I’ve had parents bring in children with stiches or facial injuries wanting to know how to prevent scars. Often my advice is to simply keep the area free from infection and apply a broad spectrum sunscreen. A scar may develop, but with children the overall likelihood is that over time it will fade. This, however, doesn’t work with sun damage. A burn will be replaced by new skin, but under the surface the damage is cumulative. It builds over a lifetime increasing the risk for developing skin cancer. And just so you know, experts agree that a serious burn at age 4 poses much more danger than the same burn at age 25.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. With an increasing number of teens and young adults now being diagnosed with skin cancer, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is recommending that pediatricians and primary doctors start stressing prevention during well-visits. My recommendation for parents is to make sun-smart behaviors a habit while children are young. It’s really no different than teaching kids to wear a seatbelt or bicycle helmet.
- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen on all exposed areas year-round.
- Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on the entire body and long-sleeved clothing and wide rim hats during any sun exposure.
- Limit sun exposure to mornings and late afternoons when the sun is weaker.