Man versus sun

The Pediatric Insider

© 2013 Roy Benaroch, MD

There’s eeeeevil afoot, and it’s right there, right above your head! It’s…. The Sun!

At least that’s what many people seem to believe. Dermatologists and advice-givers are suggesting that parents bathe their children, in sunscreen, every single day. New York dermatologist Doris Day (presumably her real name) was quoted at Time.com: “If you don’t need a flashlight to see outside, you need protection.”

Presumably, she knows we’re not vampires.

Yes, the sun’s rays cause skin damage, and can increase skin cancer risk, and can cause painful sunburns, too. And those lovely lines in our skin we all acquire as we age? Less sun = fewer wrinkles.

But sunlight allows our bodies to make vitamin D. And discouraging kids from playing outside isn’t such a good idea. Believe me, a required 10-minute rubdown from mom is going to convince many 9 year old boys they’d rather just stay inside with their X-Box.

A modest proposal: if your kids are going to the pool or beach, or sunning outside in the middle of the day, or they’re going be to outside for a long time, apply sunscreen. If they’ve got fair or freckly skin, be extra careful. Consider using a rashguard, too. But for ordinary summer play, I don’t think most kids need head-to-toe sunscreen every single day.

Now I’d better go hide under the couch. From the dermatologists and vampires.

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4 Comments on “Man versus sun”


  1. You are probably right! And all the germ fear and hand sanitizers for years have probably done more harm than good too.

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  2. oldmdgirl Says:

    My mother just got diagnosed with her second melanoma, and even with sunscreen applied every day my 18 month old is getting tan this summer from the time they spend outside at daycare. They’re supposed to apply it at daycare when they go outside, but that’s something I doubt they actually do in practice. I’d rather be safe and apply it at home in the morning than end up with a fried kiddo. Fortunately, she’s still small enough that we can make her do it.

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  3. Rachel Says:

    We live at 6,000 feet so the sun is especially intense for us. I make sure my kids are fully sun-screened before preschool (it’s just part of our morning routine) and before doing anything mid-day. If we’re at the pool mid-day, I apply sunscreen every hour – or we’d be burned to a crisp!

    However, if we are going outside before 10 AM or after 4 PM, I don’t bother. Like you say – I’d rather have everyone out and playing than deciding it’s too much bother to deal with sunscreen.

    Thanks for the common sense!

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  4. Denise A. Charles Says:

    Of course, there may be other reasons for the increase in overexposure to harmful rays. Perhaps the thinning of the ozone layer or clothing styles that expose more skin have also contributed to the risk. Or maybe, as people live longer and become more are aware of the disease, more cases of skin cancer are naturally going to be diagnosed. But more likely today’s melanoma rates have as much to do with lingering misconceptions about tanning from years ago.

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