Ways to Protect Kids from the Sun

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Does my child really need to wear sunscreen in the winter or on overcast days?

Up to 80 percent of UV rays penetrate clouds and reflect off sand, water, snow, and even concrete. “Kids actually may be more exposed to UV rays on cool days because they stay outside longer,” Dr. Mariwalla says. Basic sun protection tips — clothing that covers arms and legs, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen — still apply.

Will my child get enough vitamin D if she’s always wearing sunscreen?

Your child needs vitamin D to help his body absorb calcium and build strong bones, and sunshine is a great source. Studies suggest that infants and children don’t get enough D (perhaps due to increased sunscreen use). That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all kids — from newborns to teens — get 400 international units (IUs) of vitamin D supplements a day. If supplementation is necessary, look for liquid-drop solutions for nursing and formula-fed infants and toddlers, and chewable vitamins for children age 3 and older.

My family has dark skin. Do we need to worry about sun protection?

“It’s a fallacy that people with dark skin are immune to skin cancer,” Dr. Mariwalla says. Although skin cancer affects between 1 and 4 percent of African Americans, Latinos, and Asians, it’s often deadlier because it goes undetected longer (and rates among Asians are rising). In dark skin, cancer can also lurk in areas that aren’t exposed to the sun, like the palms of hands, soles of feet, and mucous membranes.

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