As most people who are diagnosed with skin cancer are adults they may not realise the susceptibility of children’s skin to harmful UV rays - it's something which is commonly underestimated and can catch the most sun-smart person out. According to Cancer Council NSW, exposure to UV radiation during the first 15 years of life greatly increases the risk of developing skin cancer in adults.
With this in mind we've created some helpful tips to encourage sun smart protection practises with your babies, toddlers & children:
1. Keep infants out of the sun! Plan the day's activities so that they are not exposed to direct sunlight, especially between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm (11:00 am and 3:00 pm daylight saving time). Sunscreen is not recommended for infants under the age of six-months-old, so the best solution is to make sure they are kept in the shade and out of direct sun exposure. If they are in the sun make sure they have their legs and arms covered and keep them cool with plenty of water.
2. As your child heads off for their first day at school, make sure they are instilled with a sense of sun smart protection. Children, especially young children, are creatures of habit. A routine of wearing a hat to and from school and on the weekends will make it more normal and easier for them to accept. A great way to ensure continuity from school to home is to enforce the same rules at home that they have in school.
If your child’s school has a ‘no hat – no play’ policy, make sure that’s reinforced at home too. No hat means no play and no compromises.
3. The difficulty of protecting your teenager’s skin will generally trump that of a toddler! Their autonomy increases and it's much harder to get them to do what mum or dad says. If your teenager thinks that a tan is a must have, then try to encourage them to go for a fake tan instead. An idea to make it more fun is to organise a day where all their friends go together and make a day out of it. Make sure they are aware that a fake tan is not as a substitute for sun protection - an applied tan could make it more difficult to see the warning signs of sun-damaged skin.
4. Encourage sun smart practises for the whole family. If Mum and Dad are doing it, then the influence on young children will be much greater. Have SPF 50+ sunscreen at the front door and in the car and make sure everyone puts it on before they head out. Pack small sunscreens in your children’s schoolbag and refill them every week. Make sun-smart practises a habit for the whole family.
SunDoctors has clinics in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. They specialise in the prevention of Skin Cancer and ensuring all Australians enjoy the sun safely.
If you are concerned about your skin, click the link to book a consultation with your nearest clinic or to find out more about skin cancer prevention call 13 SKIN (13 7546) and make an appointment to visit one of our clinics.