Being outside is one of life’s greatest pleasures for children, (and adults), but too much sun can be dangerous. Overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays not only causes painful sunburn but can lead to other serious health problems. Even one or two blistering sunburns during childhood may double the risk of melanoma later in life. When we “tan” it causes premature aging of the skin, sagging, dryness, discolorations, possible cataracts to develop on our eyes and can set the stage for skin cancer especially melanoma and possible other cancers.
The challenge is that most of the sun’s worst effects do not appear until later in life. As parents we do our best to protect our children but it’s a challenge to protect them from UV radiation. The majority of our sun exposure occurs before the age of 20. Think about all the outside activities you and your children are involved in. Ball games, yard work, swimming, or even picnics are things we look forward to during the summer. Here are some sun safety tips that you might consider.
- Wear sunglasses that block 99-100% of the UV radiation—greatly reduce the sun exposure that can lead to cataracts and other eye damage
- Wear a hat- with a wide brim to offer protection to eyes, ears, face and back of the neck—those areas that easily burn
- Add another layer of clothing- tightly woven, loose fitting clothes over a swim suit is good if you’re going to be out for a long time
- Always use a broadband sunscreen when outside on a sunny day of at least SPF30 (blocks out most harmful uv rays.) Apply liberally before your child goes out and reapply every two hours. Items labeled waterproof and sweatproof still need to be reapplied every two hours. Children under 6 months of age should never have sunscreen applied to their skin, but should be protected by avoiding too much time outdoors
- Avoid the midday sun as much as possible—depending on the time of year the sun is strongest between 10 and 2 and our long days between 10 and 4. If you are planning an event keep this in mind that you might either provide shade or schedule later in the day if possible.
- Watch the UV index developed by the National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency . It provides a forecast of the expected risk of overexposure to the sun and indicates the degree of caution you should take when working, playing or exercising outdoors. The scale is 0 to 10 with 0 being low risk of overexposure and 10 means a very high risk. It takes into account many variables in our communities.
The American Cancer Society has a slogan, slip, slop, slap to help us remember how to best protect ourselves.
Slip on a shirt
Slop on sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher
Slap on a hat with a wide brim
Taking care of your skin or setting the example early in life will help our children continue those habits to protect themselves. Let’ all practice sun safe tips for a wonderful summer!!