Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States and the majority of lifetime sun exposure occurs during childhood. Just one bad sunburn as a child can double your children’s risk of skin cancer. Teaching sun safety for children at a young age and enforcing safe behaviors can greatly reduce the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
Follow these five simple steps to sun safety for children and keep your family healthy and safe:
Step 1: Limit outdoor time
Selecting the safest times for your children to play outside, especially during the summer, can help reduce the risk of sun damage. The sun is the strongest from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM, so limit outdoor play during this time on days with extreme heat. Instead, opt for early morning walks or evening trips to the park, and spend the afternoon doing indoor activities. If your children do go outside midday, make sure they spend most of their time in the shade.
Step 2: Wear protective clothing
A protective hat, especially ones that shades the face, scalp, ears and neck, is a great way to reduce the exposure of ultraviolet rays. Encourage children to get in the habit of putting on a hat whenever they are spending a prolonged period of time outdoors. A long-sleeved shirt and long pants can be worn to help protect your children’s skin, and there are some clothing lines that offer SPF in the fabric. Lastly, sunglasses will help block damage to the eyes.
Step 3: Use sunscreen
Thoroughly apply sunscreen to all exposed skin 30 minutes before going outside. Use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, and a lip balm with SPF as well to protect the lips. Make sure to cover all exposed skin, including ears, neck, hands and feet. Sunscreen should be reapplied every few hours, or after sweating or swimming. Using a colored sunscreen can be more fun for children and can help them see if all areas of the skin have been covered.
Step 4: Double-check medications
Some medications that your child may be on, such as prescription antibiotics or acne medication, can make the skin more sensitive to the sun. Check with your doctor to see if special precautions should be taken because of any medications.
Step 5: Set a good example
Children learn by what they see, so it’s very important for you to practice all of these safety measures yourself in order to set a good example. Make sure to practice these tips with your family at all times to help teach the importance of sun safety for children.