After the longest winter EVER, the sun has finally started to shine. Young skin is very delicate and easily damaged by the sun so we must protect our children. For ‘Sun Awareness Week’ we want to introduce you to the fantastic charity Skcin (The Karen Clifford Skin Cancer Charity) who work to prevent skin cancer through education, promoting prevention and early detection.
Skcin tell us why it is so important to look after our children’s skin and give some fantastic tips for preventing sunburn (don’t miss their tips about sunscreen).
Looking after your children’s skin
We experience about one quarter of our total lifetime exposure to sun before we are 18 and studies have shown that blistering sunburn in childhood can double the risk of developing melanoma in later life.
As parents and carers, we need to take responsibility for protecting children's skin and eyes, as they cannot do it themselves. Children (like adults) with fair or red hair, pale eyes or freckles are most at risk. Remember to keep babies under six months out of direct sunlight, especially around midday. Don’t forget you can burn in the UK even when it is cloudy!
Top tips for staying safe:
- Use shade. Keep babies in complete shade (under umbrellas, trees, canopies or indoors).
- Cover children up. Dress them in loose fitting cotton clothing with a close-weave e.g. an over-sized long-sleeved T-shirt or a sunsuit specifically designed for children.
- Avoid putting children in vest tops or sundresses if they are spending a lot of time outdoors. Shoulders and necks can easily burn!
- Protect head, shoulders and necks. Use bucket or ‘surfie’ style hats with a brim of at least 6cm (for primary school children and older) or 5cm (for pre-school children). The wider the brim the more skin will be shaded.
- Buy good quality, wraparound sunglasses.
Sunscreen: Top Tips
- Apply a broad-band sunscreen correctly. Look for the 5 star rating when buying your sunscreen. 5 star products provide the best balanced protection against all UV rays.
- Use factor 30+ sunscreen 20 minutes before children go outdoors and reapply once they are in the sun to be sure of good coverage. Think of applying sunscreen like painting a wall with a textured surface, where two coats are almost always required for satisfactory coverage. In the same way, you may need two ‘coats of sunscreen’ for adequate protection.
- Many brands of sunscreen have special baby or toddler products, which are much gentler on the skin. Some sunscreens are coloured and make applying them fun. Test the sunscreen on a small area of the child's skin before using it to make sure there is no reaction.
- Don't forget shoulders, ears, nose and cheeks and tops of feet.
- Always use waterproof sunscreen when children are swimming or playing outdoors with water.
- No matter what the sunscreen instructions say, you should reapply every 2 hours when outdoors. Always reapply sunscreen after swimming or towelling.
- Don't forget school times, especially playtimes and lunch-breaks. Give children a hat to wear at school and if they cannot apply sunscreen at school, cover their exposed skin with factor 30+ before they go.
As Skcin reminded me, it is important that as adults, we set a good example ourselves when out in the sun. On that note, I’m off to find that floppy sun hat buried in the dressing up box somewhere.
Click to find out more about how you can encourage your child’s primary school to be a ‘Sun Safe School’.
Click find out more about the work of Skcin.