Sun Protection for Children
Sun protection for children is vital to the overall health of an emerging generation. They need to learn from an early age the benefits and dangers about the sun. The sun is vital to our existence – we all know and understand this. But as with most things in life, nothing is perfect.
With the hours children spend in front of computers and video games, it’s a gift when we see them playing outside. But even with this trend, there is still a rise in childhood skin disease and skin cancer.
Children’s skin is more vulnerable to be damaged by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays and it is widely believed that 80% of our lifetime sun exposed happens before our 18th birthday. Just a few serious
sunburns in a child’s early years can increase the possibility of a skin cancer diagnosis as an adult, especially melanoma – the most serious from of skin cancer. Non–melanoma skin cancers are linked to long term sun exposure, such as summers at the shore and playing school sports, especially for those with fair skin, freckles, light hair and eyes.
Skin Cancer in Children:It is a myth that skin cancer is not a threat to children or teens. Skin damage accumulates over our lifetime and our childhood is the beginning of that life. As parents we try to teach our kids to eat right and exercise to keep healthy.
It’s only natural to teach them about the sun, limiting the amount of sun exposure, using sun-protective measures when outside, such as sunscreen and sun-protective apparel, and to avoid tanning beds.
Until recently, melanoma in children was almost unheard of, but there have been over 500 reported cases during the past decade alone and that number is expected to rise. As you would imagine, most parents or pediatricians don’t expect to find skin cancer in children. Because of this, pediatric melanoma often goes undiagnosed until the condition reaches the later stages, many times putting the child in great risk of a poor outcome.
Educating our children about sun protection is urgently needed. We need to raise awareness about the dangers of UV radiation that will create changes in our lifestyles and reverse the growing trend towards more skin disease and skin cancers.
There have been many educational programs created for schools and communities to use to spread the word about sun protection for children. Most of these campaigns center around the same simple principles:
YES - these all apply to adults too.
Seek Shade: UV rays are strongest and most harmful during midday sun (between 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.), so it's best to limit outdoor activities during this time. Try to seek shade under a tree, but if this is not possible try an umbrella, or a pop-up tent.
Cover-Up: Clothing that covers as much of your child's skin is best. A Long-sleeved shirt and long pants with a tight weave are best, but they aren't always practical. A loose fitting T-shirt, long shorts, or a beach cover-up are good choices, too. There are many places to buy clothing and swimwear made with built in sun protection for children.
Get a Hat: Hats with wide brims that shade the face, scalp, ears, eyes and neck provide great protection. Baseball caps are popular, but they don't protect their ears and neck.
Wear Sunglasses: Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible. This will greatly reduce sun exposure which can lead to cataracts and other eye damage later in life.
Sunscreen: Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 15+ every time your child goes outside. For the best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. Don't forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet and reapply every two hours.