocking up on bathing suits, name labels and sunscreen. But just sending your kids off to camp with a bottle of SPF in their tote bags doesn’t guarantee they’re going to be properly protected from the sun all day long. We spoke to noted New York pediatrician Meryl Newman Cedar, M.D. (or Dr. Meryl as her patients fondly call her) about her best advice for parents before sending their brood off to camp. May is also Melanoma Awareness Month, so let Dr. Meryl’s advice help get you and your family on the road to a safe and healthy sun-protected summer.

What can parents do to ensure that their kids are adequately protected from the sun all day at camp?

As a parent, I would talk to the camp counselors and say sun protection is really important to you and your pediatrician and that you need to be reassured by them that they’re going to make sure your child is wearing sun protection at all times. Of course, put the sunscreen on them before they go to camp, but that will probably only last until the child goes swimming or for two hours – that’s a general rule.

What specific type of SPF do you prefer for kids?

You want the SPF to be broad spectrum of at least 30 and you want something that says water resistant. In order for it to be effective it needs to be applied every two hours or after they go swimming or have been sweating. You need at least an ounce or equal to a shot glass full for the body. In general zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are physical sun blocks as opposed to chemicals, provide the best protection. You want to make sure to focus on cheeks, shoulders and noses—those areas are most vulnerable.

What other measures can parents take to protect their kids from the sun in the summer time?

You can talk to your kids and tell them this is what needs to happen but if you have a small kid, it could be a problem. You could also have them stay out of the sun between 10:00 to 2:00 pm, when the sun is the strongest, but that’s not practical if your kid is going to camp. The third thing you can do is dress your child in sun protective clothing, hats with a three-inch brim and sunglasses with UV protection. Don’t let them wear a baseball hat backwards—they need to protect their ears! I recommend sun protection clothing for when they are in the water, as the water is going to reflect the sun and wash the sunblock off and if you don’t reapply it when you’re in the water then you’re vulnerable. If the clothing is made with an SPF substance in it will not let the rays though.

What do you tell the parents of your patients about sun protection?

There’s a lag time between sunburns and cancer. We don’t know what that lag time is, but the number of burns you get increases your chances of getting skin cancer later in life. You may not see the effects of their sunburns in your lifetime, but your kids may see in theirs. You’re protecting their future.


Posted By Jennifer Fontanetta on Thursday May 02, 2013