Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 3: Health Promotion and Protection

3.4 Health Protection in Child Care

3.4.5 Sun Safety and Insect Repellent Sun Safety Including Sunscreen

Frequently Asked Questions/CFOC Clarifications


Date: 02/17/2012

Topic & Location:
Chapter 3
Health Promotion Sun Safety Including Sunscreen

Why does this standard state that sunscreen should be applied thirty minutes before going outdoors, but the AAP reference listed on page 127 states that sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before going outside?

The recommendation of how many minutes prior to going outside sunscreen should be applied was revised from 30 minutes to 15-30 minutes on January 30, 2012, which was after the publication of CFOC, 3rd Edition.

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 8/8/2013.

Caregivers/teachers should implement the following procedures to ensure sun safety for themselves and the children under their supervision:

  1. Keep infants younger than six months out of direct sunlight. Find shade under a tree, umbrella, or the stroller canopy;
  2. Wear a hat or cap with a brim that faces forward to shield the face;
  3. Limit sun exposure between 10 AM and 4 PM, when UV rays are strongest;
  4. Wear child safe shatter resistant sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection;
  5. Apply sunscreen (1).

Over-the-counter ointments and creams, such as sunscreen that are used for preventive purposes do not require a written authorization from a primary care provider with prescriptive authority. However, parent/guardian written permission is required, and all label instructions must be followed. If the skin is broken or an allergic reaction is observed, caregivers/teachers should discontinue use and notify the parent/guardian.

If parents/guardians give permission, sunscreen should be applied on all exposed areas, especially the face (avoiding the eye area), nose, ears, feet, and hands and rubbed in well especially from May through September. Sunscreen is needed on cloudy days and in the winter at high altitudes. Sun reflects off water, snow, sand, and concrete. “Broad spectrum” sunscreen will screen out both UVB and UVA rays. Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, the higher the SPF the more UVB protection offered. UVA protection is designated by a star rating system, with four stars the highest allowed in an over-the-counter product.

Sunscreen should be applied thirty minutes before going outdoors as it needs time to absorb into the skin. If the children will be out for more than one hour, sunscreen will need to be reapplied every two hours as it can wear off. If children are playing in water, reapplication will be needed more frequently. Children should also be protected from the sun by using shade and sun protective clothing. Sun exposure should be limited between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun’s rays are the strongest.

Sunscreen should be applied to the child at least once by the parents/guardians and the child observed for a reaction to the sunscreen prior to its use in child care.

Sun exposure from ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB) causes visible and invisible damage to skin cells. Visible damage consists of freckles early in life. Invisible damage to skin cells adds up over time creating age spots, wrinkles, and even skin cancer (2,4).

Exposure to UV light is highest near the equator, at high altitudes, during midday (10 AM to 4 PM), and where light is reflected off water or snow (5).

Protective clothing must be worn for infants younger than six months. For infants older than six months, apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of the body, but be careful to keep away from the eyes (3). If an infant rubs sunscreen into her/his eyes, wipe the eyes and hands clean with a damp cloth. Unscented sunblocks or sunscreen with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are generally safer for children and less likely to cause irritation problems (6). If a rash develops, have parents/guardians talk with the child’s primary care provider (1).

Sunscreen needs to be applied every two hours because it wears off after swimming, sweating, or just from absorbing into the skin (1).

There is a theoretical concern that daily sunscreen use will lower vitamin D levels. UV radiation from sun exposure causes the important first step in converting vitamin D in the skin into a usable form for the body. Current medical research on this topic is not definitive, but there does not appear to be a link between daily normal sunscreen use and lower vitamin D levels (7). This is probably because the vitamin D conversion can still occur with sunscreen use at lower levels of UV exposure, before the skin becomes pink or tan. However, vitamin D levels can be influenced significantly by amount of sun exposure, time of the day, amount of protective clothing, skin color and geographic location (8). These factors make it difficult to apply a safe sunscreen policy for all settings. A health consultant may assist the program develop a local sunscreen policy that may differ from above if there is a significant public health concern regarding low vitamin D levels.

EPA provides specific UV Index information by City Name, Zip Code or by State, to view go to

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Situations that Require Hand Hygiene Insect Repellent and Protection from Vector-Borne Diseases Medication Administration Shading of Play Area
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2008. Sun safety.
  2. American Academy of Dermatology. 2010. Skin, hair and nail care: Protecting skin from the sun. Kids Skin Health.
  3. Kenfield, S., A. Geller, E. Richter, S. Shuman, D. O’Riordan, H. Koh, G. Colditz. 2005. Sun protection policies and practices at child care centers in Massachusetts. J Comm Health 30:491-503.
  4. Maguire-Eisen, M., K, Rothman, M. F. Demierre. 2005. The ABCs of sun protection for children. Dermatology Nurs 17:419-22,431-33.
  5. Weinberg, N., M. Weinberg, S. Maloney. Traveling safely with infants and children. Medic8.
  6. Yan, X. S., G. Riccardi, M. Meola, A. Tashjian, J. SaNogueira, T. Schultz. 2008. A tear-free, SPF50 sunscreen product. Cutan Ocul Toxicol 27:231-39.
  7. Norval, M., H. C. Wulf. 2009. Does chronic sunscreen use reduce vitamin D production to insufficient levels? British J Dermatology 161:732-36.
  8. Misra, M., D. Pacaud, A. Petryk, P. F. Collett-Solberg, M. Kappy. 2008. Vitamin D deficiency in children and its management: Review of current knowledge and recommendations. Pediatrics 122:398-417.

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 8/8/2013.