Are you protecting your children from the sun?

How many times have you been to the beach or a pool and watched little children play in the sun while their parent(s) sat idly by totally oblivious to the damage that is happening from the suns rays? This scenario is played out countless times everyday, not just in the USA but around the world. Skin Cancer has become the number one cancer and most of it is caused by over-exposure that many of us received as a child. Skin Cancer is also the most preventable cancer there is.

Since you are reading this article, presumably it's because you have some interest in learning more about skin cancer. If you are a young adult or a little older then maybe you have children or even grand children. Do the unpopular thing and protect these kids sooner rather than later. Later is often too late, the damage has already been done, setting them up for serious skin problems later in life. So remember, kids don't have to be at the beach, pool, or on summer vacation to be over exposed to the sun. Their skin will always need protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays anytime they are outdoors.

Why it is so important to protect children from the sun:

  • Too much exposure to the sun in childhood or adolescence can be a major cause of skin cancer and early skin aging later in life.
  • 60 to 70% of total lifetime sunlight exposure typically occurs in childhood.
  • Recent studies have shown indications that over exposure to UVA can weaken the immune system.
  • Even as little as 15 minutes of exposure to direct sunlight can cause damage to very young children.
  • A cool breeze or playing in the water can cool the skin and over exposure may not be noticed until it's too late.
Sun's harmful rays will damage fair skin quicker

Using sun screens and sun-protective clothing can reduce your children's risk of skin damage later in life. It's important to understand the labeling information on sun protection products and shop carefully before going out in the sunshine. The FTC very carefully monitors the advertising claims about these products and offers plenty of information on them that will help you make smart decisions when you go to purchase these items.

Tips you can use to protect your children:

Seek shade whenever you can.

Trees, canopies or large umbrellas can help prevent the harmful rays from reaching the children's skin...It's always better to find a large shade tree and make the children stay under it than it is to treat sunburn and have to watch them suffer.

Cover up with UV protective clothing.

Wearing clothing that covers your youngsters skin will help protect against the UV rays. Long-sleeved shirt and long pants that have a tight weave are best, however they are not always practical. T-shirt, long shorts, or a beach cover-up will offer some protection, but you should double up on the protection by using sunscreen and/or keeping your child in the shade as much as possible. A good selection of UV protective clothing can be found here.

Wear a sun blocker hat.

Buy hats that offer shade for the face, scalp, ears, and neck. They are easy to use and give excellent protection. Baseball caps are common, but keep in mind they don't protect the ears and neck. Even when wearing a hat, be sure to protect the exposed areas with good sunscreen.

Use good sunglasses.

They will protect your child's eyes from the harmful UV rays, which can possibly cause cataracts later in life. Buy sunglasses that wrap around and have a rating as close as possible to 100% for blocking both UVA and UVB rays.

Water will wash most sunscreens off

Keep the sunscreen handy.

Always use sunscreen that has at least a SPF of 15 for UVA and UVB protection. For the best protection, apply sunscreen liberally (at least one large handful) about 30 minutes before going outside. No matter what sunscreen product you use, reapply it after swimming, toweling or any activity that may cause heavy perspiration. Even toweling off can remove water-resistant sun screens. Don't forget to apply sunscreen to the ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet.

Placing children in the car

Be mindful of the direction you will be traveling and which side the most direct sun will be on. Place your kids on the opposite side whenever possible. Even sun rays coming through glass can be harmful.

Tanning salons.

Keep your teens out of tanning salons as the whole process of tanning is actually inflicting damage to the skin. Any change of color on your child's skin after time outside or any form of tanning, whether burned or tanned, it indicates damage from the UV rays. Some states are even now passing laws prohibiting teens and any children from using tanning beds.

Protecting the babies:

Follow the directions on the package when using a sunscreen product on babies less than 1 year old. Not all products will have the exact same ingredients, if you see your child's skin reacting to one product, try another one or call a doctor. Your baby's best defense against sunburn is avoiding the direct sun altogether or at least staying in the shade.

What to do if a child gets a sunburn:

  • Immediately consult the doctor if your small child or baby has been sunburned.
  • Consult the doctor if you see any kind of blisters or a rash.
  • Consult a doctor if the skin becomes very red and painful. Sometimes calamine lotion will help cool a sunburn.
  • Cool the sunburned area in lukewarm water, around 75*F, for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Be careful the child does not get cold, if they should start to have chills, call your doctor.
  • A pharmacist will be able to provide more advice on after sun products, some of which will help cool and re moisturize the skin.

As parents it is our responsibility to protect our children from many things in life. Just as we do the obvious like 'don't play in the street', we must also be mindful of the less obvious like the dangers from exposure to the suns harmful effects. While playing in the street may have an immediate consequence, the result of too much sun at a young age doesn't show up until later in life. That is something only we as adults can truly understand. Even though the choices may be unpopular with the kids, it's our responsibility as parents to make and enforce those choices.