Get Serious About Sun Safety

Sunglasses, Lessons, and Vitamin D

Don't Forget Sunglasses!

Your child's future's so bright, she's gotta wear shades. Sun exposure can damage her eyes, so make sure they're protected.

  1. Read the fine print. Choose sunglasses labeled "100% UV protection."
  2. Let your child choose a style he likes. Look for frames in his favorite color or decorated with characters he loves. "Once older kids see that celebrities and rock stars wear sunglasses, they'll want a pair," says Dr. Brodell.
  3. Even babies need shades. Your baby may take them off at first, but keep trying until she gets used to them. Look for ones with an elastic strap.
  4. Set a good example. If you wear your sunglasses, your kids are more likely to wear them.

Lessons from the Land Down Under

With the highest skin-cancer rates in the world, Australians have made sun prevention a public-health priority. It's too early to tell the full impact of this campaign, but the country's skin-cancer rate has started to decline. Here's what we can learn from them.

  • Cover up. The Aussie mantra: Slip! Slop! Slap! That means slip on a shirt with long sleeves and a collar, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat with a 2- to 3-inch brim that shades the nose, ears, and back of the neck. Many Australian schools have uniforms made of sun-protective fabrics and don't let students play outdoors unless they Slip! Slop! Slap! Try talking to your child's school about a similar policy.
  • Focus on fabric. Australians were the first to realize that regular clothing doesn't offer as much protection as people think. They pioneered ways to manufacture UV-blocking fabrics (including using tighter weaves and treating material with special chemicals), launched sun-protective clothing lines, and created the UPF rating system.
  • Be shady. Australians have built many shaded playgrounds and public places, and we need to do the same. One way is with the American Academy of Dermatology's Shade Structure Program, which offers $8,000 grants to nonprofit or educational organizations that need shade in an outdoor spot like a playground, eating area, or baseball dugout. For an application, go to aad.org.

The Vitamin D Debate

There is one known health benefit of sunlight: It triggers the production of vitamin D. Some pediatricians are concerned that kids aren't getting enough of this bone-building nutrient because there's been a small increase in rickets cases in the U.S. Could sunscreen be to blame? Most kids can get all the vitamin D they need from their diets and incidental sun exposure while using sunscreen, according to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology that reviewed all the scientific evidence. "Sunscreen doesn't completely block UVB, which causes the skin to produce vitamin D," says researcher Barbara Gilchrest, MD, professor of dermatology at Boston University School of Medicine. Most of the children with rickets have been African-American or had dark skin, in which abundant melanin absorbs UV and reduces vitamin D production. "If your child has dark skin, spends little time outdoors, or doesn't drink fortified milk or orange juice, talk to your doctor about a vitamin supplement," Dr. Gilchrest says.

Copyright ? 2006. Reprinted with permission from the June 2006 issue of Parents magazine. Reviewed and updated 2012.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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