Summer vacation may be over, but that doesn’t mean kids will be out of the sun. Data suggests that the majority of sun exposure in a person’s like occurs before the age of 18. So… how can you be sure to protect your children when they are back at school and out of your sight? Kavita Mariwalla, MD, Director of Mohs and Dermatologic Surgery at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt and Beth Israel Medical Centers, suggests following these simple rules:

– If your children play sports, pack water-proof spray-on sunscreen in their backpack. Make sure you tell them to spray it on while getting ready for practice or the big game (30 minutes before sun exposure). The spray version is easy to apply and they don’t have to feel shy about asking a team mate to help them out.

– Consider washing your child’s practice clothes and uniforms with Rit Sunguard. Available on-line and in most grocery stores, the easy to use powder can be washed in with clothes in the laundry and confers added SPF to t-shirts, shorts and socks – good for multiple washes.

Buy empty lotion bottles (travel size) and fill them with sunscreen to pack in your child’s backpack. That way it is easy to transport and easy for you to monitor their use.

Don’t forget sunglasses. Beyond a fashion accessory, sunglasses protect your child’s eyes from harmful UV rays

Encourage wearing a hat. Though most children are resistant to wearing a broad-brimmed hat, baseball caps are better than nothing. Just remind your child to put sunscreen on their ears and the back of their neck!

– If your child is in tournaments lasting the whole day in the fall, designate a “sunscreen parent.” Just like the “snack parent” who provides nourishment to keep the kids on the field, the “sunscreen parent” can keep them safe and free from sunburns. Making this part of the sport environment creates healthy habits early on.

What is the data to support the importance of sunscreen use?

Data shows that basal cell skin cancer is rising in people under the age of 40. In addition, a study done in 2000 and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that children who wore sunscreen consistently developed fewer moles than those who did not. The same study showed that sunscreen use is even more important for children with freckles because it decreased the number of nevi or moles they acquired by up to 40%. An epidemiologic study completed in 2009 showed that male children are at higher risk than female and additional risk factors for developing moles include spending 5 – 6 hours /weekly/ between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm outdoors. That’s not a lot of time considering most sports practrice at least 1 – 2 hours a day. And don’t forget those soccer tournaments!

So, if your child is playing sports when school gets back in session, remember these tips and keep them protected even when they are not under your watch.