Back to Top Skip to main content

New school year, same risk: Don’t forget the sunscreen

Whether at recess or recreational sports, children and teens are exposed to UV rays and it’s important to protect their skin throughout the school year. Experts recommend re-applying sunscreen after an hour and a half – especially while playing sports outside or swimming. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kristen Wong) Whether at recess or recreational sports, children and teens are exposed to UV rays and it’s important to protect their skin throughout the school year. Experts recommend re-applying sunscreen after an hour and a half – especially while playing sports outside or swimming. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kristen Wong)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Operation Live Well

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — As summer winds down and school gets into full swing, it can be easy to cast aside sunscreen and sun protective gear. But remembering to protect children and teenagers from UV rays is as important throughout the school year as it is during the summer.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rachel Ellis, a dermatologist at Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, said starting daily skin care habits at an early age is essential – especially for the future. Skin damage from sun exposure can take months or years to show up, and much of it results from childhood. Making sunscreen application part of a child’s or teenager’s everyday routine, just like brushing teeth, can make a big difference.

“It’s really important when people are young to start those good habits and protect the skin as much as they can so that it will last them their entire lives,” said Ellis, adding that the skin is the body’s largest and most visible organ. “You’d do everything you can to protect your heart, why wouldn’t you do everything you can to protect your largest organ?”

Sun damage as a child or teenager can lead to health issues months or years after exposure, including diagnosis of skin cancer as early as in an adult’s 20s or early 30s, Ellis said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it takes only a few serious sunburns during childhood to increase a person’s risk for skin cancer.

While the sun’s rays may not feel hot during the school year, its UV rays can still cause damage – even in the winter. Keeping sunscreen readily available, whether in a backpack or locker, helps protect a child or teenager when they go to sports practice or spend recreational time outside, said Ellis.

Navy Cmdr. Christopher Dolan, chief of Fort Belvoir Community Hospital’s dermatology clinic in northern Virginia, recommends re-applying sunscreen after an hour and a half – especially while playing sports outside or swimming. Sun protective gear, which can often be found in sporting goods stores and surf shops, also works well for people who do not like to wear sunscreen regularly, he added.

“[For] children, and even adults, protective gear has gotten a lot better than it used to be,” said Dolan, adding that a lot of it is made with UV protection. This kind of gear can include long sleeves, pants, sunglasses, rash guards, and hats. When children wear this gear, the SPF remains 100 percent with them, Ellis said.

All skin types are vulnerable to sun damage, but children who have fair complexions, light-colored eyes, and are prone to freckling are at increased risk for it. Genetics, particularly if skin cancer runs in the family, can also increase risk. While vitamin D from sun is good for health, any change in pigment means UV damage, said Dolan. The skin has an immune system to help repair itself, but it can become stunned with too much sun damage, he added. Keeping the skin’s immune system strong with good daily habits is crucial for long-lasting health.

“I always tell my patients the best sunscreen in the world is the one that you like and the one that you will want to wear,” said Ellis. “The skin is kind of the window to the body. You need to take care of it.”

You also may be interested in...

Flag Football Game

Photo
9/28/2016
Youth participate in a flag football game on Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Travis Gershaneck)

Youth participate in a flag football game on Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Travis Gershaneck)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Children's Health | Physical Activity

Healthy aging starts sooner than you think

Photo
9/23/2016
Air Force Staff Sgt. Nick Crouse, a medical technician with the 193rd Special Operations Wing's Medical Group out of Middletown, Pennsylvania, takes the blood pressure of a patient. Heart disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are three ailments that take a huge toll on the body as it ages. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Air Force Staff Sgt. Nick Crouse, a medical technician with the 193rd Special Operations Wing's Medical Group out of Middletown, Pennsylvania, takes the blood pressure of a patient. Heart disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are three ailments that take a huge toll on the body as it ages. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health

Breathing techniques

Photo
2/26/2016
Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Mental Wellness
<< < 1 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 3 Page 1 of 1

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.