Generation Next

Beat the Burn of SummerHelp Your Kids Catch Some Rays the Safe Way

By Lori Hutzler Eckert 

The surf is up, the sun is out, and summer is nearly here. And for kids, that means enjoying the Emerald Coast’s best asset – the great outdoors. But for parents, outside fun means turning up the heat on sun protection efforts.

The best line of defense is using a sunscreen on children above 6 months of age; however, understanding what type of product to use, and how to use it, can be confusing.

Although there are many sunscreen products offered specifically for children on drugstore shelves, most contain the same ingredients found in traditional sunblocks. However, if the cartoon packaging or bright-colored lotions encourage your kids to use the sunscreen, they may be worth the extra purchase.

The SPF, or sun protection factor, is a rating commonly used to indicate the level of a sunscreen’s blocking benefits from ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, the rays that cause skin to burn and that damage DNA.

“SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB, SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of UVB, and SPF 50 blocks 98 percent of UVB,” says Dr. Elizabeth A. Milum, a dermatologist with White-Wilson Medical Center in Niceville. She advises that the fairer a person’s skin is, the higher his or her SPF needs.

But Milum, who has nearly 23 years of experience in her field, cautions that parents also must be aware that protecting children against ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, which causes long-term surface skin damage and possibly some cancers, is a concern.

“There is no ideal measure of UVA protection, but we do know that products that contain titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, Mexoryl and Avonbenzone (Parsol 1789) are good UVA blockers,” she says.

Sunscreen provides immediate benefits, but with children, it often is easier to apply the product and ensure adequate coverage before arriving at the beach or pool.

And just because you are taking your family to the park or playing ball in the backyard on one of the Emerald Coast’s rare overcast summer days doesn’t mean you should skip the sun protection. Up to 80 percent of UV rays still come through on cloudy days.

The American Cancer Society, which offers a useful “Parents Guide to Skin Protection” at, recommends using a sunblock product every day, no matter the weather. Before long, slathering on sun protection will become part of your family’s morning routine.

Milum believes that teaching children preventive habits can be as important as learning to eat healthy and exercising.

“Sometimes we dermatologists sound like a bunch of fuddy-duds,” she says. “I love to be outdoors, and I spend as much time as I possibly can enjoying Mother Nature. I just try to do it smartly and realize that, like everything in life, we have to find a balance.”


Seemore Says …

Our favorite Emerald Coast crustacean, Seemore the Safety Crab, is ready to hit the beach this spring with his smart and handy flag warning system. Kids can learn more about this easy-to-use water safety program, as well as pick up tips for navigating a rip current, at


Catch the WaveRide On Surf School, located in Miramar Beach on Scenic Highway 30A, has partnered with Grand Boulevard’s local Billabong sportswear store to create Billabong Surf Camps. The two- and three-day weekend camps, which begin Monday, April 7, will feature surfing classes, water-awareness instruction and contests. For more information, visit or call (850) 582-2593.