Did you know that Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world? In 2013, more than 2,200 Australians died from this almost entirely preventable disease. Fortunately, being SunSmart is a simple and effective way to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. (Cancer Council)
The following article has been provided with authority to publish by guest blogger Jenny Silverstone.
Jenny is a professional blogger, Mum of two and founder of Mum Loves Best.
Sun Safety for Kids
- The prevalence of skin cancers, such as melanoma, have been rising over the past several decades.
- Melanoma is the most fatal type of skin cancer and is expected to cause 9,730 deaths in 2017.
- Melanoma has become one of the most prevalent kinds of cancers in people under age 30.
- Despite these statistics, 75% of children do not use sunscreen on a regular basis.
The Riskiness of UV Rays
The sun can improve our mental and physical health, as it is our number one source of vitamin D. However, too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause serious short and long term skin damage and other health concerns, such as heat stroke, vision problems, and skin cancer.
What Are “UV Rays?”
Sunlight is the main source of UV, or ultraviolet rays, which are the leading cause of damaging effects on the skin. There are three types of UV rays:
- UVA: UVA rays can cause premature skin aging, eye damage, and skin cancer. Our skin is exposed to most of these rays because they penetrate deeper into the earth’s layers.
- UVB: These can also cause damage, such as sunburn, skin cancer, and even cataracts. Fortunately, 95% of UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone, leaving very few to sneak through to the earth.
- UVC: These are the most harmful rays, but luckily are fully absorbed by the ozone layer and never reach the earth.
When Are UV Rays the Strongest?
The more exposure your child has to stronger UV rays, the more likely they are to get damaged by the sun. The strength of UV rays depends on:
- Time of day: UV rays are strongest when the sun is at its highest in the sky, which is between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Time of year: UV rays are most powerful during the summer. However, protecting your skin isn’t just a priority during those warmer months. UV rays can even pose a threat in those bitter winter months, as the snow can reflect up to 90% of them.
- Where you live: The closer to the equator you live, the more likely you are to get sun damage, as more direct sunlight is able to pass through the atmosphere.
- Altitude: The thinner and cleaner air at higher altitudes, allows for more direct sunlight to get passed through the earth’s atmosphere. UV rays are greater in the mountains and valleys.
Sun Protection Tips
There are several ways that we can protect our family’s skin from the sun.
- Sunscreen: Sunscreen is usually your first go-to to protect your child from the sun’s rays. You can start using sunscreen on your baby once they reach 6 months of age. You’ll want to choose a lotion or cream based sunscreen with an SPF of 15-30. For toddlers and older kids, you’ll want an SPF of 30 or higher. Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin and should be applied 15-30 minutes before going outside and then every 2 hours and after swimming. You’ll even want to be sure to use it on those cloudy days.
- Clothing: If you have a baby that is under 6 months of age, have kids with fair skin, or just like to avoid chemicals, protective clothing is a great alternative. When searching for protective clothing, you’ll want to look for items that have a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of at least 40, or if it doesn’t have a rating, look for fabrics that are tightly woven, dark in color, and made with polyester or nylon.
- Sun hats: Even most people that use sunscreen diligently don’t put any on their head, which means that our head is never out of direct sunlight when we’re outside. Sun hats are the best option to protect our sensitive scalps. You can find sun hats with wide brims, neck and ear coverage, and straps for your finicky baby/toddler.
- Shade: If you are going to be outside for an extended period of time or during peak hours, then finding some shade is your best option to minimize sun damage. Find a nice tree to hide under or bring along a tent, umbrella, or chair with a canopy.
- Sunglasses: Your eyes can also be damaged by the sun, so be sure to bring along a pair of sunglasses for everyone when you are out and about. Look for lenses that offer 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays and that are big enough to fully cover your child’s eyes. It can be tricky to get your kid to wear sunglasses sometimes, so take them to the store with you to let them pick out the frame and consider a wrap-around strap for your baby/toddler.
- Avoid peak hours: Remember that the sun is strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, so get your kids out to play early in the morning or after dinner.
- Car sun protection: Your kids can still catch harmful rays through the car windows, so be sure to safeguard the back of your car by tinting your windows (if state regulations allow) or putting up some covers.
Soothing a Sunburn
No matter how diligent you may be with sun protection, kids will be kids and will probably get a sunburn at one point or another. It can be painful, but there are steps you can take to help soothe your kiddo’s skin. Ice packs wrapped in a towel, cool baths, and aloe vera will provide some relief, while applying milk on it will take out the heat and sting. Keep your child hydrated and out of the sun until the burn is fully healed. If they have blisters that are ½ inch in size or larger that don’t go away after two days or have a fever or are just not acting right, be sure to get them in to see the doctor.
For more tips and tricks on how to keep your family safe in the sun, be sure to check out this infographic from Mom Loves Best.