With rising cases of skin cancer being reported, this eighties australian slogan remains more relevant than ever: ‘slip on a shirt, slop on sun cream and slap on a hat’. LISA JEWELL offers advice for keeping your children safe in the sun this summer.
It’s estimated that just one blistering case of sunburn in childhood doubles the risk of developing melanoma later in life. Medical evidence agrees that sun damage sustained during childhood is a significant factor in developing skin cancer. We receive 50 per cent of our total exposure to UVA rays by the time we are 18, with most of this exposure taking place at home, yet we don’t always protect our children’s skin sufficiently,” says Mike Brown, Boots Suncare Scientific Advisor.
According to a recent survey carried out for Melanoma Awareness Month, 32 per cent of Irish people never use sun protection in Ireland and 47 per cent believe that the sun in Ireland ‘isn’t that strong’. But the reality is that a sunny day in Ireland is just as likely to cause sunburn as a sunny day in the Costa del Sol.
So what are the steps that parents should be taking to make sure their children are adequately protected from sun damage?
Apply sun cream correctly
A good sun cream works by absorbing both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays reach into the deep layers of the skin and can prematurely age it by removing its elasticity. UVB is absorbed in the outer layer of the skin and over-exposure can cause sunburn and skin cancer.
It’s important that children wear sun cream when it’s sunny outside and they, like adults, should particularly avoid being in direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm when UVB rays are at their strongest. It’s recommended that children wear a sun cream with a minimum SPF of 30, and this should be applied to skin about 15 minutes before they go out into the sun.
Mike says: “it is important to remember that children will learn about being sensible in the sun from their parents, so you are, in fact, teaching them a life lesson that will hopefully stick – for life.”
Guidelines state that we should apply sun cream of two milligrams per centimetre squared. In reality, this usually works out at around 30ml of sun cream for the whole body. To make sure you don’t miss bits, apply the sun cream right up under sleeves and necklines.
How often you re-apply sun cream will depend on its SPF, as this means the length of time you can stay in the sun without getting burnt, e.g. a factor 20 sun cream enables a person to stay out in the sun 20 times longer than they would without wearing any sun protection. so if you usually burn within ten minutes, this sun cream should protect you for 200 minutes (roughly three hours).
however, err on the side of caution with your children and re-apply more frequently if they are sweating a lot or running in and out of the water. Sun protection products are water resistant but not water proof, so they do need to be reapplied after your child goes swimming.
UVB rays can be particularly damaging to the eyes so make sure you pick up a pair of shades for your child – ones that come complete with the CE mark, which means they’ve passed the european standard for UV protection.
Sun protection products
in the last ten years, there’s been a huge increase in the amount of UV protective clothing on the market. these clothes protect most of your child’s skin from the sun’s rays and also keep them cool. You should also make sure that your child wears a hat – either a wide brimmed hat or something like the legionnaire-style hat which has a piece of fabric at the back to protect the neck.
another great idea for keeping your kids sun safe is a pop up tent that they can sit in to get away from the sun’s harsh rays.