Summer, sun and why you still need sunscreen in Seattle

June 26, 2012 Hema Nirmal, MD, FAAP

a smiling woman in a bikini standing on a dock with a friend


In this article:

  • Protecting your skin from the sun is always important, but especially during the summer months.

  • Look for a sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB radiation and is at least SPF 15.

  • A Swedish physician advises that sun protection is even more important for children and gives tips on sunscreen application.

Summer is a good time to talk about sunscreens — but in fact, sun protection is a good idea year-round, even in Seattle.

It is always important to remember that everyone should avoid direct sun exposure when it is the harshest — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the summer months. Everyone should wear sunscreen, hats and covered clothing when exposed to the sun. Cloudy days do not offer too much protection as the UV rays can penetrate through the clouds and affect the skin the same way. Children and adolescents in particular should avoid tanning beds.

What you should know about different types of sunscreens

There are different types of sunscreens available in the market, which makes it confusing to know which one to use. Earlier it was thought that UVB radiation was the most harmful, but recent studies have shown that UVA and UVB can be equally harmful. Manufacturers can claim broad spectrum coverage for the sunscreens only if they provide protection against UVA and UVB. Those that have an SPF of 15 or more and protect against both UVA and UVB radiation can be labeled as being able to protect against skin cancer.

What sunscreen should parents buy?

Sunscreens with a minimum of SPF 15 and those that have protection against UVA and UVB rays are recommended for children. Sunscreens with SPF 30 or more are available, but studies have not shown that an increase in SPF over 30 provides any additional protection.

How often should you apply sunscreen?

Typically, sunscreens have to be applied every two hours at minimum for them to be effective. Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed areas of the skin and preferably at least 15-20 minutes before sun exposure. If children swim or are in the water, sunscreen needs to be reapplied every time they come out of the water.

What about sunscreen for babies?

The safety of sunscreens in infants less than 6 months of age has not been studied and so it is not recommended for use in this age group. However, it is still important to avoid direct sun exposure at this age, so parents should make sure that infants wear clothing that covers the skin.

What to do if your child gets sunburn?

Symptoms of sunburn usually begin about three to five hours after being in the sun and include redness, pain and skin that feel hot when touched. If the sunburn is severe, blistering may also occur. Use OTC pain relievers, avoid further sun exposure and apply sunscreen over the area of redness. If symptoms do not improve, contact your pediatrician for evaluation.

Find a doctor

If you have questions about sunburn or skin protection, contact Primary Care or Dermatology at Swedish. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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