UV Protection, Now and for the Future

by Mark Mercure, Pharmacist

Home Health Care Pharmacy

Suppose that your 9-year old is scheduled to play in a soccer tournament today. The weather report says that the UV index is going to be “high”. How much sunscreen are you going to need to keep your child safe from the sun? 

Keeping kids safe from the harmful effects of sun damage to skin is very important. Some estimates are that kids are likely to receive 80% of their lifetime sun exposure during the first 18 years of life. One study estimated that regular use of sunscreen before age 18 would reduce the lifetime incidence of basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma by 78%. Another reported that 69% of adolescents (aged 11-18) reported getting a sunburn in the previous year.

Many people apply too little sunscreen to fully obtain the benefits from it. It is important for parents to know how much sunscreen is needed to properly protect their children’s skin from the sun. The directions on the sunscreen bottle say to “apply liberally and evenly”. How much sunscreen will you need to cover that 9-year old’s arms and face? 

The recommended amount is calculated by multiplying the body surface area that needs to be covered by the recommended application of sunscreen (2 mg/cm2). To cover a 9-year old’s arms, face, and neck only, this amount works out to 7 mL, or roughly one and one-half teaspoonful. A helpful guide for applying the recommended amount of sunscreen can be found here: https://bit.ly/2X3Ppuc

If  the UV index is high, a fair-skinned person can get a sunburn in under 10 minutes, which means that one application of SPF 15 sunscreen will only protect the child for a maximum of 150 minutes (SPF 15 x 10 minutes). This is why it is important to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, especially on days where the UV index is high. 

Ensuring that sunscreen is applied properly to children will greatly reduce their chance of getting skin cancer in the future. Your Super Thrifty pharmacist can help answer questions about sunscreen application and recommend the right products for your family.   

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