Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(11):2654

What are safe-sun rules?

Safe-sun rules are ways to protect your child's skin and reduce the risk of skin cancer later in life.

1. Avoid the sun.

Sunlight damages skin. The sun is strongest during the middle of the day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun can do the most damage to your child's skin. Sunburns and suntans are signs that your child's skin has been damaged a little bit. The more damage the sun does to your child's skin, the more likely he or she is to get early wrinkles, skin cancer, or other skin problems when he or she is an adult.

2. Put sunscreen on your child.

Use a sunscreen that has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15, even on cloudy days. Use a lot of sunscreen and rub it in well. You should put sunscreen on your child 30 minutes before he or she goes out into the sun. Put the sunscreen everywhere the sun's rays might touch your child, even on the top of the head, the ears, the back of the neck, and the bottom of the feet. Put more sunscreen on every hour or so if your child is sweating or swimming.

Special sunscreens are made for babies and children. These sunscreens are made especially for people with sensitive skin or allergies.

3. Have your child wear a wide-brimmed hat, protective clothing, and sunglasses.

If your child is out in the sun, cover up his or her skin. A wide-brimmed hat will help protect the face, neck, and ears. A hat with a six-inch brim all around is best. Baseball caps do not protect the back of the neck or the tops of the ears. Sunlight going into the eyes increases your child's risk of getting cataracts when he or she is an adult. Your child should wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays.

Have your child wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants made of tightly woven fabric. If the clothes fit loosely, your child will feel cooler. Special sun-protective clothes are available from several companies, like Solumbra Sun Precautions (http://www.sunprecautions.com).

4. Don't let your child get a tan.

Do not let your child lie in the sun to get a tan or visit tanning salons. Tanning booths can damage your skin just like real sunlight does.

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